With a mission to help the visually impaired and the blind in Africa to live a happy and comfortable life, Vinsighte was founded in 2017 by Kolawole Tomisin, Erioluwa Morenikeji, Caleb Oyolola, and Dairo Tosin. With the help of innovative technological solutions, they strive to enable them to read books and navigate their environment independently.
For the interview, we had Mr. Kolawole Tomisin, CEO of Vinsighte, and holder of ‘Young African Entrepreneurs Award-2019’.
Mukul: Can you tell us a bit about Vinsighte?
Tomi: Vinsighte is a Health-Tech Startup where we use artificial intelligence and other technologies to prevent visual impairment and those who are already visually impaired to live more comfortable lives.
Mukul: Where did the idea behind Vinsighte come from?
Tomi: It began when I was in medical school and one of my friends got visually impaired. He had to drop out of school as she was facing problems every day. That’s what inspired Vinsighte and funny enough, one of my co-founders also had issues with his eyesight, which served as a motivation for us to ensure that we actually achieve what we are trying to do.
Mukul: What are the problems that Vinsighte wishes to resolve?
Tomi: First and foremost challenge was trying to put the technology together. It took us about a year to be able to get the technology right because we conducted a series of testing and iterations. Apart from that, raising the initial round of funding and getting the right network of companies and partners to work with posed the biggest challenges in the beginning.
Mukul: Having a robust team must have helped you tackle those challenges. Tell us about your team.
Tomi: We are a team of eight, with three co-founders including me. Two of us are doctors and biomedical engineers, the third co-founder is an engineer. Apart from that, we have a set of people with a mix of business experts and social impact experts. We also have two visually impaired people in our team, who help with their brains and it also appeals to the fact that our technology should be effective for those who are selling it.
Mukul: What kind of Business Model does Vinsighte have?
Tomi: We basically have B2B (Business to Business), B2C (Business to Customer), and B2G (Business to Government). We also have a nexus of partners with whom we are working. They are like our business partners who helped in the implementation of our devices in school. Currently, we have installed our devices in about six schools already.
Mukul: All of this must have required considerable fundraising activities. How did you meet those financial demands?
Tomi: We started with Bootstrapping but after six months we got an award from a bank in 2018 along with USD 3000 which we used for the first phase of our pilot programs. Afterward, we have gotten a few grants and awards, notably, we got incorporated into the Facebook Accelerator and Startup Program during which Facebook sponsored most of our iterations and piloting for around 6 months. So, we received funds from partners, accelerators, and grants.
Mukul: Do you plan to raise funds in the future?
Tomi: Yes, based on our project timeline, at some point we would need to raise equity funds to expand as much as we want. We were approached recently by three Venture Capitalists. As much as we appreciate them, currently, we wish to focus on generating in-house revenues for the next six to twelve months and then consider equity funding to further expand.
Mukul: What kind of surprises does Vinsighte have in its pipeline?
Tomi: The big thing we are working on is in two phases, in the first phase we are upgrading our hub software to be able to help those who are not visually impaired. This will allow us to add a new kind of application whereby students of different institutions and schools, with the help of AI, can read books more conveniently.
The second phase of our B2C business model is to provide services in which visually impaired students can bring their books and course material and we will digitize these books for them to conveniently read while they are in school or campus.
We are also working on setting a partnership with the government to secure our products across Nigeria.
Mukul: How did the pandemic affect your business plans?
Tomi: We had a terrible experience in the first three months of the pandemic as we were a bit stagnant and couldn’t scale our products or access some of our customers. On the flip side, this gave us time to restructure our current plans for the future and work on our current technologies. Due to this, we managed to add a new product chain and we are finally bouncing back in the last two-three months.
Mukul: What are your future plans for Vinsighte?
Tomi: Currently, our first and foremost aim is to scale beyond Nigeria. Last month we won the Digital Accessibility Innovation Award for the top 3 startups using technology to foster digital inclusiveness in Africa. Due to which we were able to secure a partnership with InABLE in Kenya and by December we will be scaling our products in Kenya.
Furthermore, we are scaling our software to the PlayStore and Apple Store while incorporating new features in the application for the well-sighted customers as well.
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