This company is part of Executive’s Top 20 for 2015. Read more stories from our entrepreneurship in Lebanon section, for the latest analysis on the country’s ecosystem.
Industry: Health care and ICT
Product: ReAble wallet mobile app
Product launch: 2015
Founders: Paul Saifi and Emile Sawaya
When Emile Sawaya’s younger brother was diagnosed with autism seven years ago, he became aware that the market offered very limited technological tools for independence for those with cognitive difficulties. Fast forward to 2015, Sawaya and his blind co-founder, Paul Saifi, felt that the market was worthy of exploration and wanted to develop tools which would give individuals, such as Sawaya’s brother, the ability to gain some independence from caregivers. They identified a gap in the market, which offered only expensive technological tools catering for a Western market.
Their main product is the ‘ReAble wallet’ that focuses on money management and financial transactions for people with autism and eventually for a broader range of people with special needs. Sawaya’s main motivation is that many people with autism have difficulties with the concept of understanding value and the premise of value exchange, especially with monetary difference that is owed to them after a transaction. The ‘wallet’ is an app which can be loaded onto any Android smartphone, and works through optical character recognition (OCR). It allows the user to register the bills they have in their possession, and subsequently scan receipts into the app, which can register the time, date and value of purchases. The app then informs the user of the correct change they should receive and affords them budgeting capabilities throughout a time period. The caregiver has a corresponding app with push notifications informing them of the user’s transactions. This bridges the gap between a concerned caregiver and an individual with autism, while simultaneously offering them a degree of freedom and independence. A prototype of the application, which works on Android, is scheduled to be unveiled at the Banque du Liban Accelerate conference in December 2015.
The application was designed with therapists – here in Lebanon and in Canada, the United Arab Emirates and the United States – so that the application (in terms of color, buttons and interfaces) was appealing without being distracting to those with autism. There are current plans to incorporate an element of artificial intelligence to identify the financial habits of users, and deduce whether they are harmful (e.g. overspending). ReAble is currently working with two institutions in Canada and two in Lebanon, Assafina and CARE, Consultant Advocacy for Remedial Education.
To monetize the product, the business model will be based on a subscription plan and allow the user to buy the application for $5 per month, an estimate at the end of 2015. This subscription plan can be rolled out to care centers, which would need extra tools to manage the app, from a dashboard package to enterprise, services and maintenance. Their target market is teenagers and adults who have mid-to-high functioning autism, and Sawaya says this is a market of 35 million based on WHO statistics worldwide and not limited to the MENA region.
Initial tests would support the enthusiasm Sawaya has for this project. Within 48 hours of launching applications, they received interest from 100 beta testers, who Sawaya explains are individuals with vested interest in the product, and are working to extend the project to remote therapy access through an online platform hub for people with disabilities, and roll the product out to iOS and Windows Mobile platforms. With their intentions to stay headquartered in Lebanon, they are currently looking to recruit a programmer in the country and wish to gather as much technological talent as possible, coupled, eventually, with their own in-house therapists.