Beyond the usual suspects: How tech entrepreneurs are solving pandemic pains

As history has shown us, times of adversity seem to really inspire entrepreneurial thinking. As COVID-19 has brought a large array of issues for people around the world to deal with, the opportunities for entrepreneurs to address these problems are up for the taking. And so, the silver lining of COVID-19 is the anticipation of the rise of a new wave of new, innovative companies.

However, since March 2020, most businesses around the world have been forced to face the realities of COVID-19’s negative impact on their revenue lines. Therefore, the already-risky prospect of starting a startup during these times has become even riskier. 

Nevertheless, a few businesses have seemed to be benefiting from the changes brought about by the pandemic, luring in the few brave entrepreneurs to the playing field. These winners primarily either make consumer goods available for purchase online or deliver them to people’s doorsteps. There are, of course, winners in other niche spaces, for example, global video conferencing (although the e-commerce ecosystem overall seems to be the overarching champion). 

In any case, newcomers can not really compete with firms who are market leaders in their established industries, and so those venturing entrepreneurs would need to create new market categories altogether in order to really stand a chance at building a break-through company. And so, the team at DIFC FinTech Hive went on a quest to find the aspirational entrepreneurs who are looking to solve people’s pandemic pains in new, innovative ways.

What innovations did we find?

Mental wellness is equal to physical wellness

Much to our surprise, we received tons of propositions that not only solved big problems through inspiring solutions, but also proposed to make a big social impact. These ideas were submitted by entrepreneurs from all over the world, indicating the scalability of these solutions as well.

To highlight a few of these innovations, let’s start with an invisible, but pressing matter most of the people around the world will have to deal with after many months under lockdown: mental wellness. As countries are re-opening their economies, certain checks are being put in place to test people’s physical wellness before they come into contact with others. But what about their mental wellness? How can that be seamlessly measured? One startup from Poland, Ohme, has built a system that measures people’s true feelings and thereby reports real insights, bypassing what people might be comfortable to formally submit as a statement of mental wellbeing. The system is able to capture this by utilizing advanced machine learning algorithms to access survey responses. The startup has gained significant traction, particularly with media outlets to report people’s true COVID-19 sentiments.

Media misinformation

On the topic of media, let’s shift gears and highlight the issue of people sending out often incorrect information about COVID-19 at mass scale. This leaves people confused about what information is true or false about the virus and therefore are not necessarily sure how to stay protected from it. Given that people’s lives are at risk on the basis of such critical information, being able to track sources of information certainly comes in handy. Enter another inspiring startup, Firebolt from Pakistan, that has built a news distribution and tracking system.

The pharmaceutical ecosystem

Let’s narrow in on one of the largest industries being disrupted, which is Healthcare. To date, this industry, along with the financial industry, are perhaps the most heavily-regulated systems in the world, and rightfully so, as the governance of people’s lives is a delicate matter. However, COVID-19 has accelerated all aspects of TeleHealth. Beyond the obvious speak-to-your-doctor-online platforms, advancements in the pharmaceutical ecosystem is prime for digitization. Enter Verofax, a UAE-based company that intends to safely deliver pharmaceutical products to consumers in a patented box designed specifically to not be tampered with. Patients can now ensure the safe delivery of future critical medicine supplies irrespective of future lockdowns that may be reinforced.

Keeping the 60+ age group safe

Zooming in next on a segment of people around the world who have especially suffered during this pandemic is people aged 60 and over. Retired life has been interrupted for many as people in this age range around the world now suffer extreme isolation given their high risk of contracting a critical case of COVID-19. For those of us to have friends and relatives near and dear to us within this segment, a solution to help assure us that they are safe has been developed by Sedicii. Made by a team based in Canada, this sensory-based application can be placed around high-risk individuals to allow for tracking of their wellbeing at a distance. Now all of us can keep an eye out on grandma and grandpa and check in on them, no matter where in the world they may be (ideally keeping a safe distance out of harm’s way!).

DIFC FinTech Hive has selected six other startups from around the world, in addition to the four mentioned above, to showcase their innovations at the upcoming virtual Demo Day on 2 June 2020 at 12pm. Individuals interested to hear the entrepreneurs’ pitches can register for free.

The Demo Day finalists applied for the change to pitch their ideas through the DIFC FinTech Hive platform as a part of the Social Distancing challenge. All finalists were selected through a rigorous screening and interview process. DIFC FinTech Hive launched in April 2020 in efforts to drive innovation where it matters most at the moment: to help alleviate the burden of COVID-19 on people and economies around the world through enabling social distancing measures.

The ongoing crisis has placed the Healthcare sector under a microscope unlike ever before. Learn all about the industry’s funding and investment trends in our 2019 MENA Healthcare Venture Investment Report