(This is a sponsored post via Merck)
“It doesn’t matter how awesome your idea is, you have to work hard for it” - Felix Kimaru
This is how Felix takes stock of his last two years building up Totohealth.
The startup is tackling the issue of infant mortality and recently raised $100,000 in funding to expand their business on the African continent. In addition, they launched their second product called Totobox a few months ago. The recent events at Totohealth suggest a line of success. However, the team around co-founder Felix Kimaru depends on further financial support in order to put their plan of helping 100,000 parents by December 2016 into action.
Their Story of success
In April, Totohealth successfully competed against hundreds of applicants to participate in the three-month-long Merck Accelerator in Nairobi. The program gave them access to the co-working space Nairobi Garage, which created opportunities for Totohealth to further develop their technology. In addition to the creative space, Merck supported them financially as well as through their expertise and global network. Now the testing phase is over and the product is ready to scale. Moreover, they were able to launch Totobox, their second product. If you are inspired by the work of Totohealth and have a startup of your own, the Merck Accelerator is looking for new participants right now. Startups working in the fields of life science, performance materials, digital health or healthcare can apply for Kenya: http://bit.ly/2doNk3K or Germany: http://bit.ly/2e6Cg9z.
Participating in the Merck Accelerator in Nairobi helped Totohealth’s journey to progress on an exciting path. After this period of growth and development, they won second place, and £10,000, in African Engineering Innovation from the Royal Academy of Engineering. They were also able to convert their mentorship experience with GSMA into a partnership with them. Furthermore, Kimaru and his team received $50,000 in financial support from the mobile operator Safaricom and another $50,000 from Streams Capital, which will be used to expand their messaging service to Siaya, Homabay and Migori. In addition, the Totohealth team is currently expanding into 6 new counties together with Safaricom and World Vision.
Raising Capital acts as a brake
Raising capital is very difficult, especially when founders do not have an already proven business that offers investors security. Even though the startup creates a huge impact on maternal and child health, investors mostly care about return on investment. According to UNICEF, 5.9 million children under the age of 5 die every year. Of the twenty countries with the highest rates of child mortality, nineteen are located on the African continent. The deaths often are the result of widespread diseases like pneumonia, HIV, measles or malaria. It is not disease alone that is causing these deaths, but also malnutrition or not noticing symptoms. Fewer children would die if their parents were able to recognize changes in their state of health earlier. However, in many places there is a lack of availability of this preventative knowledge. If simple measures like mosquito nets or the spreading of information about detecting symptoms were implemented, they could save the lives of thousands of children.
Felix Kimaru was confronted with these issues himself. Two of his friends had complicated births, one of which resulted in the death of the mother. These experiences and stories helped him develop the idea of working to create a solution. Together with Joseph Murgor, he founded the messaging and voice platform to help reduce maternal mortality, child mortality and detect developmental abnormalities in early stages. Parents welcome Totohealth as a parenting tool. Therefore, the real challenge is not in convincing people of the usefulness of the technology, it is to make Totohealth stand as a successful business. The overall aim in the future is to collaborate with the government. Someday every mother in Kenya, or even on the African continent, could register with Totohealth in order to enable children and families to live happier and healthier lives.