Entrepreneurial Institute

Skinesiology - An Interview with Frank Yao

Reposted from Greenhouse Stories


We started a series entitled Conversations on the Greenhouse Stories blog, where we interview students engaged in innovation and entrepreneurial ventures. Our second interviewee was Frank Yao, a medical student, to discuss his work with his Skinesiology Team.  Below is our conversation with him.

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Frank Yao, a first year student at NYU Medical school is one of the member of Skinesiology, an NYU-based startup developing innovative fitness apparel designed to help people integrate more exercise into their lives. His team is composed of first year medical students (Jeffrey Huang, Jenny Cheng, Josh Phelps, and Ryan Grattan) with nontraditional backgrounds, such as in engineering, marketing, and business. They met each other during orientation and were inspired by the wealth of opportunities at NYU to pursue their mutual passion for entrepreneurship.


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Frank Yao (last on the right) and his team members at the $200 K Entrepreneur Challenge

Tell us what is Skinesiology? 

Our product is functional fitness apparel that provides resistance against body movement in order to tone muscle and burn extra calories. These clothes utilize built-in elastomeric resistance bands that are positioned to counteract specific muscle groups in a biomechanically sound fashion, pushing them to work harder. This resistance system is integrated discreetly into the fabric itself, resulting in sleek, lightweight apparel that appears just like traditional fitness wear. As a result, you can wear these clothes during exercise to improve the efficiency of your workout, or you can also wear underneath everyday clothes for more gradual calorie burn throughout the day.

What first inspired you and your team to develop this idea?

From our experiences in the workforce and as medical students, we often find ourselves too busy or stressed out to exercise regularly. Inspired by own desires for a more convenient way to stay fit, we came up with the idea of somehow converting the clothes we wear into something like a portable gym. If our clothes could provide resistance against everyday movement, then we could potentially get a morning workout done while on the subway or even in class. We thought that was pretty cool.

And how's the ride been so far? 

Getting to this point has been an incredible journey, starting with our participation in the NYU Prototyping Fund and the Albert Gallatin Founders Fund. We were also fortunate to have met and worked with so many amazing people at and around NYU who lent us their time and expertise to help us along the way. Last month, we’re extremely proud that Skinesiology won 2nd place overall at InnoVention and 1st place in the Technology Venture category of the $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge.

Can you share some insights on what was the main learning for you during this last year?

One of the main things that we learned was how to be resourceful in order to be as efficient as possible with limited time and money. At the beginning, we spent hours and hours hand-stitching a single prototype, being very diligent and detail-oriented on something that we tested barely a few times before moving on to the next iteration. Later on, we moved to using glue and staples instead; even though the prototypes didn’t look as nice and didn’t last as long, they were quick to make and the quality was good enough for us to test what we wanted to test and move on.


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And now that you won the $200K challenge, what are the next steps for you and your team?

Our priority right now is to focus on product development. We’re planning to dedicate most of our summer to getting a market-ready prototype finished by the fall this year.  We have been accepted to the NYU Summer launchpad and this is a great opportunity for us to get feedback and coaching, and move our idea forward.

The Prototyping Fund  run by the Greenhouse and the NYU Entrepreneurship Institute had an enormous impact on our progress. Beyond the funding element, they encouraged us and taught us how to take that critical first step: taking the ideas inside of our heads and turning them into physical, communicable concept. For student inventors and entrepreneurs, I think this is an invaluable experience.

To follow the progress of Frank Yao and his team, follow them on twitter @Skinesiology