Touted by experts as the next big tech frontier in Africa, the health tech sector is starting to see an increase in innovation. South Africa’s latest e-health tech to raise funding is Cape Town-based Vula Mobile.
The company was founded by Dr. William Mapham who first felt the need for a system that connected healthcare workers in remote areas and the patients they served to medical specialists while working at the Vula Emehlo Eye Clinic in rural Swaziland. This idea was then brought to fruition due to his extensive research on the role of innovation and technology in improving healthcare as well as serving as the Vice Chair of the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa.
Vula Mobile has raised seed funding to the tune of USD 83 K which will be dedicated to ensuring a full-time workforce and enhancing the technical development of their product offering. This round of funding was led through a partnership with Cape Town-based investment firm HAVAIC and with Grant Rock a senior partner joining as a non-executive member of the board, this bolsters their collaboration and potential for future growth.
“The funding has helped with working capital and enabled the team to focus on their roles,” as told by Dr. William Mapham in a conversation with WeeTracker.
With a focus on lean software development, the Cape Town based startup, launched in 2014 with a skeletal product offering, aimed only at ophthalmologists. They were only able to do this through prize money won as the 2013 SAB Innovation Award winners as well as a Flash Grant from the Shuttleworth Foundation. Since these pair of awards, the company has gone on to win 14 individual awards in the last four years.
Dr. William lauds his team for the feat; he said: “Debre Barrett, Product Manager, has enabled the technology to scale locally while Will Green, Sales, and Marketing, formulated our new commercial partnership model and I focused on growing the use in the South African health sector.”
Having established themselves within their niche market, Vula extended their product offering in 2016 to include cardiology, orthopedics, and burns. To date, the e-health company also accommodates dermatology specialties, pediatric cases, oncology emergencies as well as obstetrics, geoarchaeology and neurosurgery patients.
“We are now looking for partners to further local and then international expansion. The data is pouring in and is a combination of clinical information, photos and the conversation between the health worker and specialist. This will enable us to use Machine Learning in the future to create tools that further improve health care delivery in rural and underserved areas”, William added.
It is clear to see that Vula has undertaken a very lean approach to their development and this perhaps more than anything mirrors the budget constraints of the public health care sector they are attempting to service. Holding no regard for these budget constraints, the e-health company has shown a tremendous level of growth for a company that is still pre-revenue acquiring an active user base of healthcare specialists as well as its base of remote healthcare workers.