Thursday 01 June 2023 - 9:19:46 am

Sheraa’s UCAN Startup Awards honours changemakers

SHARJAH, 7th December 2020 (WAM) - The recently announced winners of the inaugural edition of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa)’s $250,000 equity-free prize purse ‘UCAN’ or the Ubuntu Care And Nurture Startup Awards featured in a discussion yesterday, as part of the inaugural proceedings of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival 2020. UCAN was launched in September to empower entrepreneurs in the region invested in creating high-impact tangible solutions for the post-COVID world.

Winners Jordan’s Raad Al Kalha, co-founder of Carers App - a technology platform that connects households with the best caregivers including in-home nurses, physiotherapists, and childcare specialists by matching patient needs with the caregiver's expertise, was adjudged the winner in the healthtech track while Kenya-based Caitlin Dolkart, co-founder of Flare – a next-generation mobile-based 911 emergency response infrastructure that combines all users within the emergency ecosystem on a real-time platform to create an integrated response network, was named runner up.

In the Agri-Foodtech track, Abdulrhman Elhalafawy, co-founder of CUP MENA, an aِgri-tech and waste management startup from Egypt, was announced the winner for building a waste collection system to collect spent coffee grounds (SCG) and maximise its value by reusing it to grow natural produces. South Africa’s Nneile Nkholise, who founded 3DIMO, was named runner-up for pioneering the use of novel connected technology and data driven approaches to enable early detection of health risks among farm livestock.

Winning startups in each track will be awarded a $100,000 grant each, while runners-up will receive a grant of $25,000 each.

Since its launch, UCAN received more than 650 applications from across Africa and Middle East, among which 20 startups were shortlisted by Sheraa last month under the two tracks of the award: "Healing the World" for healthtech, and "Feeding the Future" for agri-foodtech.

Part of Sheraa’s wider response to the Covid-19 crisis, UCAN reinforces the organisation’s commitment to the #UbuntuLoveChallenge – a global movement founded by Sheraa Chairperson Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi and Africa 2.0 Foundation founder Mamadou Kwidjim Toure, to inspire changemakers worldwide to actively help their communities during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Building enterprises that are driving real societal change The UCAN Startup Award winners convened virtually at a virtual panel discussion organised by SEF 2020 yesterday, moderated by Aby Sam Thomas, Editor-in-Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East, and discussed their unique and inspiring journeys of building enterprises that are driving real societal change.

"Purpose trumps profit," said Raad Al Kalha, who transformed the "personal and unpleasant experience of finding the right professional homecare expert for a family member" to create a new value proposition for the homecare industry with the launch of the Carers App in Amman in 2018.

"Many people faced the same struggle – how do you trust a stranger or ascertain the right quality of care and experience?" said Al Kalha who started with 35 caregivers and only two services. "Today, we have expanded our services to include nursing visits, physiotherapy services, and blood tests and have a network of 300 caregivers who have provided more than 28,000 hours of care, created 5,000 job opportunities, and achieved 300 percent year on year growth from 2019-20."

"In an emergency, it is often times a matter of seconds that determine the outcome of whether you survive or not, and at Flare, we believe that no matter who you are or where you are, you deserve access to emergency care in minutes," said Caitlin Dolkart, whose startup has been recognised by TIME Magazine as one of the best inventions of 2020.

The app links callers in Kenya to a nationwide network of ambulance operators and the traditional three-hour wait has now been reduced to just 15 minutes. A US citizen, Dolkart, revealed how the 911 was a system she took for granted until she arrived in East Africa. She added: "My advice to entrepreneurs is to fully believe in yourself, push aside the naysayers, and be inspired to prove people wrong."

CUP, which stands for Coffee Utilisation Products, stemmed from the idea of converting a waste material into a product of value by reusing it to grow natural products, said co-founder Abdulrhman Elhalafawy. He explained that using ground coffee waste as a natural fertilizer will minimise thermal emissions and serve as a nutritional source for growing mushrooms faster. "It has many useful applications in other industries too and we are currently looking to expand to other agri-solutions," he added.

3DIMO, which offers biometric identification of livestock, empowers farmers globally with data insights to trace animal movements and monitor their health and welfare, said Nneile Nkholise, who belongs to a farming family. "When we started six months ago, I was merely solving a problem for myself, and I was the first customer in the business," She explained adding that co-developing the technology with others expanded its horizons to encompass the needs of the farming community across Africa or anywhere in the world.

"My advice to all entrepreneurs at SEF 2020 is just do it – open yourself to the opportunity to learn, unlearn and relearn. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on the journey, not the destination, and just celebrate the little steps you take along the way," she said.

The 4th annual edition of the region’s fastest growing festival celebrating changemakers is the first fully virtual edition of SEF and is organised by Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) under the theme #BeTheHero.

The Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF) 2020, powered by Sahab Smart Solutions, is being held in strategic partnership with Sultan Bin Al Owais Real Estate and Invest in Sharjah. Held every year since 2017, the aim of this festival is to cultivate the entrepreneurial mindset and inspire the next generation of changemakers. Over the years, SEF has seen 200+ showcasing startups, 240+ local and international speakers, and 8,000+ attendees.

WAM/Hassan Bashir