In 2012, Alain Nteff visited his friend, Dr. Conrad Tankou, who was working in a hospital in the northwest region of Cameroon. “Several mothers and newborns died from conditions that could have been predicted and managed with proper antenatal care,” said Alain. He was deeply upset by what he saw.
Together, Alain and Dr. Tankou began thinking of ways in which they could use their skills to alleviate the issue of maternal and infant mortality.
After participating in a workshop organized by Harambe Cameroun—which guides entrepreneurs in project development—the duo created Gifted Mom, a simple-yet-incredible mobile app that sends vaccination notifications and other pregnancy-related facts to pregnant women and new mothers who have subscribed by sending the word “mom” to 8006. The platform even allows women to ask health questions and receive advice via SMS.
Alain’s inspiring vision for his startup is clear: “I created Gifted Mom to change the experience of pregnant women and mothers through low-cost technology.” He wants to develop new technologies that will bring basic healthcare access not just to pregnant women and mothers, but to people living in poor communities, as well.
“The Anzisha Prize for young entrepreneurs, which I won in 2014, was monumental for the development of Gifted Mom. The $25,000 prize, sponsored by the Mastercard Foundation and managed by the African Leadership Academy, gave Gifted Mom and I a lot of exposure,” Alain says.
It also went a long way toward securing his participation in the World Economic Forum at Davos, where he was the youngest participant.
“It gave me the opportunity to tell the world that the problem of mother and infant mortality is not just a women’s problem,” Alain recalls, “but a human one and everybody should be part of the solution.”
Alain’s startup has some definite game-changing potential to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio; a ratio which the UN’s Global Goals intend to reduce to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.
With an initial count of just 8 subscribers, the Gifted Mom community has grown to about 3,000 users. Pretty impressive! But the path to expansion is not an easy one, as Alain points out. “Thus far, I have been able to raise $37,000 for Gifted Mom. Yet one of the biggest challenges I face is the integration into bigger hospitals”, he says.
Alain remains enthusiastic and his track record of awards and profiles attests to the opportunities that lie ahead. Thanks to the help of partners and sponsors, Alain has been able to create Gifted Mom kiosks in several hospitals. The startup also works with health providers and medical students in urban and rural areas to ensure the widest reach.
“I intend to have an impact on the lives of 50,000 mothers by the end of 2015, and a million others across the continent by 2017,” he says.