START-UP Fight­ing fire with Khusela

Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

Win­ner of this year’s SeedS­tars World Cape Town start-up com­pe­ti­tion, and the re­cip­i­ent of the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Global So­cial Ven­ture Com­pe­ti­tion in San Fran­cisco, US, so­cial en­ter­prise start-up Khusela (which means ‘pro­tect’ in Xhosa) is chang­ing the way that town­ship com­mu­ni­ties de­tect and avoid fires in their neigh­bour­hoods. Fin­week spoke to David Gluck­man, head of fi­nance and op­er­a­tions, about the chal­lenge of jug­gling en­trepreneur­ship with so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

Could you give us your el­e­va­tor pitch?

We’re Khusela: a tech­nol­ogy start-up with a vi­sion to mit­i­gate the loss of life and property as­so­ci­ated with shack fires in SA and across the globe, us­ing proac­tive and early warn­ing tech­niques. By de­liv­er­ing a low-cost prod­uct we be­lieve that we can un­lock col­lab­o­ra­tive po­ten­tial and achieve this and much more in un­der-served mar­kets.

Briefly tell us about the tech­nol­ogy.

We use heat de­tec­tion tech­nol­ogy, which is proven to be the most ef­fec­tive when it comes to sens­ing fires in al­ready-smoky en­vi­ron­ments. The in-shack heat de­tec­tor is de­signed to ring when a fire is de­tected, en­abling the fam­ily in the home to re­spond proac­tively and pos­si­bly ex­tin­guish the fire. If this is not the case, the de­vice will then trig­ger all de­vices within a 100-me­tre range of it­self, us­ing trans­mis­sion tech­nol­ogy, to cre­ate a com­mu­nity-wide alert. This will serve to proac­tively alert people of the dan­ger to ei­ther as­sist in con­tain­ing the fire, or sav­ing fam­ily mem­bers and be­long­ings. The crit­i­cal chal­lenge which we want to ad­dress is the per­sonal safety as­pect of one’s fam­ily in the home as well as the spread of the fire to the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity.

What per­son­ally at­tracted you to the project?

Busi­ness driven by so­cial chal­lenges, or so­cial chal­lenges en­abled through busi­ness, is some­thing I want for my life’s work. I had just re­turned to Cape Town at the time when some friends started work­ing on this project. Specif­i­cally, they were look­ing to fully de­velop a vi­able prod­uct which could be both a sus­tain­able en­ter­prise (given the scale of the global chal­lenge) while still hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant so­cial im­pact, plus the shack fire sit­u­a­tion was con­stantly in the me­dia and still is a real anx­i­ety of thou­sands, even hun­dreds of thou­sands of people, where no global so­lu­tion ex­ists. Those fac­tors

Khusela’s blue heat

de­tec­tion tech­nol­ogy tech­nol­ogy.

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