The Wheelchair Revolution crowdfunding campaign by Avanchair set out to raise funds to develop a ready-to-market prototype that would increase the independence of disabled individuals around the world. Andrea Depalo, entrepreneur and founder of the startup, knows first-hand the obstacles that wheelchair users still face, and is committed to improving mobility for everyone.
We previously highlighted Depalo’s IoT technology, which aims to seamlessly make everyday life easier for people with disabilities by facilitating a vertical and lateral transition, allowing them to maneuver from the wheelchair to other surfaces. As a user himself, Depalo states that “thanks to Avanchair, I was able to move completely independently from the seat to another surface and back to the chair. In that moment, my wheelchair ceased to be my prison.”
With more than 130 million people withstanding the same challenges, Depalo felt motivated to release this product to the world. In order to make this happen, he launched a crowdfunding campaign in May 2020 to raise funds for a ready-to-market prototype.
Ready for a global launch
The month-long crowdfunding campaign successfully came to a close after surpassing its target of 130,000 euros. Promoted by Eppela, the project attracted over 150 large and small donors, as well as 50,000-euro donations from both Enel and Banco BPM.
“With this crowdfunding campaign, we have exceeded the fundraising objective that will allow us to create the prototype – which we have already named Avanchair One,” mentions Depalo. He continues by thanking all donors: “Thank you, to all those who made this achievement possible and who perhaps, in many cases, are themselves living with disabilities.” After meeting this goal, the Avanchair team is working harder than ever to make sure that the world becomes more inclusive for all.
Ernesto Ciorra, Chief Innovability® Officer, recalls meeting Andrea Depalo after the JuiceAbility project by Enel X. He is pleased to add, “this relationship is a source of pride and satisfaction for us. It clearly demonstrates how we collaborate with startups: with openness, dedication and passion, ultimately executing concrete, innovative and sustainable industrial projects.”
Ciorra himself recognizes the importance of making the Avanchair project a reality and knows that this project will help promote a more global perception of accessibility. “Avanchair is an opportunity for people with disabilities and a virtuous example of how the principles of sustainability and inclusion, which are the basis of Enel’s corporate strategy, make it possible to create new businesses and a more sustainable, better world.”
Like Enel’s, many other donations came from individuals and companies that Depalo works closely with. One of them is Banco BPM, whose Chief Executive Officer, Giuseppe Castagna recognizes: “We are proud to have contributed to the project of our colleague Andrea who, despite facing many difficulties, works every day to pursue his dream of improving the lives of many people.” The campaign also received donations from organizations such as SPII, Burago Viti, Kronos Informatica, and the startup co-working space Le Village.
Avanchair One: an inclusive future for all
The electric-powered wheelchair managed by automatic movement systems is now set to be launched in 2022. With this newly achieved milestone will come further success for Depalo and the Avanchair team. “We initially said we had invented a ‘special power’, and it’s true,” claims Depalo. He goes on to mention how “the end of the fundraising campaign represents a new beginning for us. Now, we want to ensure that Avanchair One becomes an available option for 70 million people in Italy and around the world.”
As a person who is often considered “different” because of his disability, setting up this project proves Andrea Depalo is a pioneer in the world of electric mobility – and we at Enel are proud to support him and his team. His mindset and resilience brought the startup to its continued success. As Depalo asserts, “We will continue to improve this product and develop new innovative services to support all people with disabilities and their families.”