reducing the spread of tuberculosis: q&a with bonolo mathekga of e-team, drizzle

Bonolo Mathekga

An innovator’s journey from idea to market can be challenging and complicated—but also rewarding. Each month we explore how inventor-entrepreneurs in our network have evolved since they started their journey. Our goal is to share key learnings and best practices with early-stage science and technology inventors embarking on a path of innovation and entrepreneurship. Our latest spotlight is Bonolo Mathekga, co-founder of E-Team, drizzle. The team developed a device that can be used by individuals in low-resourced areas to test for tuberculosis (TB), reducing the risk of disease spread by underdiagnosed cases and enabling earlier treatment intervention.

What challenge did you seek to solve with your innovation and why?

TB remains a leading cause of death despite scientists having known about it for more than 100 years. As a young innovator from South Africa—a TB-stricken country—I felt that it was important to create solutions that address this global health problem.

What have you learned along your innovation and entrepreneurship journey?

I learned the importance of pivoting. It’s a difficult process because you become attached to your ideas or products. However, pivoting can be a necessary step in taking your venture to the next level. Our company decided to pivot after we consulted with numerous stakeholders during customer discovery interviews. While there was a general interest in the product we were developing at the time, there were challenges in the overall implementation strategy that we could not overcome as a two-person startup company. Hence, we made a strategic decision to focus our efforts on tackling TB at a diagnostic level.

Twitter“As a young innovator from South Africa—a TB-stricken country—I felt that it was important to create solutions that address this global health problem.”— Bonolo Mathekga, co-founder of E-Team, drizzle

Tell us how you’ve integrated environmentally responsible practices into your innovation or process?

As part of our supply chain, we will incentivize sputum cup recycling from our customer facilities. This includes sterilizing and recoating the sputum collection devices before adding them back into our supply. We are also reducing the energy requirements for the polymer grafting process used to develop our device. 

How has support from VentureWell impacted your innovation and venture?

VentureWell interactive workshops, networking, and mentorship have been highly beneficial in helping us drive our venture forward. Through our interactions with the VentureWell team, we were able to connect with a key distributor to learn more about how the supply chain works. 

What’s next for you?

My colleague and I will continue developing the technology further, while simultaneously conducting stakeholder interviews and on-site clinical observations. We must look for further funding opportunities to enable us to complete the tech development. We hope that we will be ready to conduct field testing in the coming year. 

Learn more about the E-Team grant program here.

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