•The Innovate Now Accelerator will support entrepreneurs through expert mentorship, Live Labs as well as access to seed funding.
•Successful businesses stand an opportunity to get up to Sh2.6 million funding to scale up their enterprise.
Global Disability Innovation Hub and Amref Enterprises Limited have unveiled five local entrepreneurs selected as finalists to the First Cohort of the 'Innovate Now' Accelerator Program.
This coincides with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The five start-ups were picked from a total of 30 applicants who presented their assertive technology solutions to improve the overall well being of persons with disabilities.
The Innovate Now Accelerator will support entrepreneurs through expert mentorship, user-centred design, user-testing through a network of Live Labs, as well as access to seed funding.
It is part of the UK aid funded AT2030 programme and Africa’s first assistive technology innovation ecosystem and start-up accelerator. During the next three years, Innovate Now will support 60 start-ups a quarter of which will track to scale.
The finalists include Vijana Reloaded, a start-up involved in eye testing, fitting and glasses sale and distribution; Hope Tech plus, which creates small handheld devices that use sensors to detect obstacles and give feedback to the user through different vibration patterns and Linccel Technologies, which makes electric wheelchairs to aid in mobility.
Others are Syna Consultancy which has developed a portable commode-like toilet that equips persons with disabilities with an accessible, dignified and hygienic toilet as well as help elevate their social status and boost their self-esteem, and Toto SciLTD, which has created an intelligent smart stick that allows users to call for help at the click of a button.
“We have entrepreneurs in this assistive technology space. However, the majority of the businesses fail not because they are bad ideas, but because they lack funding since investors are unwilling to engage in businesses that have undefined costs and undetermined demand,” said Bernard Chiira, Innovate Now Director.
“We are certain that this accelerator program will help increase the demand for these technologies and ultimately help the businesses grow," Chiira added.
The finalists will go through an intensive isx months training and mentorship program, which will give them exposure to international investors and access to test facilities through live labs network.
Statistics indictate close to one billion people globally do not have access to assistive technology with the gap likely to double by 2050, something the accelerator program is intended to help resolve.
According to Cathy Holloway, lead judge of Innovate Now and Academic Director at the Global Disability Innovation Hub, successful businesses stand an opportunity to get up to a £20,000(Sh2.6 million ) funding to scale up their enterprise.