Industry veteran Tom Borcherding is the new Senior VP of Business Development for LUCI, creator of new smart technology for power wheelchair riders.
Borcherding is best known for his long tenure at ROHO, starting in sales and rising through its sales ranks to become the seating manufacturer’s president in 2008. When Permobil acquired ROHO in 2015, Borcherding stayed on to oversee the transition and then to become Executive VP of Permobil’s global seating and positioning business unit.
Now the Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) veteran has joined startup LUCI. Introduced early this summer, LUCI is preparing to launch its multi-function, cloud-based power wheelchair sensor technology in late 2020.
Creating a Sales Force
Borcherding joins LUCI’s leadership team, which includes CEO/co-founder Barry Dean, CTO/co-founder Jered Dean, and COO Peter Knapp.
“With LUCI being a startup, my primary focus is to build a sales organization,” Borcherding told Mobility Management. “That’s something I have the experience and know-how to do, and I’m going to look for people to join our team that are passionate about the user experience and who are known to be trusted advisors to clinicians. There are a lot of CRT veterans out there that fit that profile, and I’d love to hear from those that want to join the LUCI story. I’d encourage them to contact me.”
While Borcherding’s most recent work has been with well-established CRT companies and brands, he said he’s enjoying the endless possibilities and blank slate that a new company offers.
“The energy and the innovation that this startup is bringing to this industry excites me and has to excite everyone who’s around power wheelchair users,” Borcherding said. “The technology and the innovation are going to improve the experience for literally thousands of power wheelchair users. Keeping those individuals safe from tip-overs and collisions, but also just generally improving the overall driving experience, is something I want to be a part of.”
By the time LUCI officially introduced itself to the industry in June, LUCI’s management team had been working with leading CRT clinicians for some time. Briefly, LUCI can be described as a hardware/software system that enables people who use power wheelchairs to more safely, efficiently, and confidently navigate their environments. LUCI can determine when a ramp, slope, or curb is too steep to safely navigate, and can identify potential tip-over/drop-off dangers. It also has collision-avoidance capabilities.
But LUCI is much more. It can gather data, store it in the cloud, and notify power chair riders, caregivers and clinicians about environments or battery-charging needs. And data collected by LUCI is protected to ensure HIPAA compliance and privacy.
Upon first seeing LUCI, clinicians and providers might think of applications for clients who are poor candidates for power mobility, such as very young children or people with low vision. But as Borcherding pointed out, LUCI’s robust capabilities can benefit even long-time, proficient power chair users.
“If you take the experienced rider, the one that’s confident in their skill set, that particular rider is still going to benefit from the collision avoidance — that is, people or dogs coming at them from the sides or cutting in front of them,” Borcherding said. “It’s difficult to drive a power chair and navigate it in an environment that’s full of people and full of obstacles. And LUCI just makes that experience smoother and easier to do.
“Also, even the most experienced wheelchair drivers have to frequently get power wheelchairs up ramps into vans and other transportation. And that’s a difficult challenge. It’s a potentially dangerous proposition, and LUCI will help improve safety for that very common activity.”
For less proficient power chair drivers who often collide with walls and other obstacles, Borcherding said LUCI offers greater independence: “This category of rider risks driving off a three- to six-inch curb, which too frequently flips wheelchairs over. I especially think these drivers with less experience or other challenges that impact their accuracy with navigation will absolutely benefit from LUCI technology and be able to be more independent.
“And then the third category, which probably excites me the most, are individuals today that are not considered candidates for power wheelchairs. That can be young children, that can be individuals that have brain injuries or sensory deficits: They’re not considered for power mobility because of safety or cognitive factors. I think LUCI will allow that new user to navigate their world in power mobility and become much more independent with their mobility. And we haven’t seen that before in this industry — a technology that really brings new users to power wheelchairs and improves their independence. Hopefully, we will see safety features in power wheelchairs becoming standard, instead of an accessory that you have to justify.”
A Great Story in the Making
Barry Dean, whose daughter, Katherine, has used a power chair for much of her life, said the LUCI team had heard good things about Borcherding even before they met him.
“When I think of great stories that I’ve been able to learn about the history of this field, you always hear about companies like ROHO,” Dean told Mobility Management. “Those are very personal companies: In ROHO’s case, you had a family and this personal commitment, and Tom was involved in that and helping to grow that and understanding so many aspects of it. He led their international expansion, and we were so excited that he could join our team and help teach us, help us grow. He’s just such an incredible leader. I’ve met a lot of people who have worked for him and with him, and they all miss working with him every day. We feel very, very fortunate.”
Dean also confirmed that Borcherding’s hire is a significant chapter in LUCI’s story.
“It does mean we’re in the next phase of launching LUCI,” he said. “We’re still getting ready to release our products. We’re still building the relationships with distribution, with clinics and suppliers, and we’ll keep doing that. But we needed someone with incredible experience and understanding, and that’s what we have in Tom. This helps us grow, and it impacts our strategies and how we’re looking at opportunities. He’s had an immediate impact in broadening our vision and helping us move quickly.”
Dean noted that the LUCI team had partnered with clinical advisors before the company even had an official name, adding, “Tom cares about clinicians as much as we do. And his first order of business was having us meet more clinicians. ATPs, too: Tom has introduced us to several, and we’ve learned so much from them.”
“He understands what the journey is like,” Dean said of Borcherding. “[ROHO] is a beautiful story of someone trying to meet a need and that need being turned into one of the most respected brands in the industry. Tom played such a huge role in that, and that experience now plays a role in our journey.”
As Borcherding focuses on building a sales force, the LUCI team is also looking ahead: to LUCI’s official product launch later this year, but also to future introductions.
“I’ve gotten some hints from the LUCI team of what the roadmap looks like,” Borcherding said, “and they have a lot of innovative, cutting-edge solutions that are in their pipeline and they’re committed to develop. The engineering team is fantastic, and I think this industry needs a shot in the arm with innovation. I think LUCI is in a position to deliver that, and I want to be a part of that.”