Making an omelette means cracking some eggs. Any successful project has a failure or two along the way, and equally most failures provide insights that can lead to success.
This award celebrates an individual or organisation who tried something that didn’t work out – but which provided the stepping-stone for a subsequently successful outcome.
John H. Gallagher Jr came up with the idea of an edible toothbrush decades ago as a US army medic on an amputee ward. Made of a foodstuff that dissolves after use, the brush – known as Clean Bite – enabled wounded soldiers to clean their teeth without assistance or need for water and paste. The genius of the concept lay in its simplicity and, after Gallagher founded his company, Dent-Chew Brush, in January 2009 with angel funding from friends and family, it was no surprise when Kodak formed a strategic partnership with him – only to go into Chapter 11 proceedings three years later.
Gallagher then turned to bartering equity in exchange for design/build services to continue production. Technical problems in manufacturing a foodstuff-based product repeatedly slowed development – but every difficulty was eventually overcome and each brought a better understanding of what was required to produce a single-shot, monolithically moulded brush with 800+ bristles.
Nonetheless, Gallagher still lacked funding when Johnson & Johnson came calling in 2016, envisioning enormous potential for the product in the developing world, where millions of people lack potable water. For Gallagher, this was a breakthrough moment: rather than partner with a major consumer manufacturer, he would totally overhaul the business model and operate as a franchise licensing firm.
Today, Clean Bite is on the brink of conquering mass markets throughout the world with a product that has the potential not merely to generate billions of dollars in revenue, but bring profound health benefits and save lives in the poorest regions of the globe by delivering vitamins, medicines, nutrients and therapeutics.
Follow Clean Bite LLC on Twitter: @CleanBiteLLC
In the early 1990s, Israeli inventor Zvi Nachum had the brilliant idea to use gate control theory to relieve the debilitating menstrual cramps that one billion-plus women suffer from globally. Nachum reasoned that sending electric micro-pulses from the source of the cramps to the nervous system would close the gate and block the pain signals. It was a stroke of genius and it worked beautifully: in clinical tests, the device allowed 80% of women with moderate-to-severe menstrual pain to significantly or completely stop taking pain medication.
Nachum partnered with a company that tried to bring the device to market, but it failed through a combination of staid design, lack of marketing expertise and shortage of funding. Fast forward to 2015, when Nachum’s tech entrepreneur son Chen suggested that they reinvent the product; Nachum enthusiastically agreed. The new, lighter, more powerful, more stylish device was branded “Livia” and launched on a crowdfunding site featuring a social media marketing campaign that blended science and humour. It garnered over US$1.7 million (£1.32 million) in sales from almost 19,000 units and has received regulatory approvals in the US, Europe and Canada.
Livia – which recently won the Gold for Women's Wellbeing at the prestigious 2018 Edison Awards – is now selling briskly on the company's website and Amazon.com, and is being introduced to retailers by distributors in dozens of countries.
“If it first you don’t succeed” normally applies to an individual. In the case of Zvi and Chen Nachum, it spans two generations.
Follow Livia on Twitter: @Mylivia_
Mariana Costa was committed to promoting digital transformation in Peru, so she founded a software development and digital innovation company in Lima. But she ran into two major problems immediately: there just weren’t enough software developers around, and the gender gap in the industry was much bigger than she expected finding female developers was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Rather than sit around bemoaning the situation, Costa came up with a solution to tackle both issues simultaneously: a social enterprise that prepares women as software developers and connects them with companies in need of their talent.
With a mission to build a more competitive and diverse tech sector, Laboratoria’s results have been truly impressive: 75% of coders find jobs within three months of graduation, increasing their average income by a staggering 300%, and more than 800 women have completed the training since 2015.
The programme has now expanded into Chile, Mexico and Brazil, and Costa’s achievements as CEO and founder saw her recognised as one of the BBC's 100 most influential women in 2016. Former US President Barack Obama has also described Laboratoria's work as remarkable.
Follow Laboratoria on Twitter: @Laboratoriala
Many of the businesses that are nominated for one category in the Real Innovation Awards could have been put forward for another just as plausibly – but ClassPass could qualify for all of them. MIT economics graduate and passionate dancer Payal Kadakia launched Classtivity in 2011 after an unsuccessful Google search to find a dance class.
The idea was simple: a website that aggregates all the information out there on classes so you don’t have to. But the response to the online booking platform was disappointing, with fewer than 100 classes booked in the first year. Still, Kadakia refused to give up and worked tirelessly on the business model, coming up with many new features. One iteration was ‘Passport’, a one-month pass to try any class for free – but few users went back. It wasn’t a good model and didn’t work for the studio owners.
Determined to bear out the wisdom of the maxim that gives this award its title, Kadakia continued to test and scrutinise her business model – and was rewarded when she noticed that people were buying memberships over and over again, using different email addresses. And not just for one type of class; they were trying many activities in different studios.
After several product iterations, and with a determination to develop a product that would do nothing less than change human behaviour, Kadakia rebranded the business to ClassPass. Since its launch in 2013, the venture has racked up 55 million reservations in more than 50 cities globally and has raised more than $255 million (£195 million).
Follow ClassPass on Twitter: @classpass