Dubai startup Heart Ping truly expanded its horizons over the weekend, traveling to Milan to speak at the Expo Innovation Challenge.
The startup, an app that alerts medical professional to patients who are having cardiac problems, won the chance to attend the Milan EXPO after winning the Dubai HackaMENA hackathon in April - which happens to also be when the team came together.
Heart Ping CEO Khodor Ammar, backend developer Majid Hussein, mobile developer Minhajj Mahmoud, and frontend developed Ulugbeck Makhmudov built a mobile app created a button which would identify a patient’s location and ‘ping’ the nearest medical professional using SMS technology.
Three of the Heart Ping team in Milan. (Image via Minhajj Mahmoud)
The Expo Innovation Challenge at the Milan World Expo, which took place over October 9-10 and sponsored by the Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA), was one of the main prizes for the HackaMENA winners, who were invited to showcase the solution they created. It also featured a 72 hour hackathon - which the Heart Ping team decided to join in as well - themed ‘Feeding the planet: energy for life’ where 100 participants coded, designed and pitched their solutions.
The winner was IN FOO SOO, a solution focusing on smart and innovative warehouse designs, which received 15,000 euros ($17,000 USD) and the first runner up was Farm Hero which won 5000 euros ($5700). Additionally, the teams also win six months of mentorship and business incubation from European institutions.
Dubai will host the next World Expo in 2020, and DAFZA is looking to Milan as a guide.
“The success of the inaugural EXPO Innovation Challenge provides a valuable blueprint for Dubai," said DAFZA director general Dr. Al Zarooni. “We appreciate how this contest was able to produce ingenious ideas for the betterment of society."
Wamda spoke with Ammar after the weekend to find out what the team learned, who they met, and most importantly, their favourite Milanese pizzeria.
Wamda: How did Heart Ping start?
Khodor Ammar: Heart Ping started as an idea in the HackaMENA back in April. Winning the event and the support we got there was enough for us to know that the application was feasible and will have enough user traction to pick up.
Since then we've made some improvements on the app, but we're still in private beta phase, making sure everything is running correctly. Our next step is to talk to Dubai Health Authority about the application - we will approach DHA as soon as we're back to Dubai.
Once the application is in app stores with a good number of users, we're planning to start going for investors. We will start in the Apple store though Aandroid will follow shortly after.
Wamda: What was HackaMENA like?
Ammar: HackaMENA was actually my first hackathon, and I loved it!
The amount of experience and support we got from the mentors, judges, and competitors there was amazing.
It feels great being surrounded by like minded people, all sleepless, all working towards making a social impact that will change the world.
Wamda: How did you prepare ahead of Milan?
Ammar: For Milan, we prepared a presentation to talk to the competitors about how it's like being in hackathons and all the survival tips we gathered from HackaMENA.
I was a speaker on the first night, but then we just joined everyone, and we pitched an idea and worked on it.
Wamda: What were your survival tips?
Ammar: Well, it's all about enjoying it, if you're happy doing what you do, you won't bother being tired and sleepless.
Spend some time talking to other people about your idea and progress during the hackathon, they'll give you fresh solutions and points to problems you didn't notice before.
What did you want to get out of the trip?
More experience and more connections to like minded people.
Wamda: Did you make any connections there you couldn't have in Dubai? What doors did it open?
Ammar: Having to talk with entrepreneurs from different markets will give you a huge perspective about how businesses run. An idea that might be perfect for the market in Dubai might not even work in Milan and vice versa. Getting all this insights will let you start seeing your business ideas from a bigger picture.
Wamda: You competed in the Innovation Challenge hackathon there. What did you build?
Ammar: We pitched an idea called ‘Share my Food’ about an application that will allow people to share their leftovers or order new meals at restaurants for people in need.
All the competitors and judges loved the idea, and we think it has the potential to be developed into a real business. We're planning to now focus on Heart Ping but we will try to launch Share my Food as soon as possible. The markets we're thinking of are the markets with refugee crises like Lebanon, Turkey, and lots of European cities.
Everyone there were cool! though I'd like to personally mentions the mentors and organizers who were of extreme help and gave us a great insight.
Wamda: What other cool ideas did you see?
Ammar: We found the Radish app idea interesting, which is kind of like Uber for grocery shopping. They will run a fleet of small trucks that will bring groceries directly from the farmer to your door.
Also, the second place winner, FoodHeros is a nice idea, they will let you search for and attend farming courses with real farmers, letting us connect again with the people who make our food.
Wamda: What was your favourite part of the trip?
Ammar: The Milan Cathedral was amazing! You can't get bored looking at it all day long, though my favorite part was a little pizza place called Pizza Spontini which had the most amazing pizza I've ever had.