Interview: Matibabu Co-Founder Moris Atwine on Life as a Startup Entrepreneur

Ugandan startup Matibabu was last week named the overall winner of the Africa Engineering innovation Prize, scooping a total of Shs 124 million in funding.

Matibabu beat competition from a couple of outstanding startups from across Africa to emerge the best and write history as the first Ugandan startup to win the contest.

Matibabu, a Kiswahili word meaning medical center is a device that tests malaria without pricking or drawing blood from the patient.

It’s a reusable device that clips onto a patient’s finger and hence requires no special expertise to operate. Test results are released through a mobile device which is interconnected with the machine.

The system uses red-laser beam technology that can study the pattern of red blood cells and identify abnormalities which could imply malaria in one’s blood.

MTN Pulse caught up with Moris Atwine, the Chief Communications Officer for Matibabu to trace their journey to the great achievement as well as understand more about the system.

Congratulations Moris. What can you tell us about this competition you won?

After 6 months with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the team at Matibabu has been deeply immersed in training on business development and iterations for the business plan.

The team has been able to make connections with organizations willing to invest as well as know more about the device to push the company forward. We are incredibly honored to win the Africa Prize.

It’s such a big achievement for us, because it means that we can better manage production in order to scale clinical trials and prove ourselves to regulators.

The recognition will also help us open up partnership opportunities which is what we need most at the moment.”

Who is Moris Atwine?

Moris is a Computer scientists, a serial entrepreneur, very passionate about building the future of technology in Uganda.

I hold a bachelor of science in computer science from Makerere University

What would you say is the most innovative project you have put out?

This is a relative question but I have been involved in many projects.

I am currently working on a breast cancer detection technology ‘breastIT’, enStartup – a technology company targeted building a startup and the bloodless malaria detection technology ‘matibabu’.

About enStartup?

enStartup is a global technology company that’s focused on building a startup culture among creatives.

It started out as tech blog where we were documenting the technology startups ecosystem and along the way, we realized a couple of gaps in different ecosystems which we thought we would fill.

That got us starting inCcelerate, an accelerator which held its first ever 3 months cohort this year and looks at equipping creatives with skills, pre-seed funding and importantly mentorship on how to drive their businesses forward.

What are some of the most recent projects enStartup has worked on?

To better understand the investment behaviour in Uganda, we started out an annual report where we focus on pinning out the funding raised by different startups, how those startups are doing it, why other startups are still finding it hard, the rise and uptake of different technologies in different sectors, how to cut through the noise around some sectors and the need for a rather smarter funding ecosystem.

We have also worked on inCcelerate as described above and still, heavily documenting the technology startup ecosystem.

Have you partnered with anyone?

We have a lot of partnerships and most of them can’t be described in Media because of the terms to some of the agreements.

Has the government helped startups in Uganda?

All I can say, the government needs to create an environment that will enable startups to constantly deliver.

You can’t say you’re taxing startups the same way you’re taxing established companies; at least let’s have a defined policy and framework that looks into all that.

How about they start empowering research institutions and improve the capacity within such institutions because it’s so lacking.

In your opinion, how is Uganda copying up with the use of technology today?

It’s a process. By the fact that we see many innovation hubs focused on technology coming up means there’s a lot happening but while all that is being created, do we really think there’s some level of adaptation? I do think so because many seem to hack technology solutions not meant for us.

We are at a point where we have to do a lot of feasibility studies and make use of research institutions so as to find right solutions for our kind of economies.

What’s your opinion on the social media tax?

That’s a favourable decision for the government but too unfavorable for both startups and users which means in the end it won’t be favourable to the government.

When people leave social media which of course they can do away with if it’s hectic for them will definitely mean no more money being made.

What technology-related blogs do you follow? Do you share any information yourself online?

I’m a huge follower of podcasts from The Full Ratchet that’s more into investing in startups from both Angel and VC Experts, Stuff You Should Know, Tech Stuff and the Origins.

I share a lot of information about technology and Venture Capital news as well, on both my Twitter and LinkedIn timelines.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a person?

One of the biggest challenges remains gathering a lot of experience around innovating in the medical industry, and more so the medical device manufacturing sector.