Founder-CEO Interview Series


Tom Bertrand and Mathieu Falbriard

Dr. Mathieu Falbriard, co-founder and CEO of Bearmind, holds a PhD in Motion Analysis from EPFL’s LMAM. He collaborated with a motion analysis startup during his studies, focusing on sensor applications for clinics and sports. As a former ice hockey and rugby player, he brings firsthand athletic experience to his tech leadership.

Tom Bertrand, co-founder and COO of Bearmind, holds an MSc from EPFL and 3+ years of Project Management experience in both Switzerland and the USA. A former rugby player, he brings teamwork and determination to his operational strategies.

Founder-CEO Interview Series

with Tom Bertrand and Mathieu Falbriard

What is the team at Bearmind building?

Bearmind developed motion and force sensors that can be integrated into commercialized sports helmets to monitor head impacts. The technology allows for real-time head impact data, translated into a personalized risk assessment, supporting team staff in head injury prevention and cognitive performance analysis. Currently, we are working with professional ice hockey teams from the Swiss National League. 

How did the idea come about?

During his Ph.D. Mathieu worked with motion sensors in sports and clinic applications and specialized in signal processing. As a former ice hockey and rugby player, he drew a parallel between his field of study and his sports and had the idea to use these sensors for concussion prevention. As long-time friends, we were surfing together on the west coast of France in the summer of 2020 and decided at the end of the week to start the project together. 

Concussion as a topic is often overlooked, especially in the arena of sports. Why do you think it is so?

Although concussion research made tremendous progress in recent years, it is still a relatively new field of study, and it takes time to transfer this knowledge to non-medical staff & individuals in sports, professionals, or amateurs. 

In addition, concussion is only the tip of the iceberg; the main issue, recently discovered by scientists, affecting contact sports players is the repetition of head impacts, including small and medium hits. This repetition of impacts can have lasting damage on athletes’ brains but are even harder to detect, as they do not create immediate visible symptoms. 

There have been stories of parents actively pulling their children out of contact sports due to the risk. Is there a middle ground here between competitive contact sports and minimising the risk of brain injury?

The repetition of impacts over a short period is one of the main risks for athletes’ brain health. There are various possibilities to decrease the exposure to impacts for players, like adapting rules, for example. Bearmind technology is also a part of the solution. Using our devices, athletes and their staff can now monitor head-hit exposure and adapt athletes’ playing time and recovery. Thus, they can mitigate the risk of concussion and long-term brain damage. 

Another critical concern for athletes is the potential for a second impact occurring after sustaining a concussion during the same game. This risk arises when the initial hit goes unnoticed, which is not uncommon since players may not always recognize it themselves. Tragically, in rare instances, these situations have resulted in fatal consequences for some athletes and could have been prevented through the implementation of hit detection systems. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these hit detection systems won’t prevent strong hits or accidents from happening, 

What is your proudest achievement as a team so far?

At Bearmind, we are proud of having raised CHF 1M for concussion research after one year of existence. This research project, conducted with EPFL and CHUV, will provide new insights into how repetitive head impacts affect ice hockey players’ cognitive performances and brain health. This combines data collection with professional ice hockey athletes using state-of-the-art field sensors, innovative and validated methods for cognitive performance tests, and brain imagery. 

What are some upcoming milestones that the team is aiming to achieve?

Firstly, we aim to expand our customer base in Switzerland, capitalizing on the good results obtained with the four professional teams we work with. Additionally, we’re excited about launching our product in Canada, which will allow us to grow significantly in the ice hockey market. Another critical objective to strengthen our position in this market is the collaboration with major helmet brands. These partnerships will bolster our product offerings and solidify our presence in ice hockey.

Bearmind seems to fall under both MedTech and SportsTech. What are some opportunities and challenges of being in the intersection of two sectors?

Operating at the intersection of MedTech and SportsTech offers opportunities such as access to diverse capital sources, working with lead scientists and professional athletes simultaneously on concussion-related issues, and a chance to diversify clientele. 

However, it comes with challenges like meeting the high expectations of sports professionals, adapting to the diverse sports market landscape, and having longer and more expensive product development time to get medical device certifications. Balancing these factors is crucial for Bearmind’s success in this dynamic and multifaceted industry.

What drives you?

As former ice hockey and rugby players, we have witnessed the issue of concussion on the field and on the ice. We have friends in their thirties struggling with brain health issues and have read the terrible stories of former athletes who got their lives ruined. We are committed to making contact sports safer without changing the nature of sports we love. 

Any advice to share for other current or aspirational entrepreneurs in the life science field and beyond?

You have to truly love what you’re doing, as that’s what will keep you going when the going gets tough. It is important to assemble a rock-solid team around you, people you can trust. Entrepreneurship is a team sport; diverse skills and perspectives are your best assets.

Networking is also key. Connect with people who’ve been there and done that before and current key opinion leaders on the topic. One thing I can’t stress enough is never compromising on accuracy and integrity. In life sciences, shortcuts for quick profits can tarnish your reputation irreparably. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Success takes time and a steadfast commitment to your mission, and ethical standards should be non-negotiable in your journey.

Any final remark/advice to share?

The key to any entrepreneurial journey is also to have fun. We are happy to have started this adventure with co-founders to share the highs and lows we face weekly. There are always things that are new to you, which is awesome because you continuously learn new things, but it is also challenging as you have to master these new challenges quickly. 


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