From Robotic Exoskeletons to ‘Uber’ for the Disabled: How Social Tech Startups Can Transform Health Care
Editor’s note: Throughout 2017, NextBillion is organizing content around a monthly theme, dedicating special attention to a specific sector alongside our broader coverage. This post is part of our focus on health care for the month of April.
Thanks to the proliferation and commoditization of technology, we are living in a time like no other in history. A time where individuals can tackle issues that previously could only be addressed by governments and big business. Issues such as health care, improving lives of the elderly and social inequality. Today, by leveraging technology, individuals can develop innovative solutions that tackle these issues and generate meaningful impact.
Tech For Good (T4G) is a social tech acceleration program based in Singapore and poised to expand to Thailand and Japan this year. Inspired by success in Israel, we launched our Asia program in 2016 and are working to create a global community and a home for social tech startups and entrepreneurs in Asia. With support from LinkedIn, E&Y, Google and AVPN we are currently incubating our second cohort in Singapore. We’ve been able to help empower social tech startups addressing a range of social issues, including health care, education, empowering people with disabilities, social and gender inequality, aging populations, safety and more.
In honour of Next Billion’s Health Care Month, I wanted to share some of the health-related social tech startups that we find most inspiring at T4G. These companies are harnessing technology in innovative ways to solve health care and safety issues:
Rewalk Robotics developed an innovative device that enables paraplegics to walk again. The technology was influenced by the robotics industry; the founder built a “robot” device that connects to the human body, enabling the walking movement. Rewalk has impacted thousands around the world who, before Rewalk’s technology, thought they would be limited to a wheelchair and the “kindness” of their government to regulate wheelchair accessibly.
Mobileye developed a technology that alerts a car driver – using cameras and sensors – to dangers on the road, such as getting too close to vehicles, pedestrians ahead, falling asleep and much more. Mobileye’s solution reduces car accidents around the world, lowering the number of casualties and deaths. Mobileye is a great example of a social tech company that tapped into road safety, an area that in the past only governments dealt with. The company was acquired in March 2017 by Intel for $15.3 billion.
EbeeCare (a startup in the T4G program) developed a platform that connects caregivers/nurses to those needing basic health services. The solution removes the burden from hospitals, enabling them to deal with more critical cases, and adds income to caregivers who, in most countries, are a low-income group. Although EbeeCare was launched recently, the company already has hundreds of nurses on its platform. They make thousands of house calls and have become one of the largest “virtual” clinics in Singapore.
Hapticus (also a startup in the T4G program) developed an Uber-like platform that connects special transportation fleets for the disabled as well as hundreds of volunteers with suitable vehicles. It allows a disabled person to book transportation from his mobile phone, the same as booking a taxi. In Singapore it shortens the booking time from three days to three hours; it’s changed the lives of thousands of people who use it on a daily basis.
CreateCatt is another startup in the T4G program, whose founder, Caroline Essame, is a therapist specializing in educating children with special needs through play and creativity. She decided to harness mobile and video technology in an innovative way to reach out to large numbers of educators and parents, potentially turning her one-to-one sessions into one-to-millions. Thanks to technology, her education tools are now available to low-income families and educators in developing countries who previously could not access such educational tools. It’s led to hope and inclusion for children who might have been left behind without fulfilling their true potential.
A growing number of entrepreneurs launch their social tech startups with the rightful understanding that there is no conflict between tackling meaningful issues and generating profit; in fact, on the contrary. If you generate profit, you can grow your company and create more impact. In addition, a growing number of investors seek to invest in social tech startups due to the financial opportunity, along with their wish to be involved in technology that generates a meaningful positive impact on society. We see more private investors, VCs and family funds dedicating part of their investment portfolio to impact investments in social tech companies.
With this rise of interest in impact investment in Asia, we see our role at T4G as helping to build the pipeline of potential investment opportunities in the region. With our structured curriculum and unique mentorship program we are building the capacity of startups so they are better prepared to take on the larger amounts of capital and higher return expectations of impact investors. I’ll be talking about this and more on June 7 at the AVPN Conference in Bangkok, the largest gathering of philanthropists and social investors in Asia. I’ll be joined by colleagues from Villgro, xchange and GSEN to discuss the importance of Capacity Builders & Incubators for social enterprises in the region.
Yoav Elgrichi is the co-founder of Tech For Good in Asia.
Photo courtesy of ReWalk.