Earlier Friday morning, Microsoft and United Airlines, in conjunction with the American Embassy, held a press conference recognizing three Argentine startups: USound, Atomic Lab and Gi Fly. Each year, Microsoft and United Airlines award financial and social support to “MVP” startups that are making social change. This year, Argentina proved itself as an international innovator of change. Let’s take a look at the three startups.
Only one in forty people living with a hearing impairment has the equipment necessary to hear better. Paying for these services and equipment proves impossible for many. uSound, created by a group of computer engineering students in Jujuy, is pioneering an affordable alternative to traditional hearing aids and improving the lives of those with hearing impairment around the world. uSound is a smartphone application that, after taking a quick hearing assessment, amplifies and alters audio to meet personal needs. If you already have a smartphone and headphones, uSound is available for 5 US dollars a month or 30 US dollars a year. Compared to equipment that can range in price from 500-2,000 US dollars, uSound is empowering over 200,000 users in over 150 countries.
- Read More: Six Great Apps To Come Out Of Argentina
At the conference, CEO and Co-Founder Ezequiel Escobar was humble, speaking to the importance of the technology within Argentina but also at an international level. To him, empowering hearing in an affordable way sends a “strong message” of support to those with hearing impairments, and drives his team to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the market.
2. Atomic Lab
Prosthetic limbs have been available for some time, but models are often clunky, have a limited capacity for customization and are expensive. Gino Tubaro, founder of Atomic Lab’s “Limbs” project, is using 3D printer technology to re-innovate the prosthetic market to be more personalized, streamlined, functional and affordable. While there are over a thousand amputees in Argentina, there are about 4 million amputees in the world (according to a 2008 statistic). Atomic Lab addresses this need, and has developed the infrastructure to make their program global-ready.
Essentially, a job file merely needs to be scanned to a local 3D printer using Atomic Lab’s technology, and a personalized prosthesis will be made, thousands of miles away from Buenos Aires. Currently, Atomic Lab has most refined hand prosthesis, but they are also capable of making fingers, forearms, and arms (bonus points: the fingers are interchangeable for different tasks). Other products can make use of Atomic Lab’s tech, too, including cardiac monitors and braille translators. At the press event, Tubaro was bubbly and lighthearted, sharing that the process is improving, but their impact is making a difference already. Their model? Those who needs these products the most don’t pay.
3. Gi Fly (Bignay Inc.)
Meet the Gi Fly, the world’s first electric bike. Frustrated with public transit strikes in Argentina, Lucas Toledo, CEO and founder of Bignay Inc., and his team invented the Gi Fly to help commuters “regain independence.” And it doesn’t stop in Buenos Aires. Gi Fly is applicable in urban centers globally, especially amidst “green city” movements. Cities are moving towards pedestrian-centered designs, increasing walkways and public transit over auto transit options. Electric bikes are especially vital to the movement, as they are faster than foot travel, allow autonomy like car travel and are more affordable than other personal vehicle options. Gi Fly allows commuters a sweat-free, convenient and green means of getting around cities.
At Friday’s meeting, Toledo shared the value in utilizing crowd-sourcing websites throughout the development journey. Gi Fly’s first funding round was meager, but with smart upgrades, Toledo was able to release a product that was needed in the market, innovative, and polished enough to get some serious crowd-sourced funding in its second round. While Gi Fly has already received praise from numerous organizations, including Amazon, Toledo continues to work on making the bike and associated parts more global-friendly. I guess that’s what innovators due — improve, always.
This year’s Microsoft and United Airline startup winners are prime examples of Argentina’s innovative, globally conscious startups. uSound, Atomic Lab, and Toledo’s Gi Fly will be further featured at Microsoft’s #Build2017 conference in Seattle, Washington, USA this May. There they will present their products, network with the best and receive further coaching and mentoring on their projects. Tickets are sold out for the event, but dedicated techies can visit Microsoft’s website to watch the live stream.