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Tue 14 Apr 2015 04:19 PM

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A start-up’s progress: Part one

In the first of a series of diary entries, we chart the journey of a new business as it seeks to find its feet in Dubai and turn its dream into reality

A start-up’s progress: Part one

“Hands can talk.” That’s the slogan of KinTrans, a device designed to improve communication between hearing impaired individuals and others.

By translating sign language into voice and text, KinTrans eliminates the need for the listener to know sign language, and makes it easier and quicker for the deaf person to communicate.

The potential market for KinTrans includes airports, hyper markets, taxi services, educational institutions, mobile agencies – any place that there is need for hearing impaired people to communicate with others.

In the autumn of 2013, KinTrans was one of 10 early stage start-ups accepted for the first round of the newly established TURN8 seed accelerator in Dubai. Founded by DP World, TURN8 represents a unique partnership for the region between enterprise and entrepreneurs. As part of the round one scouting phase, representatives from TURN8 hosted several one-day idea pitching sessions (dubbed ‘Innov-a-thons’) throughout the Middle East and beyond. KinTrans was discovered at the event in Cairo.

KinTrans founder Mohamed Elwazer heard about the event from a friend. He and his team decided that the chance to go to Dubai and receive funding to develop KinTrans was too good to pass up. So they signed up, not really knowing what to expect.

Mohamed recalls, “The first time I saw Kamal (Hassan, Managing Partner of TURN8 and founder of Innovation 360 consultancy in Dubai), he said ‘Okay guys, everyone has one minute at this first stage to explain your idea.’”

Mohamed was taken off guard by the idea of a one-minute pitch. Although he had shared the idea with many friends and colleagues before then, he couldn’t imagine how he would describe KinTrans so succinctly, especially before an audience and a panel of judges. With a little help from the onsite mentors, Mohamed developed an elevator pitch that elegantly described the problem that KinTrans solves for its customers.

After the initial pitches, the KinTrans team worked the rest of the day to hone their idea and develop a five-minute pitch that would impress the judges. Although Mohamed says the output was not as good as they hoped it would be, the team must have impressed after all.

“A week after the event my phone rang and it was Kamal,” he recalls. “I answered and he said, ‘Okay, congrats! KinTrans will come to TURN8.’ After I heard that, it was a big emotional shift from being very sad to maximum happiness for achieving a big milestone for KinTrans!”

Next month… Mohamed travels to Dubai to join TURN8.

About TURN8

TURN8 is a seed accelerator program initiated by DP World, designed to encourage innovative entrepreneurship worldwide, starting with Dubai.

About the author

Debra Jennings has more than 15 years of experience writing on a variety of topics. She is the director of storytelling for Innovation 360, a Dubai-based consultancy that manages the TURN8 program on behalf of DP World.

In the first of a series of diary entries, we chart the journey of a new business as it seeks to find its feet in Dubai and turn its dream into reality.