RooSense is a member of Bounce’s technology incubator and is located at Bounce.
In December 2020, Dr. Chelsea Monty-Bromer left her position as a faculty member at The University of Akron’s Department of Chemical Engineering to pursue her passion as a full-time entrepreneur. Founded in 2017, RooSense is the developer of an integrated fabric sensor that analyzes an athlete’s sweat in real-time to provide personalized hydration recommendations.
We caught up with Chelsea to discuss what she’s been up to, the future of RooSense and what advice she has for other entrepreneurs.
Bounce: What was the inspiration behind RooSense?
Chelsea: At RooSense, we want to change the way athletes train by using their sweat to give them insight about how their body is reacting to exercise. We think if you’re going to sweat, you should sweat smarter. The project began 10 years ago at The University of Akron and it started as a way to monitor temperature and sweat in a prosthetic liner that would then trigger a cooling device to prevent chafing. Our goal was to create a sensor that could monitor the conditions inside the prosthetic without using flexible plastics that would create painful pressure points.
That is how we initially came up with the idea for a fabric material. However, the cooling device used too much power, so in the end, we had an “orphan” technology (an invention without a real use or purpose). It was the NSF I-Corps program through The University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) and then the national NSF I-Corps TEAMS programs that we found our purpose. An ultramarathon runner suggested that we focus on endurance athletes who have to monitor their hydration status over long periods of time, and that propelled our technology forward. We named the company RooSense in honor of Zippy, one of the only female mascots in the US, and who happens to be a kangaroo.
Bounce: What’s next for RooSense? What are you most excited about? What are your predictions for 2022?
Chelsea: This is a very exciting time at RooSense. We were just awarded an NSF SBIR award of $256,000 to help bring our technology to market. We are working on getting a set of beta prototypes made and hope to begin testing in late summer and early fall. We are really excited to get our product on our users to gather their feedback and fine tune our design. We are also actively seeking investors to help us to produce our first round of products, set to launch in spring of 2022. We are expecting the personalized health and fitness market to grow by 35% by 2026 and feel like we can make an impact in the $4 billion smart textile market.
Bounce: What’s your advice for upcoming entrepreneurs?
Chelsea: The best advice I can give upcoming entrepreneurs is to use the resources available to you. At RooSense, we have been fortunate to work with UARF (specifically Nick Glavan and Elyse Ball), Jim Griggy at the Akron Small Business Development Center, as well as the Bounce entrepreneurs in residence (specifically Bill Flickinger) and the team in the makerspace.
In addition, the outside relationships that Bounce has established, for example with Heather Kramer in marketing, are also a great resource! Their help allows RooSense to operate like a much larger company without having to pay for each individual service or employee. I can honestly say that we would not be where we are as a company without all of this help and these resources and for that I am truly grateful.
Bounce: The last year has been pretty challenging. As an entrepreneur, what has the last year taught you? What was the silver lining?
Chelsea: COVID has been extremely challenging; however, it has really forced us to trim down and focus on what we really want to do as a business: launch a wearable sweat sensor in 2022. Without COVID, we may still be focused on a lot of random projects and not focusing on accomplishing our main goal.
Bounce: Summer is upon us! What will you be doing in your spare time?
Chelsea: As an entrepreneur, I don’t have a lot of spare but when I do, I like to spend it with my son, Henry, and husband, Travis. We love to spend time outside, going on hikes, or swimming at the pool.
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