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SA’s Lumkani fire detector gets to global Venture finals

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16 start-ups from across the globe with a mission to create positive change have been announced as finalists of The Venture. The forward-thinking businesses, including Lumkani from South Africa, are competing to win a share of $1 million in funding from Chivas Regal.

After receiving over 1 000 entries from five continents, Chivas Regal has selected Lumkani as part of a diverse shortlist of 16 aspiring start-ups tackling a range of social and environmental issues. The finalists have been chosen to represent their local countries in The Venture global final, based not only on their potential to be profitable as a business, but also on their ability to offer scalable and sustainable impact solutions.

Each finalist has a truly unique story to tell about the inspiration for their startup. “The devastating shack fires that took place on New Year’s day 2013 in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, and displaced thousands of people was a catalyst for research and development that has brought us to create an affordable fire detection device to mitigate the loss of life and property,” said David Gluckman, co-founder of Lumkani.

“Enabling the growth of social entrepreneurs has become a key focus for Chivas Regal through The Venture campaign. We are really excited to have Lumkani representing South Africa on a global stage and we urge fellow South Africans to vote for Lumkani’s life-saving initiative,” said Paul Scanlon, Managing Director of Pernod Ricard for South Africa and Namibia.

From 11 May to 14 June, Lumkani will go head to head with the rest of the finalists in a public vote, competing for an initial share of $250 000 (from the $1 million fund). People from across the world can view the finalist profiles and vote for their favourite at The Venture.

The competition will then culminate in San Francisco on 24 July when finalists pitch for the remaining share of the $1 million fund in front of an expert global judging panel. Sonal Shah, former Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the White House under US President Barack Obama, is the latest judge to be announced alongside Adrian Grenier (actor, producer and social entrepreneur), Morgan Clendaniel (Editor of Fast Company’s Co.Exist) and Alex Ricard (Pernod Ricard Chairman and CEO).

In the week leading up to The Venture Final Pitch, the finalists will attend an Accelerator Week in Silicon Valley – the epicentre of the startup world – where they will receive mentorship from influential figures in social enterprise and companies such as Google, Duarte and IDEO.

To find out more and vote for your finalist, visit The Venture.

The Finalists

Country Company Founder(s) Overview
Brazil MGov Guilherme Finkelfarb Lichand MGov is a consulting firm that specialises in public policy management and social impact. We use mobile technology to better understand the demand for, and evaluation of, public services by speaking to those that they affect most; the people who use them.
Bulgaria Arthesis Demir Tonchev At Arthesis we create beautiful prosthetic covers for leg amputees who want to express themselves boldly and creatively. Wearing our covers makes amputees feel confident the same way as wearing stylish clothes. An Arthesis cover weighs about 250 grams, which makes it very convenient to wear.
Chile Algramo Jose Manuel Moller Affordable food is hard to come by in the outskirts of Santiago, Chile. There are few supermarkets and the produce at small stores can often be up to 40% more expensive than in larger outlets. To address this issue, we at Algramo buy essential products, such as rice, beans, lentils and sugar, in bulk from suppliers and distribute them directly to small convenience stores through our unique mechanical dispensers.
China Coolpeds Tony Chan At Coolpeds our mission is to offer an innovative, compact and eco-friendly way to travel. One that not only helps people get around efficiently, but also improves local communities by reducing pollution and congestion. So we’ve designed and manufactured the lightest electric transporters in the world. Our scooters are not only light, they’re also foldable, produce zero emission and will even charge your phone.
Columbia Diseclar Juan Nicolas Suarez Bonilla Where others see rubbish, garbage and waste, we at Diseclar see furniture. Thanks to our inventive manufacturing process, we’re able to turn waste materials into stylish furniture that can be used in- and outdoors.
Dom. Republic Conuco Solar Raul Aguayo Many people don’t have the space in their home or place of business to have their own solar panels installed. Conuco Solar will ensure that anyone can still have access to clean, renewable energy by essentially renting space at our solar farm, rather than having to set up their panels at home or their business where space may be limited.
Gulf Dumyé Sahar Wahbeh Dumyé handcrafts personalised cloth dolls and, for every doll we sell, we give one to an orphan to make their own through an art workshop. In this way, we believe we can bring love and light into the lives of both our children and those who have not been spoken for.
Hong Kong Diamond Cab Doris Leung Diamond Cab is the first ever barrier-free taxi service in Hong Kong. Our vision is to provide a safe, accessible service that makes it easy for a previously marginalised and vulnerable group of people to interact with the world, while also being a driving force to promote genuine social progress in our society.
Japan SenSprout Yoshihiro Kawahara SenSprout’s mission is to make farming more efficient, to produce more crops using less water. We help farmers better understand their crops and fields with our low-cost sensor technology. Our wireless field-monitoring system is enabled by a unique “printed electronics” sensor, making it possible to monitor soil conditions and environmental information in real time.
Mexico ¡Échale! a Tu Casa Mexico Francesco Piazzesi Lack of affordable housing is a social problem, so we’ve come up with a model that makes the community part of the solution. We aim to provide at-risk families across Mexico with ecological, affordable housing by helping them build their own.
South Africa Lumkani David Gluckman At Lumkani we use technology to decrease the risk of devastating fires in informal settlements. Our innovative fire detector was designed to mitigate the loss of life and property caused by the spread of shack fires.
Thailand Socialgiver Aliza Napartivaumnuay Socialgiver is a lifestyle website with a social twist. We offer handpicked services and experiences, such as hotel deals, gift-cards for restaurants and tickets for events from leading brands at exclusive rates. For every purchase, 70% goes directly to support social projects of the buyer’s choice and 30% helps grow the Socialgiver community.
UK Two Fingers Brewing Co. Will Waldron Two Fingers Brewing Co. is a beer brand that gives back to those that drink it by giving all our profits to Prostate Cancer UK. Using the finest handpicked ingredients, we create beer that’s not just better tasting, but better for men everywhere.
Ukraine Line 24 Ilona Kotova There are over 13 million elderly citizens in Ukraine and more than eight million people with disabilities. Some have no immediate family or their relatives live far away. Line 24 provides a 24-hour medical alarm service for these vulnerable, at-risk groups.
Uruguay Chipsafer Victoria Alonsoperez Chipsafer is a platform that will transform the way farmers care for their livestock. It not only tracks and detects anomalies in cattle behaviour, but does so remotely, autonomously and in real-time. Chipsafer then sends all this information directly to the farmer, who can access it on a laptop or phone.
US Vendedy Christine Souffrant Vendedy is a social enterprise startup that is digitising the street vendor industry via mobile technology. For the first time, street vendors can upload photos of their products online via mobile devices so that a traveling consumer can search, purchase, and pay for an item via SMS.

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Meet the ambassador to the future

Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.

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Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.

That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.

Picture by Arthur Goldstuck

That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.

“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia. 

“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.

“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”

The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.

Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.

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How Tilly Lockey became a Hero

Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.

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Picture courtesy SingularityU South Africa 2019 Summit

This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.

Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.

Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.

Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”

That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.

“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.

“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”

The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.

“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”

It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.

“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “

Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school

“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”

What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.

In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.

“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”

Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.

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