Neopenda, an organization based in Uganda that is pioneering healthtech in emerging markets, has just completed Villgro Africa’s one-year incubation program. Following this experience, Sona Shah, Neopenda’s CEO and co-founder, expressed that Villgro Africa was absolutely instrumental in their progress over the past year. They started engaging Villgro Africa at the very beginning of COVID-19, when no one was sure how long the crisis would last or what the impact would be. Villgro Africa took the global context into account in their support, understanding that things were more strained than normal due to the pandemic and helping Neopenda prioritize the most important tasks. Shah stated that Villgro Africa met them where they were and helped Neopenda address their current needs.
This has been a pivotal year for Neopenda. They transitioned from the heavy R&D phase to a commercial launch. With support from Villgro Africa, they were able to secure their first contract, which led to their first revenue, and they are now starting to scale to new countries. As they progressed through these levels of growth, Villgro Africa was there to advise on how to handle each transition.
The Neopenda team also faced many challenges. Certain aspects of rolling out their device, like importing, have taken them longer than expected. Supply chain manufacturing, shipping, and logistics have all been affected by COVID-19 and they were forced to think differently and creatively to overcome the obstacles.
Although the funding from Villgro Africa was incredibly helpful to get Neopenda where they are today, Shah stated that the strategic advice received on a bi-weekly basis from mentors was pivotal. It meant that their team knew they could consistently rely on their mentors to help them through any complex challenges that came up. It was comforting and reassuring to know that at the end of each week, no matter what was going on, they would have the chance to process and discuss it with their mentor. Although they had access to a broad range of mentors through the incubation program, it was helpful to have a small group with whom they met regularly. They didn’t have to spend time explaining themselves or their device, but were able to get down to business and discuss strategy.
After their exciting year of growth and expansion, Neopenda is ready to scale and are looking for partners to help get them there. Expanding to other countries cannot be done alone. From funding, mentoring, and regulation compliance, partnerships are needed to support implementation. Shah concluded by saying, “This is a journey that requires support from other people and we want to support others too. Let’s find a way to work together.”