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Balance Engineering broadens market reach

Rochester Business Journal
November 23, 2012

Balance Engineering LLC has added university research and the military as potential markets and has increased revenue by 300 percent in the last seven months, company officials said.
 
The 4-year-old Henrietta firm has developed a computerized system to measure people's physical balance. Its most recent sale was made in September to the U.S. Navy's special warfare command.
 
"Our focus was really elder care and sports medicine," said Stephen Cutrona, vice president of sales and marketing. "Now we've seen the uptick with military, so that broadens us a little bit.
 
"We've also continued to make inroads in sports medicine and elder care. In the last six months, we've noticed a deeper level of use and a broader level of use with different markets. It's kind of cool to find new uses and opportunities for a product in only a couple of months."
 
The company's patent-pending Equilibrate System, launched in 2011, measures human balance, ability, skill and posture. It was used by players at the NFL Scouting Combine last February.
 
"It's really invaluable," said James Shipp, associate athletic director for sports performance at Towson University in Maryland.
 
"As you look at the emergence of sports performance, which is what we're doing here at Towson, the balance training and the assessment of nervous system integration is the highest level of evaluation that we could have. Michael's system is the best on the market at giving us a global assessment of how the body is stabilizing itself."
 
The suburban Baltimore school is the first college to purchase the Equilibrate System, said Michael Compisi, president of Balance Engineering.
 
"It's an area that is quickly emerging," Shipp said. "He has two major competitors out there, although in the last month I've seen two more systems out there that will be rivals in the market."
 
Biodex Medical Systems Inc. on Long Island and NeuroCom, an Oregon-based division of Natus Medical Inc. in the San Francisco area, produce similar systems.
 
"I think Michael's product is the superior product," Shipp said. "His is the only product that assesses both lower extremity and upper extremity sway."
 
Sales in the second and third quarters were by far the best in the product's history, Compisi said.
 
"We've definitely established that beachhead, and it's drawn the attention of some national distributors," Compisi said. "Our successes over the last few months have brought them to the table. They're more interested in us than they were eight or nine months ago."
 
Compisi declined to provide financial details.
 
"We've actually been pretty successful in expanding our market reach and tapping into some of the broad markets we are going after," he said. "It's not just about sports medicine.
 
"The physical therapy market, the athletic training market and university research have been some of the key highlights. The military has come into play for us as actual customers, which we're really excited about."
 
A system was delivered last week to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with training to start early next month, Cutrona said.
 
In addition to the Navy's special warfare command, a system was sold to the Navy's research and athletic training department, Compisi said.
 
"It's almost a potential issue for us, as far as where we choose to focus," he said. "But it's been fairly broad in the reach. We have tapped into all of those markets, and not any individual one has been excessively a percentage of our sales. It's really all over the place, which is a blessing and a curse.
 
"The good news is we know we have the right product."
 
Towson added its system in September, Shipp said.
 
"We're just starting to play with it," he said. "But we did our market analysis. The other thing that Michael has as an advantage is the camera system.
 
"In terms of athlete feedback, there's so much video content in what we do today that we're getting a big-screen TV to project and provide feedback to our patients while they're doing things on it, which is really unique."
 
Balance Engineering is using customers such as Towson to market the system, Compisi said.
 
The technology was developed with help from Hydroacoustics Inc.-where Balance Engineering's offices are located-as well as from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester.
 
The system originally was intended for the elderly. Its usefulness was extended because of recent concerns about concussions and other head injuries among athletes.
 
"We're not a million-dollar company yet, but we're certainly working towards that," Compisi said.
 
"When we start to get into significant volumes-because we're sourcing all of our materials locally-the benefit from a commercial perspective, from a local manufacturing and supplies perspective, is a great Rochester success story."
 
That moment could come as soon as next year, said Compisi, whose company employs five people.
 
"If we can get our partners spun up to sell more effectively, I would expect the first quarter of 2013 to be one of those hockey stick turns where sales of the product start to compound because we're going to have three or four people representing or positioning the product. We're potentially going to have 150 people."
 
Balance Engineering has benefited from additional marketing programs and partners who have steered business in the company's direction, Cutrona said.
 
"In April, the majority of the interest in our product was from us going out into the different markets and talking to people," Cutrona said. "We're seeing inflows of interest, as opposed to us having to reach out.
 
"It's a totally different atmosphere, having people actually come to us and inquire about our product. Some of the trade shows and programs we have put together have started to pay off quite handsomely."
 
John Sullivan, CEO of Clinical & Sports Consulting Services in Rhode Island, recently opened an office on the West Coast. A clinical sports psychologist and applied sports scientist, Sullivan has coordinated clinical care and human performance technology for the NFL for 12 years and is a proponent of the Equilibrate System.
 
"Now we're going to be on the left and right coasts," Cutrona said of Balance Engineering's presence. "It is an extension of our reach through one of our business partners."
 
Its original territory stretched to New England, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
 
"We've expanded significantly," Compisi said. "We're into more of the Midwest and as far south as Kentucky, and into the mid-Atlantic to Virginia and Maryland. We're slowly creeping up on new areas, which is part of the strategy."
 
Compisi said he is not surprised by the growing interest.
 
"There are fundamental factors in the market that are driving our success," he said. "For us, it's just a matter of getting in front of more people.
 
"There's never been an issue of people seeing the product and saying, 'No, thanks, I don't like it.' It's more the issue of how we get in front of more people."

11/23/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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