Smart bras, health & education: where African investors need to put their cash in 2014



So it’s 2014, people are gearing up to build the next big thing and investors. Those with money left, are meanwhile looking for things to pour their cash monies and energy into. In the last year we saw a number of people playing with mobile especially in Africa as it is the norm.

So here on Ventureburn we decided to dig up a few things we think African investors need to button down and start putting their money into because these trends are beginning to dominate worldwide. In the same vein, startups looking for ideas for their next big products can also take a gander.

Wearable and health

Unlike the rest of the world, Africa hasn’t really gotten into wearable tech. I think it is time investors started thinking about wearable tech more seriously. No, not Google Glass, but more technology that can immerse itself into people’s daily routine such as: watches, clothes and wristbands. These wearable tech investments must transcend into the health space as well, which is getting bigger and bigger. Increasingly people are using devices such as the FitBit, Jawbone and the Nike Fuelband to help manage their health better.

Currently the trend around health data growing steadily around the world. Apps, devices and bras that can tell you if you are about to die or if you need to see a doctor. Right now, companies such as OMsignal are working with smart clothing to help people have a healthier by giving them a way to track their health.

“We design wearable devices that help you live a healthier, better and happier life. I am talking here about shirts, bras, underwear, pants and socks,” says Stephane Marceau, the company co-founder.

The company’s products are designed to constantly track your biometrics, which are connected to your mobile device, which displays all the data in realtime with a dashboard visualising it per category.

“Embedded sensors in the apparel monitor your heart rate, breathing and activity while the app displays your data in real-time on your mobile phone,” says the company.

Perhaps nothing as intense as a shirt or bra that lets you know you may be having a heart attack, but a bigger push into healthcare for consumers not just medical practitioners need to come out of Africa this year. This means investors need to be bolder and take more risks in wearable and health this year.

The quantified self — all about Data

No not big data, personal data. As evidenced by the number of people using FitBits and such devices, people care about their personal data and want to gather data on themselves. This is becoming a very popular area for startups to play in. What is quite nice here is that most people working on personal data also combine it with healthcare.

“We have one the largest databases of biometrics in the world and that has provided us with a lot of insights into the user behaviour,” said FitBit founder James Park at LeWeb conference late last year. “We have noticed that after 12 weeks of using a Fitbit device people are up to 30% to 40% more active and being social really helps. Having more friends provides added peer pressure to get active.”

Personal data can also be applied in education and the workplace. This kind of data can be used to track personal progress in different situation gathered in the background. Africa hasn’t really been doing much in the personal data space and it is time that changed. Data, data, data and more data.


There is a lot happening here already but more can be done both on the investor and the startup side. Online education is fast becoming a global trend and it is growing rapidly and starting to establish its credibility in the greater education space. It will be very good to see investors but some serious cash into the online education and mobile education space. These need to be both on the student and school side providing a nice balance for learning. A number of startups in Africa focus heavily on education but they need to build tools that help students learn, teachers teach not just unusable resources.

Immersive Experiences

Entertainment is a big deal in Africa right now and it’s time to invest in its future. A current trend that is getting a lot of buzz is immersive experiences to enhance communication, entertainment and advertising.

The trend explores various ways developers are experimenting with technology to create a style of storytelling. As Intel plainly puts it: it is “where consumers are dynamic players in virtual worlds, experiencing entertainment at an unprecedented level, particularly with more in-depth engagement within games”.

These technologies can be applied to great number of things other than entertainment, it can also be used to improve how people learn and communicate with each other. It’s time Africa started thinking about that future Blade Runner promised us, without the death and the rise of robots.



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