Meet Jose – co-founder and CCO of Key2Enable, one of three startups chosen to represent Team UAE at this year’s Entrepreneurship World Cup. Key2Enable’s core vision is to leverage the role of technology to better integrate people of determination into society – read on to learn how they’re using everyday technology to make the impossible possible.
Congratulations on being one of three winners to represent Team UAE at EWC 2020, how does it feel to be recognized and have the opportunity to represent the UAE in a global competition?
It feels good! We are representing both Team UAE and Team Brazil – as an expat who loves and respects the UAE, it is an honor and a great responsibility to represent both my home and second home. It’s also great to see startups that are impacting society and are in a niche market being recognized and appreciated.
Tell us about your startup and what you are currently working on.
Key2Enable is a portfolio company of Singularity University Ventures, BerkeleyHaas and Hub71, with the vision to leverage the role of technology to better integrate people of determination into society. We are trying to change the multiple forms of discrimination that young people of determination face, that leads to their exclusion from school and society. Key2Enable was born from an experience I witnessed with a dear friend with cerebral palsy, so I know the isolation they feel and I am determined to change it.
We have developed a range of assistive technology composed by hardware and software – all-in-one solutions that can be connected to any accessory in the market, enabling people of determination to communicate, learn, work, play, engage, complete their homework, study online, etc.
What inspired you to launch your startup?
As a social entrepreneur, I wake up everyday thinking “what can I do today to change someone’s future?” I have been working with technology for over 30 years – selling hardware, software and technology-based solutions, and thought we love to use technology because it makes our lives easier, but for people of determination, technology can make the impossible possible.
In 2008, I chose to invest in an idea – teaching music to young children using technology after someone showed me research that proves music changes the soul. We taught music theory through computers/laptops during school. It was utterly successful in impacting the children in positive ways – we had kids wanting to go to school just for the music classes, some learnt how to play instruments, and the effect of the classes also improved their skills in math and other subjects.
We then rolled out this technology in a rehabilitation center with 200 young people of determination, which completely transformed the culture and environment in this rehabilitation center from a ‘sad and melancholic place’ (their words!) to a happy and uplifting place youngsters wanted to go to. More than that, we started seeing kids from other schools visiting the rehabilitation center to help young people of determination learn music. This is when my focus shifted to people of determination – I could see the change, the tangible impact.
What sets you apart from other startups in your sector?
The novelty of our innovation resides in the possibility of our solution to accept all other peripherals and accessories of assistive technology manufactured by other companies, making our solution unique and facilitating their use by our end users. They are also universally designed, with the possibility of other children to also use the solutions.
We also have an unfair advantage – we know how to work with Special Education. When we combine what we have created with years of knowledge and expertise in the field of education, we realize the importance of adapting the tool to fit the environment, which allows us to stand out from competitors.
Why did you decide on Abu Dhabi/Hub71 to base your startup?
It’s simple – at Hub71, we have everything we need to go global. Hub71 and its partners are the best Key Enablers to make our vision a reality.
Tell us about your experience in Abu Dhabi’s tech ecosystem. What do you find most valuable in Abu Dhabi’s startup scene?
How easy it is to connect with different entities and government officials to discuss the challenges they face that startups have the solutions for. The unity that is in Abu Dhabi and the willingness of people to provide help is remarkable, matched with its location in the middle of the east and the west, the investment potential, the desire for innovation and the numerous strategic collaborations with major players like Microsoft, Mubadala and so many others.
What advice would you give global startups looking for their next springboard to growth?
Focus on the customer or end user, make relevant connections, leverage creativity and innovation with simplicity, and optimize the sole goal of your startup because many opportunities will appear and it is very easy to get lost in them. Most importantly, tap into Hub71 – the community is just waiting for you with the million dollar question: “How may we help you”.