Kinotek pioneers platform to track body-movement health

Justin Hafner had just finished his junior year at the University of Maine when he founded a digital health startup called Kinotek Inc. with David Holomakoff, a recent alumnus.

“I didn’t think that starting a company was even possible,” recalls Hafner, a former student athlete who switched his major to kinesiology after hurting his shoulder swimming, to understand his injury and learn how the body works. He spent the next year working with UMaine’s sports medicine team and kinesiology professors to build a rehabilitation program and returned to competition the following season, even breaking a school record.

Minded to become a sports psychologist, Hafner was conducting human research at UMaine’s VEMI Lab when he connected with David Holomakoff — a bioengineering and biomedical engineering grad then involved with a different startup. The two hit it off immediately when Hafner pitched Holomakoff on an idea for a new way to visualize body movement, and they decided to start Kinotek.

“It was like a storybook, meeting a guy with similar views and who sees the same opportunity,” says Hafner. He graduated early, in December 2018, and retired from swimming to pursue Kinotek full-time.

“I wasn’t really afraid, it was more just an opportunity for me,” says Hafner, the son of two entrepreneurs who used to accompany his father on early-morning morning bread deliveries to grocery stores. “That gave me the foundational stuff on how to start a company.”

With Kinotek, Hafner and Holomakoff started with sensors and computers as a new way to measure body movement before shifting to cameras and computer-vision technology.

“When COVID hit in 2020,” Hafner notes, “we realized that cameras and computer vision was the way to go.” The pandemic also prompted them to change their target market from education to health care, sparked by strong demand for telehealth services.

“Our goal had always been to get to health care, but we were just waiting for the right opportunity,” Hafner says. A two-person company for the first several months, the duo worked hard to assemble an international network of mentors and advisors and a diverse board initially led by Krystal Williams, a Portland-based lawyer and entrepreneur.

“As Kinotek’s inaugural board chair and now, as a friend and champion of their work, I celebrate the company’s continued and rapid growth,” she says. “Through Justin’s leadership and the team’s ability to execute, Kinotek is really poised to be a significant player in a market that is just beginning to take shape.”

Growing team

Kinotek’s first hire was Daniel Lesko as chief technology officer in January 2019. Today, Kinotek employs 17 people, including two part-time.

“If you want to be an entrepreneur or start a company,” Holomakoff says, “it is all about being able to bring a team together and work as a team … You need a wide variety of perspectives and skill sets to get to your goals.”

The Portland-based company has raised funding from a variety of sources, from winning the $25,000 “Greenlight Maine Collegiate Edition” grand prize in 2019 and various other grants to raising $3.5 million in two venture capital funding rounds. Maine Venture Fund first invested in Kinotek in 2021 as part of the company’s $2.1 million seed raise.

“At the time Kinotek was still beta testing their product, but they demonstrated that they were doing good customer discovery and listening to feedback to refine their value proposition,” says Nina Scheepers, the fund’s investment manager. “They have made a lot of progress in the past 18 months, and we are excited to see them achieve their next milestones.”

Kinotek launched its first product in August 2022, after scrambling to get U.S. Food and Drug authorization as a medical device in a mere six weeks.

Hafner led Kinotek as CEO for the first four years before passing the baton to Patricia Panaia, a former executive at two large Maine companies focused on animal health, the publicly listed IDEXX Laboratories Inc. and Covetrus Inc., which recently went private. Hafner predicted at the time that his successor’s “experience and leadership will be invaluable in Kinotek’s next phase of growth,” as he changed roles to chief strategy officer.

This year, Kinotek is on track for $1 million in annual recurring revenue. Health care accounts for three-quarters of its business, while sports make up the rest, and clients range from Florida’s OrlandoHealth to major league baseball and soccer teams.

The next chapter is growth and scaling up, with initial plans to build the commercial side of the business as well as engineering.

The founders’ advice to today’s budding entrepreneurs: “Do something that matters to you and that you think matters to the world,” Hafner says.

Holomakoff suggests, “Focus on learning human psychology, empathy and communication skills … The technical and business challenges are simple by comparison, and you will be grateful you spent the time to educate yourself on those softer skills.”

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