An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Satoshi Sugie, the co-founder and CEO of WHILL, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of WHILL – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
A close friend of mine was in an accident which affected his ability to walk. I could see how the traditional mobility devices would not be a good fit. While we can see strides of evolution in different spheres of our modern life, there’s little innovation in design for mobility devices. My friend deserved a mobility device that would assist him in leading an active lifestyle while making him feel confident – this is where it all began. I quit my full-time job and embarked upon this journey and that decision – it made all the difference!
Currently, there are a few solutions for last-mile transportation, such as scooters and shared bicycles. Those are good solutions for people who are fit, but they aren’t ideal for seniors or people with limited mobility. We’re trying to fill that gap by developing devices that are safe, fun, and accessible for everyone, and building a service that anyone can use.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
We currently operate in 12 countries and regions, and the challenging part was selling our products in accordance with local regulatory affairs. But I feel proud to say that our business has been nimble enough to evolve according to the market needs.
What does the future hold for WHILL?
Our ultimate goal is to “Deliver Fun and Innovative Mobility for All” and we’re committed to it. So you can expect innovative and futuristic personal mobility devices from WHILL. We’re also looking at expanding out MAAS (mobility-as-a-service) model. One example would be the recent partnership with Haneda Airport which is the fourth busiest airport in the world. You can find more info here.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in San Carlos?
San Carlos has many innovative tech ventures and they are all very inspiring. It’s so great to see all the ground-breaking innovation with roots in San Carlos.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you have something you’re passionate about and can devote yourself to, just go for it. In matters of technology and innovation, don’t be afraid to listen to your heart and take the leap. Design your own road!