The weekend of 8th and 9th September kicked off the MEST and Merck M2Hack at the MEST Incubator in Cape Town.
The hackathon brought together a lively mix of students, entrepreneurs and industry experts to work towards a common objective: Creating innovative solutions to give people in low-income regions access to better healthcare and enabling better interaction with doctors for treatment-relevant information. Day one kicked off by an introduction to Merck as a company including an overview of Merck Innovation Center activities as well as the introduction of the challenges to be solved by the participants.
All the participants split up into 6 groups consisting of 4–6 members with diverse backgrounds and then they went through MEST’s short classes to get them headed in the right direction, whilst they worked on their ideas and pitch decks. MEST Director, Ashwin Ravichandran worked the participants through the Human Centred Design, Business Model Canvas, and how to create Minimal Viable Product. These sessions were aimed at assisting innovators to structure their ideas well and think about all relevant dimensions of the business model pertaining to their solutions.
Day 2 kicked off with teams developing their prototypes and getting their solutions ready for presentation. Participants were given 7 minutes for pitch and demo and 3 minutes for Q&A and feedback from the jury. The judging criteria for these pitches were based on the business model, technical feasibility, market fit and pitch.
After careful review, the jury announced the winning team as ‘The Scriptables’ with a solution to make modern healthcare information available to those using feature phones. The team consisting of CodeSpace students, walked away with the first prize of R17,000. The second-best team was ‘On Track’ who created a gamified incentive system to engage customers through a rewards app, and they were awarded with a prize of R8,500.00.
Herve Kubwimana, Head of the Merck Accelerator in Africa, highlighted:
The M2Hack hackathon, organized together with MEST Africa, fits perfectly into our Africa Satellites Program strategy of quickly exploring and validating the potential for co-creation and collaboration between Merck and startups in Africa.”
The winning team now have an opportunity to keep working on their idea for the next 2 months to get a chance to pitch it along other startups from Southern Africa at the Merck Challenge Pitch event on 14 November at MEST Incubator Cape Town.
Through its Accelerator Satellite Program in Cape Town, in partnership with MEST, Merck is looking to collaborate with start-ups in Southern Africa working on cutting edge innovations, to quickly explore and validate the potential for co-creating and collaborating with Merck’s internal innovation projects.
The Merck Accelerator program supports startups with the objective of building a sustainable business relationship. Selected companies receive mentoring and in-depth coaching from a network comprised of experts from 66 countries opening up opportunities for startups’ future collaboration with Merck and helping to introduce them to the contacts they need to close their first deals. Additionally, the startup teams benefit from financial support as well as from work space at the Merck Innovation Center in Darmstadt, where they can develop product prototypes and exchange ideas with other startup teams and Merck experts.