Chatting with Exogrip founder Sam Coombes

by MaddOx
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Following the news that the PS5 Exogrip is now available to buy, we decided to see if the founder of this new gaming accessory would be willing to chat with us about his product. And because Sam Coombes is such a nice person, they agreed and sat down to answer some of the questions we had about the product and what inspired its creation.

So, if you’re interested in finding out more about the Exogrip founder, or the PS5 Exogrip itself, keep on reading.

Sam, could you kick things off by telling us a bit about your background and what inspired you to dive into the world of gaming accessories?

I have always loved gaming – from gaming marathons with my brothers, especially over a game launch weekend and midnight release – to rooming around in games on my own and just losing myself in the gameplay. But I also love business! I have always wanted to create something and bring it to market, and this was a match made in heaven… two things I have always enjoyed and been fascinated by coming together into a gaming accessory like this is amazing.

Sam Coombes founder of Exogrip

The Covid-19 lockdown was a challenging period for many. How did the idea for Exogrip come about during this time?

Covid lockdown was a challenging period for so many. During this time, I moved home to my parent’s house for the lockdown period so that I was not alone in my rental going stir-crazy. As we had more time and not a whole lot to do, my brother and I gamed for hours during lockdown. One day my little brother was truly fed up with everything so I tasked him with thinking of business ideas. To no avail.

Although he had just purchased a new gum guard for hockey, which he started talking to me about and the new material that it used to make it a better moulded fit than other gum guards on the market. He then turned on his PlayStation and started gaming next to me and everything just slotted into place… what if your PlayStation controller fitted your hands like that gum guard fits your teeth… Eureka moment!

Exogrip promises unparalleled comfort for gamers. How did you identify this gap in the market, especially concerning hand health and comfort?

I personally suffer from cramps, fatigue, aches and pains in my left hand especially when gaming for long periods of time. This led me to look into this further and see if other people were also suffering. There have been a large number of studies that suggest more than half of the gaming community suffers from hand-related injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinopathies.

With more gamers being affected than ever before I felt I had to do something about this, not only to educate people about their hand health but to try and prevent declining hand health in the gaming community. This combined with gamers listing comfort as the key reason for buying gaming accessories made me decide to get two birds with one stone: – to make a grip that is comfortable and preventative of hand relating illnesses.

The patent-pending technology behind Exogrip allows it to adapt to an individual’s hand. Could you delve deeper into the development process of this unique feature?

The Exogrip can be moulded to the user’s hand and support it like an Exoskeleton, hence the name. However, it was not a straightforward process to get to a grip that could be moulded by the end user. There are not many materials that can be used in this way, so a lot of testing had to be carried out to ensure the safety of the user and also the safety of their beloved products and controllers. This took two years to create a viable product, with a number of failed prototypes and interesting design changes along the way.

Exogrip’s three-step process — Heat, Grip, Game — seems straightforward. Were there any challenges in making the product user-friendly?

Heat. Grip. Game, it is as easy as that! But it wasn’t always that easy. As you must heat our product in boiling water to make it mouldable, we had to undergo a number of tests and toasty fingers (my own luckily) to create a product and process that would not burn the end user during the moulding process. The grip has been thoroughly tested and can not reach the temperatures needed to burn an individual if the boiling water is shaken off before moulding.

However, it is worth noting that if the grip does get too hot in your hand when moulding, release it, let it completely cool (under cold water) then repeat the moulding process, run your hand under cold water before moulding and also holding the grip for shorter durations, if your hand can not handle the heat.

How did the University of East Anglia come into the picture with its seed funding? Were they immediately on board with the idea?

I am a University of East Anglia alumni and got in touch with the UEA enterprise team, to show them my idea. The team loved the idea and thought it had real legs. I was then put forward for the ‘Grow it Award’ to see if we could grow this idea into a viable business. I had to do a dragon den-style pitch to a board of investors and a full business plan.

Luckily, they loved the product as well and granted me the funding. This has been an unbelievable help, not only the funding but the University of East Anglia has put me in touch with a number of brilliant mentors who have made the journey of launching a new product so much easier than it could have been if I had had to go it alone.

With the dual-layer design, how did you ensure the balance between durability and malleability?

The dual-layer design was initially implemented to help the moulding process and also stop the grip from sticking to the users’ controllers, so they can switch and change their grips or allow someone else to use their controller with their own grip. The inner layer needs to have the perfect fit and create surface tension with the controller so that it doesn’t slip around, while the outer layer needs to be mouldable so that it can fit the player’s hand after the moulding process.

Addressing the decline in hand health among gamers is commendable. Are there any collaborations or initiatives Exogrip is a part of to spread awareness about this issue?

We are in talks with a number of amazing businesses and charities, we are in open discussions with the charity Special Effect, to see how the Exogrip can help physically disabled people feel more included and help people control video games to the best of their abilities using our innovative product. We are also a partner of Safe in our world, a mental health charity, looking to level up mental health in the gaming community.

We want to make gaming more accessible, to help people suffering from mental health, especially those who can’t play their games like they used to, and we hope Exogrip can make gaming more accessible and improve their mental health along the way.

The PS5 Exogrip truly embodies individuality and personalisation. How has the gaming community responded to this unique selling point?

We have had a positive response from the gaming community, grips today are made for the mass market and are not perfect for anyone. Our grip turns this on its head and means everyone can have a grip that is completely customisable to their own hand shape and gaming style. Now we just need a load more colour variations to make our grip an even more customisable product that allows the gamers to reflect their personalities in their grips.

PS5 Controller and Exogrip

From your quote in our news coverage, it’s evident you’re passionate about gaming. Have you personally faced any challenges with conventional controller grips, and how has Exogrip improved your own gaming experience?

I found other grips just do not work for me. Often, they don’t fit the controller perfectly, they slip around during gameplay and they don’t fit my hands perfectly. The Exogrip has a snug fit and stays in place during intense gaming moments. When my hands are sweaty in the final circle of Warzone, I still feel in control with the Exogrip.

Also, in those relaxed gameplay moments where I am swinging through the streets of New York my hands feel at ease, supported and relaxed, meaning I can play for longer without my hands feeling tired and fatigued which they used to with conventional grips or no grips at all, as they are made for a mass market not the shape of my hand individually.

Competitive gaming is on the rise. How do you see Exogrip fitting into the eSports world?

Esports competitors will look for any advantage they can gain over their opposition. Why would they not want a controller grip that fits perfectly to their hand, for those intense moments, but also for longevity, to help them stay in the gaming scene for longer without health-related injuries?

At £24.99, how do you believe Exogrip compares with other gaming accessories in terms of value for money?

Exogrip is a premium gaming grip, which can take your basic controller and make it into a custom masterpiece to fit your gaming style and hand shape. Not only is it more customisable than other grips on the market, but it is also a small price to pay to reduce the chances of hand-related injuries that could hinder you in later life.

How do you envision the future of Exogrip? Are there any plans for new designs or compatibility with other gaming systems?

We want to change the gaming accessory market one grip at a time! We are only compatible with the PS5 currently, but we are 100% going to move to other gaming consoles. We will launch new colours and even gain some IP and licensing to do a few really awesome custom colour and design launches! Watch this space!

PS5 Exogrip Components

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who are looking to turn their passion into a successful business, especially in trying times?

If you are passionate about something and feel it could be a brilliant business venture, you need to just jump in headfirst and do it! Test your concept with friends, family and the industry you are looking to enter into. Then try and build a base on mentors, by talking to anyone and everyone about your new venture, this will open so many doors and can be done before you even spend a penny setting up. I started with a concept, created a name and never looked back… 

The current economy can be scary, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to prove you are really onto something new and exciting! It is not an easy road and there will be tears along the way but looking back you will be so glad you took that first step when you did!

And to finish things off on a lighter note, if you could play any video game with any historical figure, who would it be and which game would you choose?

This is an interesting one, I think I have many options for this, so I have just picked two:

Albert Einstein and Zelda – He was curious and obviously had a brilliant mind, mixed with his unconventional thinking and approach to problem-solving I think he would smash the puzzles within the game. He was also said to have a profound sense of humour so I think we could have a lot of fun just chilling out, playing games. 

Jesse James and Red Dead Redemption – I bet he had some amazing outlaw stories which I think would be awesome to hear about, and then we could just hold up trains together and run around firing our guns in the air…

And that’s a wrap. We’d like to thank Sam for taking the time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer our questions. Be sure to head on over to the official website where you can purchase your very own PS5 Exogrip. And while you’re waiting for it to arrive, go show Exogrip some love on their social channels and keep an eye on them for future product announcements. You can find them on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter (X), and YouTube.

To read even more interviews with members of the gaming community, just click here.

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