Disaster Relief and the Startup Phenomenon

Disaster Relief and the Startup Phenomenon

The ‘startup’ business model is now a truly global phenomenon. As the world becomes more connected, the finance is there for small companies with big ideas. This article takes a whistlestop tour of some of the startups making the headlines for their contributions to disaster relief around the world.

Asia - UrbanClap

Indian startup UrbanClap, founded in 2014, has seen rapid growth, recently taking its millionth order. The company connects users with a wide range of services, from plumbers and carpenters to guitar tutors.

When Chennai was hit by the worst rains in 100 years, several startups responded, providing food, equipment, free mobile credit, and more. UrbanClap set up free pest control services at several locations in the city. The company explained why it had got involved:

“Several eminent public health experts have even raised concerns that this situation will lead to a rise in cases of dengue, malaria, chikungunya, and other associated diseases. This initiative aims to eliminate the increasing population of mosquitoes and other insects, in households across the city"

Africa - FindMe

Based in Accra, Ghana, FindMe allows users to quickly and accurately share their location, with instructions on how to be reached. While the solution may seem simple, many areas of Africa lack a proper address system and emergency services often fail to reach people in time. The company was developed as part of Ampion’s ‘Venture Bus’ programme in Africa. FindMe’s app went live earlier this year.

Europe - DEA Drones

Based in Barcelona, DEA Drones provides drone units to the emergency services. It also provides IRIS, a system that connects its drones with co-ordinators and first response personnel. While humanitarian applications for drones are often an afterthought for other manufacturers, DEA makes them its sole focus. Active within current debates, the company contributed to the European Emergency Number Association’s white paper: ‘Shaping the Framework for Drones in Emergencies’ late last year.

North America - RapidSoS

In America, an estimated 70% of 911 calls are made from mobile phones. The shift away from landlines has created a new set of challenges when it comes to locating a caller. In 2015, RapidSoS won the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition. The startup’s platform uses the power of the smartphone to transmit voice and text messages, GPS location, type of emergency and relevant medical and demographic data. RapidSoS recently achieved a milestone by becoming the first company to provide enhanced 911 protection in the city of Cambridge.

South America - TOHL

The Startup Chile programme was set up by the Chilean Government to attract entrepreneurs to boost the country’s share of the innovation market. TOHL had its start in an Indiegogo crowdfunding drive, before being brought in by Startup Chile. TOHL successfully tested its helicopter delivery system for laying pipes in areas affected by earthquakes. Following its cash injection, TOHL now runs several projects including one which provides clean water to the community of El Boyenar.

New Zealand/Australia - Humanihut

Humanihut, an Australian startup, has been included in the current Disrupt 100, a list curated by groups such as Microsoft Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank, Sky News and IBM. Humanihuts are emergency shelters, designed to quickly alleviate displacement during a disaster or crisis. They can be constructed in around five minutes on site, and are foldable, making them cost effective to transport. Each hut can sleep up to six and provides power, fresh water, a sink, heating and a table.

Image source: Business Standard

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