The Power of Startups in Turning Big Data into Big Impact

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The world is amid a data explosion, with users creating, copying, and consuming 5,000% more data today than in 2010. This surge in the volume and complexity of data generated severely impacts how it’s used across industries and who owns and controls that information. The EU’s recent record-breaking USD 1.3B fine against Meta for data violations in Europe and the UK’s global AI Security Summit around ethical uses of big-data-driven AI are just two examples of how data uses & sovereignty have entered the cultural zeitgeist and underpin the fundamental reckoning that what we do with all this data — and how we use it — matters. While the negative side of big data often dominates the headlines, forward-thinking startups are spearheading data-driven innovation to revolutionize critical services, including the financial, educational, and healthcare sectors, resulting in a more equitable and inclusive world.

Take Nairobi-based startup CheckUps Med, for example. This company combines fintech and healthtech innovations to expand healthcare access across East Africa. Through flexible subscription and pay-as-you-go models, CheckUps enables informal sector workers, the elderly, and uninsured populations to get urgent medical care and at-home nursing services at a fraction of the cost and time. Their services combat rising insurance premiums that have excluded millions from affordable coverage.

CheckUps exemplifies how African healthtech startups creatively leverage technology to drive improved health outcomes for those missing out on traditional systems. Their innovative approach has delivered a significant impact in only a few years, demonstrating the power of digital innovation to advance health access across Africa. Since launching in 2018, CheckUps has helped over 300K patients receive vital care they would have otherwise lacked access to.

Dr. Moka Lantum, CEO of CheckUps, explains, “We believe healthcare should never be limited by the ability to pay upfront. Our pay-as-you-go system removes the monopoly barriers to care while still supporting provider compensation. By finally aligning costs with convenience, we’re transforming access for informal workers and families across Africa. Health equity is possible if we reimagine the system.”

There’s also Bogota-based Sureti in the fintech sector. They’ve created a marketplace connecting people seeking financing with people wanting to invest. By handling the entire loan and investment process, they offer turnkey 10-day secured loans and annual returns on investments of around 22.4%. Sureti exhibits transparency and efficiency as they build long-term relationships of trust, which can historically be absent in financial institutions. Since 2020, Sureti has funded over USD 2M of real estate-backed loans and supported over 1,000 micro and small business entrepreneurs in obtaining working capital to grow that would have otherwise been excluded. 

Beyond CheckUps Med and Sureti, a thriving ecosystem of dozens of startups is dedicated to advancing equity and inclusion within critical services. We’ve collaborated closely with nearly 200 impact-creating startups over the last five years that collectively drive meaningful change and impact the communities they serve. The list of other enterprises continues to impress.

Reetu Gupta launched CirkledIn to transform educational opportunities for underserved communities in the US after witnessing gaps in the college admission process; following 15 years in the real estate market, Gary Woodhead started CurveBlock to create secure and unbiased financial inclusion tools to unlock value in the real estate investment space; Irene Wormer took her experiences from working at NASA to start emTruth and shape how healthcare organizations make data-driven decisions – to date they have received multiple grants, patents and recognitions from the health and scientific community in the US for their groundbreaking solution. 

As Regional Director at Village Capital, I’ve had a front-row seat to the crucial insights, trends, and solutions of these data-driven startups through the IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator program, which scales impact-focused digital solutions that prioritize data management and protection as core components of their operations.

These are just a few of the incredibly passionate, driven founders we’ve had the pleasure of working with during the IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator. I’d encourage you to explore the 200 companies we selected out of 1K+ applicants to participate in this program. Each startup is leveraging highly sensitive data and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to improve service delivery, reduce costs, and ultimately, increase accessibility to digital, financial, and healthcare services.

Through the investment-readiness and technical mentorship program, startups develop and deploy secure cloud-based applications by providing access to IBM’s infrastructure, tools, and expertise, enabling the companies to accelerate their development process while maintaining high levels of security. We’re proud to work alongside diverse funders, 40% of whom have at least one female executive in their C-Suite, and 60% have at least one founder from the Black, Brown, or LatinX community.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed these data-driven startups profound growth and impact-creation and raising an average of 3x capital since joining the Hyper Protect Accelerator. Their solutions are blazing toward greater equity and inclusion with unified APIs to foster financial inclusion in Africa, Open APIs to democratize access to affordable insurance in Latin America, and blockchain-based solutions that increase financial transparency and efficiency in Europe.

What’s more is the greater impact these startups can have on the world. As we continue to close the equity gap for critical services worldwide, we recognize that we can’t do it alone. This is where you come in. The power of closing the equity gap lies in all of our hands.

Our new report, “Driving Data Transformation: Five Years of Impact with the IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator,” details our learnings and insights into how data-driven startups create innovative digital solutions to catalyze positive change. It also provides a deep understanding of new and emerging trends to safeguard them and features the startups driving the change toward greater inclusivity and equity through responsible data usage.

About the Author

Ben Younkman, Regional Director at Village Capital (VilCap), a global organization supporting early-stage companies building solutions to emergent social, economic and environmental challenges. As Regional Director of Europe at Village Capital, Ben works on bringing Village Capital’s tools, network, and methodology to the European region to support mission-driven entrepreneurs and grow the existing impact economy. He’s particularly interested in exploring how transformative technology intersects with impact and increases access to essential services, and has proudly led over 20 programs while at Village Capital ranging from financial inclusion, sustainable housing, refugee solutions, access to internet, and under-represented founders.

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