#UNICORPSTARTS: An Innovation Engine that builds unique startups
Globally startups are considered to be innovation engines where innovative products and solutions are hatched. The truth, however, is that there’s more to innovative products and solutions than just startups. One good example from LaunchLab is MyLifeline, a startup that developed an innovative wearable product that has transformed the panic button as we know it. MyLifeline is making it possible for you to walk around with a panic button in the form of a wearable watch that you can press and call for help whenever your life is threatened.
What made MyLifeline’s wearable watch a possibility is a combination of three entities working together: the Stellenbosch University LaunchLab, Santam and MyLifeline. This collaboration produced opportunities for MyLifeline that would have been very hard for the startup to find on its own and created new business opportunities for Santam as well.
According to the CEO of MyLifeline, Herman Bester, the company had limited experience with building a tech startup. Herman said "when we joined LaunchLab we had no testing support, validation support, marketing capability and no form of legal support”. He said LaunchLab was instrumental in the growth of MyLifeline. Before joining LaunchLab they had no actual sales but through LaunchLab connections their first sales were achieved, and now they have sold hundreds of devices.
One of these connections was with Santam through the Santam Innovation Challenge that is run by LaunchLab. Herman indicated it would have been impossible for MyLifeline to have access to Santam without facilitation by LaunchLab. According to Herman, through interaction with Santam, MyLifeline was able to build a product that is well aligned with the market need. Santam was also great for market accessibility.
Santam connections opened the door to a courier company becoming a MyLifeline customer. MyLifeline is currently part of the Santam development pipeline for new products to offer to their customers and has the potential to add value to Santam’s SOS service. Santam sees potential for the product to drive revenue in other markets like the tourist industry, animal tracking and goods tracking as well. These are extra benefits for Santam after initially seeing the personal safety benefit of the product for their clients.
“This programme accentuates Santam’s commitment to keeping South Africans safe while providing insurance good and proper. We are not only there for our clients when something goes wrong, we are also committed to help prevent things from going wrong in the first place,” said Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe, Chief Marketing Officer at Santam.
The role played by these three entities has created a security system that is already protecting lives. To illustrate how the product has been used, Herman, who is one of MyLifeline co-founders, cites a life-saving experience of one girl who had an asthma attack but managed to be saved by using the MyLifeline wearable watch.
The development of this innovative product by MyLifeline through the support from LaunchLab and Santam illustrates the kind of support required for innovation in South Africa. Innovation does not happen in a vacuum and in silos. Corporates do not innovate easily on their own, universities do not produce groundbreaking commercial products without entrepreneurs. When all of these entities work together innovation happens.