We’re excited to be partnering with an NGO called BYKA to provide LFCs for their “One City One Wheelchair” program. BYKA is a group of volunteers creating companies in Ghana to help end the poverty and charity cycle. BYKA works with the EWAY Foundation to support NGO’s through employing locals and organizing events and cultural exchanges. They have over 100 volunteers from more than 14 countries and are organizing a race in Ghana in September 2013 to support their initiatives.
Greg Marsh, BYKA’s founder, writes:
BYKA and its many NGO Partners have embarked on a campaign with the support of GRIT to deliver the “Leveraged Freedom Wheelchair” to Africa and all the countries we are working in. The use of the wheelchair is to be heavily promoted during our Ghana wide Race in September 2013 which we are organizing with NGO’s, youth groups, singers and governments from several countries.
In order to support GRIT and those disabled we have launched a “One City One Wheelchair” campaign where we are asking cities to donate one wheelchair and to sponsor a local disabled person to come to Ghana and be a team mate of the person receiving the wheelchair. This way someone in both countries will benefit. BYKA is also contacting schools, sports teams and businesses to ask them to help donated a single wheelchair and if possible sponsor a team mate.
Please visit our website where you can see a partial list of volunteers and organizations at:
to learn more about the “One City One Wheelchair” program and see how you can get involved.
We just got back from an action-packed two weeks in Haiti, following-up with the wheelchair users and organizations who have been testing the LFC there. In an effort to learn more about how the LFC would work in different regions and geographies in Haiti, we distributed chairs in several locations. This included the busy city of Port-au-Prince, as well as the midsize city of Les Cayes and the more rural area of Fond-des-Blancs. As we expected, the benefits of the LFC were more pronounced as you got farther from the city, where people need to move around some distance, and have the space to do so. We are currently compiling the results of our surveys and will be sharing more information in the coming weeks. But one interview is embedded in our memories. It was with a young woman who was using the LFC to get to and from her school. Previously she would have to depend on friends and family to help her get there, or even stay over at the school overnight. She said,
This is better than any other chair I have had. Even when there is water in the road, I can still go to school. With other chairs I cannot.
We were thrilled to see how well the LFC works for her and inspired to keep pushing to get the product out there.
PS. You may have noticed that we revamped our website. It’s still a work-in-progress, so let us know what you think!
The past few weeks have been a bit of blur, in a good way! At the MassChallenge awards ceremony on October 23rd we were announced as a Diamond Winner and took home one of the grand prizes. We also received a sidecar prize for one of the best assistive technologies from the Perkins School. The energy and excitement in the room that night was fantastic and we’re honored to have been recognized. For more information on the event, check out the coverage by the Boston Herald here. And check out my interview on NECN here. The media attention we’ve received since the event has driven a lot of new folks to get in touch and we’ve been enjoying the opportunity to build new connections.
In between the pitching and the awards ceremony, Mario was in India working on our manufacturing operation and checking in on LFC distribution. Over the past few months we’ve really flexed our engineering muscles and learned a lot about manufacturing at volume. We’ll be in Haiti for the next two weeks following up with the patients and organizations that have been testing LFCs down there. We’re really excited to reconnect with everybody and gather their feedback. Stay tuned for updates from the field!
Over the past few months we have been part of this awesome start-up accelerator called MassChallenge. We wrote a guest entry on their blog a few weeks ago describing our experience. If you missed it, check it out here.
We’re pleased to announce that we have advanced to the final round! We are now one of the final 26 teams. Check out the press release here. We just went through 2 rounds of serious pitching with some pretty all-star judges. It was an intense experience but we learned a lot in the process. Plus, it turns out Mario is amazing at making slides!
There is a big final awards ceremony at the Boston Convention Center on October 23rd. If you’re in the Boston area and want to check it out, details are available here. Until then, keep your fingers crossed for us!
The fact that we haven’t blogged in a while doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy. In fact, quite the opposite! We spent 2 weeks in Haiti assembling and distributing LFCs, working with a bunch of fantastic local NGOs. Back in Boston it’s been full steam ahead with MassChallenge. We advanced to the final round and recently went through two rounds of intense pitching. But more on that later. Let’s talk about our trip to Haiti!
Throughout August we carefully tracked the shipment of LFC components as the boxes made their way from India to Haiti. I was obsessed with tracking the shipment online and may have squealed with delight when it finally landed in Port-au-Prince. Turns out that was the easy part. We had heard horror stories about getting shipments cleared through Customs. I’m not sure how our experience compares, but I can tell you that it was quite an adventure. Our first week was like something out of the TV show The Amazing Race. Maybe we should apply to the show, because after a few days we won and had the chairs in our possession!
Boxes of LFCs, finally out of Customs and in our possession.
We unloaded the boxes and inspected them to make sure that all the parts were in good condition. And they were! While in Haiti we worked with 5 different NGOs to distribute the chairs– Healing Hands for Haiti, St. Boniface Hospital, Medical Teams International, Johanniter, and L’Ecole St. Vincent. At each site we worked with their staff to provide training on how to assemble, maintain, and repair the LFC. We also provided training on how to use the product and spent time working with each patient to make sure he/she felt comfortable using the product. Our distribution took us across the southern part of Haiti as we visited sites outside of Port-au-Prince in Leogane, Fond-des-Blancs, and Les Cayes.
Training a patient at Healing Hands. She learned quickly and was off to conquer this rocky path.
Throughout this time we were assessing the feasibility of installing a local wheelchair assembly shop, taking time to note the availability of certain components and analyzing road conditions and access to ports. In November we’ll be conducting a follow-up assessment with each NGO and each patient to collect valuable feedback that we’ll use to refine the design and make sure it meets the needs of the users. We can’t wait to go back!
We’re currently a Finalist team in MassChallenge which is an awesome start-up accelerator that just happens to be right here in Boston. Through the program we have access to amazing mentors, training, media, and office space, not to mention the opportunity to take home some serious prize money at the end of October.
We recently wrote a guest entry for the MassChallenge blog describing our experience and highlighting the social impact space. Check it out here!
We’re tearing through Reverse Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble. In fact, if we were better at multi-tasking, we’d probably be done reading it by the time we finished writing this post. The book presents itself as the blueprint for scaling growth in emerging markets. With the gap between rich nations and emerging economies closing quickly, the dynamics of global innovation are changing accordingly. It used to be that large multinationals innovated new products at home (in the US) and then if they wanted to bring those products to emerging markets, they would just slim down the offering by removing a bunch of features and lowering the cost. The authors call this “glocalization,” which means taking your global product and later adapting it to local needs. But as the authors discuss, and we have seen time and again ourselves, this just doesn’t work most of the time. Customers in emerging markets and developing countries have unique needs that require custom solutions. And if you get the product right for emerging market customers, there is great potential to bring that innovation back home– hence the title, Reverse Innovation.
The first half of the book reviews the general concepts and guidelines of reverse innovation, and the other half provides case studies of companies like PepsiCo, GE and Procter & Gamble who have successfully reverse innovated.
This book really resonates with us because we see the development of the LFC as an exercise in reverse innovation. We worked with wheelchair riders and manufacturers in developing countries to design a chair with a completely different set of assumptions than US wheelchairs. Since we started the design in a completely different region of the design space, we ended up with a product that is fundamentally different from everything else on the market in the US. The LFC’s differences are its key strengths; the lever drivetrain, the simple design based on bicycle parts, and the rugged off-road nature of the chair itself; and position it to succeed in both the developing and developed world. We’re really excited to be on the cutting edge of the reverse innovation trend, designing a product for the developing world and then repatriating it to satisfy market demands back home.
If you have any other book recommendations, let us know! We’ve got some long-haul flights coming up soon.
With all the international traveling we do, you’d think we’d have the whole packing thing down by now. And while our packing habits have certainly been refined, it’s still a work-in-progress.
Here are 10 things I always pack for a big international trip:
- Passport- this is an obvious one, but it’s also a good idea to make a copy or two and store them in different places in case anything gets stolen
- Unlocked cell phone- that way I can drop in a SIM card and have a local number
- Noise-cancelling headphones- now that I’ve used them, I can’t imagine being on a long flight without them
- Kindle- because my bag is usually close to being overweight without all those heavy books
- Small packets of tissues- these always come in handy, just trust me
- Granola bars- great for all those days when you just can’t break for lunch
- Yoga pants- they are comfortable, end of story
- At least one dressy outfit- because you never know who you will meet and where they will invite you
- Face wipes- great for refreshing yourself on a hot day and almost substitutes for a shower if you have to
- USB thumb drive- useful for sharing documents with colleagues when internet isn’t available, or isn’t fast enough
And 5 things I wish I had packed on this last trip to India:
- Oatmeal packets- for a quick American breakfast
- Ziploc bags- for everything from toiletries to wheelchair components
- More yoga pants- because you can never have too many pairs
- Post-it notes- I frequently found myself ripping up pieces of paper so I could jot short notes
- Pumice stone- your feet will thank you
There will be ample opportunities to refine my packing skills over the coming months. Let me know if you have any tips!
“Where there is road, I can go.”
That’s how a friend in Jaipur described driving in India. He had recently been in the US where he rented a car and drove around several states. He was overwhelmed by all the rules that govern our roads. We have lanes and speed limits and signs that need to be obeyed. In India he can drive comfortably, gliding along wherever there is space. In India the roads are shared by a half dozen modes of transportation. Cars, buses, rickshaws, bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians ply along, weaving their way around roadside vendors and wandering cows. Simply being a passenger on this obstacle course is an adventure.
The cows keep the roads interesting.
Inside the Pink City in Jaipur.
We just received confirmation that the 20 chairs for Haiti have been officially dispatched and picked up by UPS. Yay! We wonder if anybody else has ever shipped something from Pithampur to Port-au-Prince.
Thanks to the staff at Pinnacle for all your hard work!
My last week in-country was a bit of a whirlwind, bouncing between Indore and Jaipur making sure that all the loose ends were tied up. Expect more updates as we catch up in Boston.