Over the past decade, technology has revolutionized how we take care of our personal health and wellness. With new apps and small devices, we can measure our heart rate, the number of steps we take in a day, or the amount and quality of our sleep, allowing us to take an active, data-driven approach to improving our health.
Competitive swimmer Hind Hobeika of Lebanon noticed a gap in exercise technology. While runners and other athletes had real-time data devices like smartwatches, swimmers did not. As a young woman engineer, Hind tackled the problem head on by inventing the first waterproof heart rate monitor attached to swimming goggles that tracks, stores, and displays instant heart rate feedback. She founded the company Instabeat to market her product.
The Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative connected Hind to mentors and networking opportunities that helped her business flourish. The GIST initiative empowers young people to use their science and technology ideas to create companies and commercialize new products that address economic and development challenges. GIST takes innovators from around the world, augments their skills, builds networks, and connects them with mentors and investors -- from New York to Silicon Valley -- that can help them realize their ambitions.
I had the privilege of getting to know Hind through a number of GIST activities including a White House Celebration of Global Entrepreneurship. Hind exceeded her crowdfunding goal by 61%, raising over $55,000. Instabeat was also recognized by Forbes as one of their seven Hottest Global Startups of 2013 and named the Best of Innovations at CES 2014 for wearable technologies. Hind credits the GIST initiative with giving her “tremendous exposure” and she believes that “I don't think I would be here today if it weren't for [GIST’s] help”.
No country or gender has a monopoly on good ideas – and Hind’s not alone. GIST has helped young women entrepreneurs across the Middle East and North Africa get the mentorship, support, and skills necessary to develop their science and technology ideas and compete in the global marketplace. If you’re interested in discovering how you can launch your science and technology startup ideas, I encourage you to join us for the next GIST webchat entitled GIST TechConnect: Crowdfunding Your Startup Venture on January 29 at 8:00 AM EST and to watch previous GIST TechConnect webchats at http://1.usa.gov/1g97mMs.
About the Author: Jonathan Margolis serves as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Science, Space, and Health in the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental, and Scientific Affairs.