By Ana Luisa Neves
The World Health Organisation recommends that every pregnant woman be tested for HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis B. Timely diagnosis of these conditions – and, consequently, timely referral and treatment at a central healthcare facility – results in healthier mothers and healthier babies. However, many women still struggle to access this type of prenatal care.
We have capitalised on already validated technology to develop a product that is user-friendly and easy to deploy. It’s small, convenient, is backed up by scientific evidence and has no temperature requirements. You can literally put it in your pocket and take it quickly to where it’s most needed.
I worked as a volunteer doctor in several developing countries and personally witnessed the high mortality rates that still exist in isolated communities where women struggle to access antenatal screening. These women would be advised to walk long distances, in the sun, to have their blood collected at a central facility, from where it would be transported in suboptimal conditions to a laboratory for analysis. Quite often, they would end up deciding not to take that road.
The team met through our PhD projects, which are quite different, but sitting next to each other, we always found great value in sharing our experiences and in looking for opportunities for collaboration. We also have a shared interest in global health, technology and innovation. Our PhD study presented just the right moment and setting for Momoby to happen. We are advised by Dr John Beadle, CEO of PsiOxus Therapeutics, and Rob Balfour, Founder, Partner and Co-founder of Waimangu Ventures, as part of the Imperial Venture Mentoring Service. We have also benefitted from innovation programmes, such as WE Innovate 2017 and VCC 2018. We entered both competitions and were awarded 2nd and 1st place respectively.
These opportunities provided us with initial seed funding but, most importantly, they gave us confidence, skills and a supportive network to begin and grow our startup. Being showcased as part of these programmes also gave us visibility and traction, and we ended up being mentioned on websites such as UN Women and the World Economic Forum. The Enterprise Lab has also provided very useful contacts, including business advisors and potential investors, as well as information on several specialised workshops – intellectual property and business models, for example – and notification of relevant innovation competitions. Consequently, we applied to Hello Tomorrow 2017, where we were selected as one of the top 500 most promising startups worldwide.
We share most of the duties between us, including the development and implementation of fundraising and marketing strategies, working side-by-side with our tech partner in product development, and linking with NGOs and local organisations to reach our target markets. There is also a lot of networking and pitching involved, not to mention those random talks with as many people as possible to improve our idea.
For anyone thinking of starting a business, we say, don’t be afraid of failure! As one of our mentors once said, failure is just the process through which your idea becomes the best version of itself. And even if the idea fails, you always learn something, and eventually, you become the best version of yourself.
We are currently looking for further investment to finalise the validation of the prototype. We are also always keen to further explore and link with NGOs and local organisations to reach our target markets.