START-UP Fighting fire with Khusela
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.