Last week, we reported about the 10 startups in the Sexual Reproductive Health field that had been selected for pitching to a panel of judges in the Up Accelerate program. Today, they did at Outbox Hub and out of these, four finalists emerged as winners. These will pocket $10,000 each.
The teams that won are m-Scan, Blood Finder, Health Data Harvester and Eco Smart Pads. What is interesting is that one of the winners, Health Data Harvester, was once rejected in the first cycle. This means they went back and refined their product something that startups here rarely do. Congratulations Health Data Harvester.
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We however decided to reach out to one of the startups - m-Scan. We shall also follow-up with the rest of the teams to ensure we give you a comprehensive understanding of what they're trying to solve.
m-Scan is a team of four; Prosper Ahimbisibwe (Clinical Head and Co-founder), Menya Innocent (Team Leader and Radiology Assistant), Kyomuhendo Phyllis (Radiology Coordinator) as well as Nasasira Ivan who is in-charge of information systems.
According to Prosper, m-Scan is a low cost mobile ultrasound innovation that is aimed at saving lives of pregnant mothers - especially in rural or hard-to-reach areas. This it aims to achieve through early screening of the factors that lead to maternal mortality.
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Tthrough a smartphone combined with a probe, this will be possible. They are targeting health centers, health camps, Government agencies and ministries as well as the World Health Organization. The software will be free of charge but the probe will come at a cost which - currently - is estimated at $600.
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They believe this is more affordable compared to what is already in place.When asked about what they expect to get from the Up Accelerate program, Prosper was quick to point out the fact that they still need help when it comes to ensuring the idea makes business sense as well as crafting a marketing strategy. He also believes this is an opportunity for them to work on their much anticipated prototype.
The only challenge m-Scan has - given it is in the health sector, just like the financial sector - is trust. Professionals and institutions are already attached to certain brands which makes it hard to penetrate the market.
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Secondly, we have had a couple of startups in the health field like Matibabu as well as MamaOpe come and win a series of competitions, but it seems bringing a hardware product to market is far harder than most think - and probably harder in the health sector.
Uganda has no thriving manufacturing industry - worse for the health sector - hence the only logical way forward is getting a production partner - who has some credibility - either in Asia or Europe.
What challenges are preventing Ugandan startups - especially in the Health sector - from starting to ship their products? Is it that they require a lot of funding or the absence of a thriving manufacturing sector? Do these ideas only make business sense on paper but have no place in the real world?