Where do good ideas come from? They can come from anywhere and everywhere.
Any bright individual has the potential to be an amazing entrepreneur. That is why it is frustrating to see that only 17% of tech start-ups are founded by women today.
This was never clearer than when I attended Innovation Unbound London as part of the Vodafone Innovation Forum and heard from many fantastic entrepreneurs including Tania Boler, founder and CEO of Elvie, whose mission is to improve women’s lives through technology.
Elvie is just one example of the potential that could be achieved with a more diverse range of business leaders.
It was with this in mind that the Vodafone Institute launched F-Lane, Europe’s first accelerator with a focus on start-ups by and for women.
As the programme prepares to support the fourth cohort, let’s take a look at the impact these businesses are having on the industry and the communities they support.
The good news is that F-Lane is proving to be more popular than ever. This year Vodafone received 280 applications by start-ups from 62 countries, highlighting the need it addresses for women in the tech sector.
We need lots of different organisations to create a rich, innovative ecosystem – just as we need many perspectives to make a strong, diverse organisation.
This is especially true at a time when technology is changing the way we work, live and interact with one another.
So to join the F-Lane, you need to be a venture working towards a social good.
Each cohort is comprised of five start-ups. They take part in a seven week acceleration programme and receive funding of €12,000 each, as well as coaching by mentors, individual training sessions and networking with other start-ups and the greater ‘Vodafone family.’
Berlin based Boost Thyroid allows people suffering from thyroid conditions, like Hashimoto’s disease, to monitor their unique health patterns so they can better manage their illness.
The app allows users to view how their symptoms change over time, set reminders to take medication on time and record and measure all their lab test results.
The app also provides the latest peer-reviewed scientific information on thyroid health, hypothyroidism, and Hashimoto’s disease, so that users can stay informed about the best ways to manage their condition.
Our second health-tech start-up in this year’s cohort is Rubi Health, who are tackling maternal depression by offering affordable psychotherapeutic care in rural hospitals in Nigeria.
Expectant mothers can book therapy hours which take place via video chat in rooms provided by the hospitals.
In this way therapists can be connected from anywhere, counteracting the shortage of on-site medical personnel and reducing associated costs.
Staying in West Africa, Developers in Vogue aims to create a like-minded community of women who are passionate about using technology to revolutionise their communities and beyond.
Based out of Accra, Ghana, the team provide training in what are currently male-dominated technical areas, such as software engineering or programming.
Once a trainee has finished the course, they are matched with potential employers through an AI platform.
With support from some of the biggest names in technology, more than half of the graduates helped by Developers in Vogue have already accepted job offers from partners including Microsoft, Google and Vodafone.
Safe & the City’s vision is to shape smarter, safer streets by providing a platform where users can identify potential danger zones with a like-minded community.
Running via IOS or Android and London focused for now, the application crowdsources crime data and allow users to anonymously report any incidents they have witnessed or experienced.
This might be as serious as sexual harassment or an area with poor lighting and potential antisocial behaviour.
All of this information is then fed into a live navigation map that enables users to plan safer journeys and be vigilant of high-risk areas where necessary.
Today, India has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world: Together for Her seeks to change that.
This start-up has built a platform which expectant mothers can use to evaluate hospitals and share their experiences.
The ratings are based on a combination of maternity patient reviews and Quality of Care (QoC) ratings which are based on World Health Organization guidelines.
In addition, Together for Her offers bundled services to help pregnant women monitor their prenatal health. These can be offered more cost-effectively due to the economies of scale of the website.
This empowers pregnant women in India to take ownership of their health in the months towards birth – and beyond.
Like all families Vodafone is made up of a diverse mix of people, but we can always do more to address imbalances. In this F-Lane cohort alone there are a wide range of nationalities, ages and races.
However, they all have two things in common: they are led by women and driven by a social purpose.
In an industry with a clear diversity challenge and huge potential to transform lives, this represents a very exciting combination indeed.
I for one can’t wait to see how they develop as part of the Vodafone family.
Find out more about F-Lane’s class of 2019.
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