HomeHealthFitnessJamesville-DeWitt grad wins $46K for ‘Hail Mary’ idea to improve physical therapy

Jamesville-DeWitt grad wins $46K for ‘Hail Mary’ idea to improve physical therapy

When Ben Catania was a student at Jamesville-DeWitt High School, all he wanted to do was play football. Then an injury changed everything.

Catania tore a ligament in his ankle during his senior year of high school with the Red Rams. He never fully recovered, despite extensive physical therapy and efforts to get back into sports at Cornell University. But it did inspire him to come up with an idea to improve physiotherapy for both healthcare providers and patients.

“Once I got hurt, I had to reshape my life and figure out what I was going to do,” he told syracuse.com | The Post Standard. “I did a little bit of coding in high school for fun. I have always been interested in starting my own company at some point.”

Catania launched Yoomi, an AI-driven health platform to connect physiotherapists with patients doing exercise programs at home. The app includes interactive games that evaluate participants’ movements in real-time video with motion-tracking technology to improve rehabilitation with motion corrections and motivational messages. For example, a leg raise program shows a range of motion that physical therapists can adjust for patients to work on at home.

This image from Yoomi shows a physical therapy leg exercise.

“The biggest problem in physiotherapy is a lack of adherence and patient involvement. And because patients don’t consistently complete their exercises at home, physical therapists must spend most of their time re-learning the same exercises,” he explained in a business pitch to Dr. Pepper’s recent “Hail for $23,000”. contest.

Hail Mary is a national initiative that awards aspiring entrepreneurs tuition and seed money for business ideas in a “Shark Tank” style competition. Catania was one of three finalists invited to personally pitch to Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Elon University football player and TikTok star Jon Seaton, and Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer Charlotte Jones.

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Catania said he spoke to a number of physiotherapists, including his own, while researching the project. Clinical studies have also been conducted with Rutgers University and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in the New Jersey health system.

During his demonstration, he invited Cuban to try out a basketball program that tracked Cuban’s form as he took shots toward a hoop – virtually. Cuban grinned as he whipped a non-existent ball through the net and then offered serious advice.

“You are not a technology company, you are a marketing company,” Cuban told Catania. ‘Because the technology – there are a thousand people who can do it, right? The hardest part is getting into those relationships, and that’s what you’ve been good at… it’s your relationship that sets you apart.”


“Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban tries out Yoomi’s physical therapist basketball program to evaluate movement. (Provided photos)

The celebrity judges chose Yoomi as the winner and awarded Catania $23,000 for his tuition at Cornell and $23,000 in seed money for his company. The prize breakdown is a nod to the famous 23 flavors of Dr. Pepper.

Catania, who graduated from JD in 2019, said the money will help him work on Yoomi as a full-time CEO when he graduates from Cornell in the spring with a business degree. Meanwhile, he and his team are working on market clearance from the US Food & Drug Administration.

“It’s a resource that we give to physical therapists and hospital systems,” Catania told syracuse.com. “Patients have logins that they can access… Because we handle patient data, we have to be careful with that.”

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It’s also the largest amount of money Yoomi has raised to date, helping his team of “blotted college students” who built the platform through their bootstraps. He said the tuition would also help his family, who has many health problems.

“This is really going to be a game changer,” said Catania.

Benjamin Catania

This 2017 file photo shows Benjamin Catania (No. 12) in a Jamesville-DeWitt football game against Oswego. (Photo – Roger Hagan)

For more information about Yoomi, visit https://yoomi.health.



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