Eight Football Injuries, Multiple Surgeries, Hours of Rehab Fuel NFL Player’s Passion for Improving Safety in Sports
A love of sports, multiple injuries, and an entrepreneurial mindset are the drivers behind Columbus-based startup Skelo Wear®. Skelo Wear produces protective equipment and devices powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance player safety and skill development.
“I played football from the time I was twelve years old,” said CEO and Founder Kenny Anunike. “By the time I was twenty-six years old, I had suffered my eighth injury.”
Those injuries, eight football-related surgeries, and countless hours in sports rehabilitation fueled Anunike’s passion for innovation and improving safety in sports.
“Athletes just weren’t staying safe,” he said. “I began working on the plans and drawings and filed my first patent while I was a junior at Duke.” After Duke, Anunike played professionally for the Denver Broncos and New York Jets. He culminated his NFL career by winning Super Bowl 50 while playing for the Broncos.
Anunike never gave up on the idea of making sports safer and continued to work Skelo Wear in the background as he moved from the NFL to coaching. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at The Ohio State University (OSU) and then became the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Fordham University in New York.
Skelo Wear Bootstrapped from Patents to Prototypes, Grant Enables Next Steps
Today, Skelo Wear is commercializing unique, wearable protection for athletes developed from patented technology that Anunike invented while completing his bachelor’s degree in biological anthropology and anatomy at Duke.
The startup’s flagship product aims to prevent hand and finger injuries. “There is a gap in the market in terms of hand protection,” Kenny Anunike said, “and not just for football players. Anyone who needs protection from hand injuries, for example lacrosse and hockey players in sports, and also construction workers, police officers, and other high-risk professions such manufacturing or military duty.”
Laila Anunike, Chief R&D Officer of Skelo Wear, brings experience from a career in clinical research and clinical trials in biotech and pharma.
“My job was to work with physicians, surgeons, and scientists to set up and implement clinical trials that would produce reliable results,” she said. “We are doing the same thing here, using standardized metrics to evaluate and report protocols, methods, and performance in safety testing for our products.”
Rev1’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Grant Fund Fuels Next Steps
As a Rev1 client company, Skelo Wear has benefited from venture services, including business planning and expert services from Rev1 advisors.
Kenny Anunike, whose first entrepreneurial venture was selling used textbooks on Amazon when he was in college, affirms the value of mentors, advisors and funds. “Rev1’s Grow to Scale initiative opens doors,” he said. “They understand the inner workings of our business and have believed in us from the beginning. From day one, they told us they wanted to help.”
The firm has been awarded a $100,000 grant through Rev1’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Grant Fund (DE&I). The grant funding will support salaries for key personnel and fund further product development and intellectual property protection.
“Bootstrapping is a challenging way to finance a startup,” Laila Anunike said. “We started this company ourselves. There is so much detail that goes into the patent process, writing it, researching, and preparing it to submit, working with engineers, and it costs so much. This grant will make an enormous difference.”
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