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Fintech Roundup: Founders reinventing, startups buying and pre-seed a’growing

Welcome to my weekly fintech-focused column. I’ll be publishing this every Sunday, so in between posts, be sure to listen to the Equity podcast and…

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Welcome to my weekly fintech-focused column. I’ll be publishing this every Sunday, so in between posts, be sure to listen to the Equity podcast and hear Alex WilhelmNatasha Mascarenhas and me riff on all things startups! And if you want to have this hit your inbox directly once it officially turns into a newsletter on May 1, sign up here.

Last week, TechCrunch’s Kyle Wiggers gave us a glimpse into Plaid co-founder’s William Hockey’s latest venture: the platform for what he believes is the first bank of its kind: a “financial infrastructure” bank. To rephrase, Hockey has founded a bank called Column.

“[Column is] a nationally chartered bank but have built every facet of the technology from scratch,” Hockey told TechCrunch in an email interview. “We are both the bank and the technology provider.”

When Hockey decided to move on from Plaid, he said in a June 2019 tweet that the move was in part to make room for more “great leaders.” And maybe Hockey was also itching to start something new because for some people, one success only fuels the desire to create another.

I also wrote last week about how in mid-2020, – after raising nearly $180 million in debt and equity – short-term rental startup Lyric Hospitality had shuttered most of its locations in what was widely viewed as another pandemic casualty.

But the San Francisco company — which was out to help folks who struggled to decide between staying in a hotel or an Airbnb — wasn’t ready to go down without a fight. It has spun out the software side of its business, including a pricing tool for accommodation that it had built, and that spinout – Wheelhouse – raised $16 million in funding led by NEA, I reported last week.

Image Credits: Photo courtesy of Sextant Stays

At first glance, these two companies have little in common.

But dig a little deeper, and you can see – they actually do. Both stories represent a reinvention of sorts and both those pivots make me almost irrationally happy. In Hockey’s case, he was moving on from a very successful company that he’d founded – Plaid, which was almost bought by Visa but then wasn’t in a turn of events that was probably one of the best things to ever happen to the startup. That’s because in the time it took for Visa to announce its plans to buy Plaid and for the deal to fall apart, fintech exploded and so as of last August, Plaid was worth over $13 billion – more than double the $5.3 billion Visa was going to pay for it.

In the case of Wheelhouse, its predecessor company’s core team, led by co-founder Andrew Kitchell, didn’t give up in the face of a plunge in business. And neither did many of its investors. They salvaged the software side of their business and made its own standalone company – Wheelhouse, which Kitchell describes as “fintech platform for the $500 billion-plus flex rental space” that includes pricing and financing. In other words, its software is aimed at helping short-term and mid-length stay providers manage their properties and make more money off of them.

So why do these stories make me irrationally happy? In life, are we not constantly reinventing ourselves in the same way these founders have taken learnings from their good, and bad, experiences to move on? I don’t know about you, but I don’t even feel like the same person in many ways that I was five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of things I’m proud of – and some things I’d like to forget. But all the while, I grew wiser and the person that I am today represents my learnings from all those experiences. 

We are forced both in life and in business to adapt – sometimes to unexpected things like global pandemics and at other times, to things we know will happen but never really prepare for – like the death of a family member. We also adapt to success – with confidence and the desire to pay it forward (I hope) and do more great things. 

Sorry to get all philosophical in what is meant to be a fintech-focused column. But what can I say? It’s been a week and I’m in a philosophical kind of mood. Don’t worry, it doesn’t happen often!

In other fintech news

Speaking of Plaid, the company introduced Plaid Income to over 40 customers in beta last year with the aim of helping streamline the process of income and employment verification, “making it entirely digital and within a few seconds.” Last week, the company rolled out Plaid Income more broadly to everyone with new features. With the new product, Plaid says it “aims to simplify the income and employment verification process for lenders, and in turn, consumers.” 

Aaannnd, peaking of multi-billion companies, I exclusively covered spend management startup Brex’s second major acquisition last week. The company picked up a 10-person financial planning software startup, Pry Financials, for $90 million. The move was a testament to both Brex’s intent on moving more into being a software provider (and thus diversifying how it generates revenue) and its ongoing commitment to its original target customer: startups.

Since 2019, Pry has raised $4.2 million. Its software is aimed at helping seed to Series B companies do things like create models, budgets and “track critical financial metrics.” Co-founder and CEO Andy Su told me that when Brex CEO and co-founder Henrique Dubugras first approached him, he never expected it would result in an acquisition.

In Su’s own words:

He told me that he really loves what Pry is doing and thinks it could do really well within Brex. And I thought he was just being nice, you know? And just being encouraging to another fellow founder. But it turns out, he really meant it.

Gotta love it.

Brex just paid $90M for Pry Financials

Image Credits: Pry Financials

On a less positive note – once again, Better.com was in the news as the company (sadly) followed through on the scoop I had from the week before: laying off more people. Unlike in its two previous rounds of layoffs over the past five months, the online mortgage lender didn’t say how many people it let go – but it’s believed, according to multiple sources, to be anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500. If true, that would mean the company has effectively cut its headcount in half since December 1, 2021. It seems not enough folks took advantage of its voluntary resignation plan.

Meanwhile, remember that leaked video of a post-layoffs meeting the incredible Zack Whittaker and I reported on a few weeks back? Well, that video is now available for all to view on YouTube. And it’s not pretty.

On a more consumer-y note, PayPal and Venmo are increasing their instant transfer fees for both consumers and merchants in the United States in the coming weeks, PayPal announced on April 21. Instant transfers allow customers to transfer their money instantly to a bank account or debit card for a fee.

For personal accounts on PayPal and consumer and business profiles on Venmo, users will pay 1.75% of the transfer amount, with a minimum fee of $0.25 and a maximum fee of $25. Prior to this change, the instant transfer pricing for personal accounts on PayPal and consumer and business profiles on Venmo was 1.5% of the transfer amount, with a minimum fee of $0.25 and a maximum fee of $15. TC’s Aisha Malik gives us the scoop here.

On April 21, Marqeta announced its new RiskControl product suite aimed at helping card issuers combat payment card fraud.  The company says that global card payments are increasing annually, with more than 450 billion card payments processed in 2020 alone. So it’s only logical that fraud is up as well.

“When we talk to our customers, the threat of payment fraud comes up consistently as one of their biggest business concerns. We’re seeing fraud increases worldwide weigh heavily on card issuers and processors, intensifying the need to offer highly effective risk and fraud management solutions that are tailored to individual cardholder experiences,” said Randy Kern, Chief Technology Officer of Marqeta, in a statement

Spend management startup Airbase, which targets mid-market companies, is hosting its first annual conference: Off the Ledger LIVE!, on April 26. The virtual one-day event is free to attend and will feature five CPE-eligible sessions featuring folks such as former Oracle CFO Jeff Epstein; Doximity CFO Anna Bryson; Jenny Bloom, former CFO at Zapier and MailChimp; Menlo Ventures Partner Matt Murphy, among others. Session topics will include fundraising, data, automation and remote teams. 

“Finance teams are typically asked to do more with less. As companies scale, they are definitely the team that doesn’t grow linearly,” said Airbase Founder and CEO Thejo Kote. Learn more here. 

A couple of weeks back, Tage covered some startling allegations against Olugbenga Agboola, CEO of African fintech Flutterwave. The executive was initially quiet but on April 19, he addressed those allegations for the first time in an email to employees. In this piece for TechCrunch, Tage breaks down what Agboola had to say in response, and perhaps even more importantly, what he didn’t have to say.

Publicly-traded WEX, which has a market cap of $7.57 billion and provides payment processing for the fleet industry, is launching a new effort called Flume, a digital wallet which the company claims could help “upwards of 30 million small businesses that are excluded from the digital payments market.” WEX says Flume is the first outgrowth of WEX Ventures, the company’s in-house R&D – or incubator – dedicated to creating new products.

According to WEX: “Unlike most payment platforms focused on digitally enabled companies, Flume aims to help close the digital divide for overlooked trade-oriented businesses initially with less than $15 million in annual revenue.”

We’ve been talking for a while about how hot LatAm is. Last week, Ingrid gave us another example of that when she reported on Netherlands-based PayU, a fintech business controlled by Prosus with operations in 50+ countries, announced a double-deal to expand its presence in the region. The company acquired Ding, a mobile payments platform; and it led a $46 million investment into Treinta, a financial “superapp” aimed at small businesses. Both are based in Colombia. Y Combinator alum Treinta, which launched only 18 months ago, has 4 million customers. PayU has been described as the PayPal of emerging markets. More here.

Fundings

The digital transformation of banking and payments services is a red-hot trend that’s shown no signs of slowing down. Banking-as-a-service (BaaS) products like Synapse, Unit and Bond have helped fuel the shift by allowing companies to quickly spin up new financial services using APIs.

NovoPayment is a global BaaS company based in Miami that has largely been focused on offering its API platform to customers in the Latin American market. It has developed a full-stack, multicurrency solution with three main categories — data banking, payment infrastructure and card solutions, its founder and CEO Anabel Perez told TechCrunch.

Founded in 2007 by Perez and Oscar Garcia Mendoza, who now serves as chairman of NovoPayment’s board, NovoPayment had been bootstrapped since inception until it raised its Series A round earlier this year, TC’s Anita Ramaswamy reported last week. It previously raised a seed round of undisclosed size from its own founders, but the $19 million Series A marks its first institutional fundraise, according to Perez, who worked as a banker in Venezuela for two decades prior to launching NovoPayment.

Moving on to Europe. Despite the fact that immigrants to a new country can often be cash rich, they have no credit history in their new country. Plus, a consumer cannot take their credit file from one country to another. Furthermore, credit bureaus are rarely coordinated or joined up across countries. The upshot of this is that those that can get credit find themselves paying a disproportionately higher cost of borrowing. And immigrants have to start again every time they move to another country.

Companies like CapOne, Vanquis and NewDay have been promising to focus on this, but the problem remains a thorny one to solve. Credit fintech startups like Yonder, (raised £25.9 million), Keebo (raised $6.9 million) and Tymit ($21.5 million) are attempting to address this.

Fintech Novopayment's founder and CEO Anabel Perez

Fintech NovoPayment’s founder and CEO Anabel Perez

Adding to this roster is fintech startup Pillar, which has now raised a pre-seed round of £13 million ($16.9 million) led by Global Founders Capital and Backed VC, reported TC’s Mike Butcher last week. The company claims it will be able to provide immigrants with access to credit products when moving to a new country.

Founded by Revolut alumni Ashutosh Bhatt and CTO, Adam Lewis, Pillar has an Open Banking-led data and analytics engine that will be launched in Q3 of this year. Last week, we also covered

Welcome Technologies and its recent raise for its immigrant-focused offering.

Can we just talk about how nearly $17M for a pre-seed round is just crazy considering that just a few short years ago, we were reporting on $17M Series As (and possibly even Bs)!  But now, we don’t even blink an eye.

That’s it for this edition. This week marks the last time I will publish my Fintech Roundup before it graduates to an official newsletter. Eeek! I’m so excited. Thanks for joining me on this ride!! Have a wonderful weekend.

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After a near 10% rally this week can the Netflix share price make a comeback?

The Netflix share price rallied by nearly 10% (9.6%) this week after co-CEO Ted Sarandos confirmed the film and television streaming market leader is to…

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The Netflix share price rallied by nearly 10% (9.6%) this week after co-CEO Ted Sarandos confirmed the film and television streaming market leader is to introduce a new ad-supported, cheaper subscription. The company also announced it is to lay off another 300 employees, around 4% of its global workforce, in addition to the 150 redundancies last month.

Netflix has been forced into a period of belt-tightening after announcing a 200,000 subscriber-strong net loss over the first quarter of 2022. The U.S. tech giant also ominously forecast expectations for the loss of a further 2 million subscribers over the current quarter that will conclude at the end of this month.

netflix inc

The company has faced increasing sector competition with Paramount+ its latest new rival, joining Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max and a handful of other new streaming platforms jostling for market share. A more competitive environment has combined with a hangover from the subscriber boom Netflix benefitted from over the Covid-19 pandemic and spiralling cost of living crisis.

Despite the strong gains of the past week, Netflix’s share price is still down over 68% for 2022 and 64% in the last 12 months. Stock markets have generally suffered this year with investors switching into risk-off mode in the face of spiralling inflation, rising interest rates, fears of a recession and the geopolitical crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Growth stocks like Netflix whose high valuations were heavily reliant on the value of future revenues have been hit hardest. No recognised member of Wall Street’s Big Tech cabal has escaped punishment this year with even the hugely profitable Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon all seeing their valuations slide by between around 20% and 30%.

But all of those other tech companies have diversified revenue streams, bank profits which dwarf those of Netflix and are sitting on huge cash piles. The more narrowly focused Meta Platforms (Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram) which still relies exclusively on ad revenue generated from online advertising on its social media platforms, has also been hit harder, losing half of its value this year.

But among Wall Street’s established, profitable Big Tech stocks, Netflix has suffered the steepest fall in its valuation. But it is still profitable, even if it has taken on significant debt investing in its original content catalogue. And it is still the international market leader by a distance in a growing content streaming market.

justwatch

Source: JustWatch

Even if the competition is hotting up, Netflix still offers subscribers by far the biggest and most diversified catalogue of film and television content available on the market. And the overall value of the video content streaming market is also expected to keep growing strongly for the next several years. Even if annual growth is forecast to drop into the high single figures in future years.

revenue growth

Source: Statista

In that context, there are numerous analysts to have been left with the feeling that while the Netflix share price may well have been over-inflated during the pandemic and due a correction, it has been over-sold. Which could make the stock attractive at its current price of $190.85, compared to the record high of $690.31 reached as recently as October last year.

What’s next for the Netflix share price?

As a company, Netflix is faced with a transition period over the next few years. For the past decade, it has been a high growth company with investors focused on subscriber numbers. The recent dip notwithstanding, it has done exceedingly well on that score, attracting around 220 million paying customers globally.

Netflix established its market-leading position by investing heavily in its content catalogue, first by buying up the rights to popular television shows and films and then pouring hundreds of millions into exclusive content. That investment was necessary to establish a market leading position against its historical rivals Amazon Prime, which benefits from the deeper pockets of its parent company, and Hulu in the USA.

Netflix’s investment in its own exclusive content catalogue also helped compensate for the loss of popular shows like The Office, The Simpsons and Friends. When deals for the rights to these shows and many hit films have ended over the past few years their owners have chosen not to resell them to Netflix. Mainly because they planned or had already launched rival streaming services like Disney+ (The Simpsons) and HBO Max (The Office and Friends).

Netflix will continue to show third party content it acquires the rights to. But with the bulk of the most popular legacy television and film shows now available exclusively on competitor platforms launched by or otherwise associated with rights holders, it will rely ever more heavily on its own exclusive content.

That means continued investment, the expected budget for this year is $17 billion, which will put a strain on profitability. But most analysts expect the company to continue to be a major player in the video streaming sector.

Its strategy to invest in localised content produced specifically for international markets has proven a good one. It has strengthened its offering on big international markets like Japan, South Korea, India and Brazil compared to rivals that exclusively offer English-language content produced with an American audience in mind.

The approach has also produced some of Netflix’s biggest hits across international audiences, like the South Korean dystopian thriller Squid Games and the film Parasite, another Korean production that won the 2020 Academy Award for best picture – the first ever ‘made for streaming’ movie to do so.

Netflix is also, like many of its streaming platform rivals, making a push into sport. It has just lost out to Disney-owned ESPN, the current rights holder, in a bid to acquire the F1 rights for the USA. But having made one big move for prestigious sports rights, even if it ultimately failed, it signals a shift in strategy for a company that hasn’t previously shown an interest in competing for sports audiences.

Over the next year or so, Netflix’s share price is likely to be most influenced by the success of its launch of the planned lower-cost ad-supported subscription. It’s a big call that reverses the trend of the last decade away from linear television programming supported by ad revenue in its pursuit of new growth.

It will take Netflix at least a year or two to roll out a new ad-supported platform globally and in the meanwhile, especially if its forecast of losing another 2 million subscribers this quarter turns out to be accurate, the share price could potentially face further pain. But there is also a suspicion that the stock has generally been oversold and will eventually reclaim some of the huge losses of the past several months.

How much of that loss of share price is reclaimed will most probably rely on take-up of the new ad-supported cheaper membership tier. There is huge potential there with the company estimating around 100 million viewers have been accessing the platform via shared passwords. That’s been clamped down on recently and will continue to be because Netflix is determined to monetise those 100 million viewers contributing nothing to its revenues.

If a big enough chunk of them opt for continued access at the cost of watching ads, the company’s revenue growth could quickly return to healthy levels again. And that could see some strong upside for the Netflix share price in the context of its currently deflated level.

The post After a near 10% rally this week can the Netflix share price make a comeback? first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Hedge Fund CIO: How Will The Fed Do QT? Each Crisis Has Increased Markets’ Dependency On Fed Liquidity

Hedge Fund CIO: How Will The Fed Do QT? Each Crisis Has Increased Markets’ Dependency On Fed Liquidity

By Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset…

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Hedge Fund CIO: How Will The Fed Do QT? Each Crisis Has Increased Markets' Dependency On Fed Liquidity

By Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management

“The Fed is “all in” on re-establishing price stability,” Fed Governor Waller pronounced in pleasantly direct language. “Experience has shown that markets need time to adjust to a turn from accommodation to tightening.”

In response to questions, Waller spoke with blunt determination: “I don’t care what’s causing inflation, it’s too high, it’s my job to get it down. The higher rates and the path that we’re putting them on, it’s going to put downward pressure on demand across all sectors.”

Powell offered his own sober message, “A soft landing is our goal. It is going to be very challenging. It has been made significantly more challenging by the events of the last few months – thinking of the war and of commodities prices and further problems with supply chains.”

New York Fed economists provide a bit more precision, arguing that “the chances of a hard landing are about 80%,” starting in Q4 2022.

Something will break. Something always does.

Digital did and the regulatory landgrab has started in full force. Lagarde, with plenty of serious policy decisions ahead, observed that “crypto assets and DeFi have the potential to pose real risk to financial stability.”

Spain’s Minister of Finance, Montero, announced digital asset owners would need to declare holdings and trading “in anticipation of regulations that would soon be carried out throughout the European Union.”

The East-West divide is clear in policy focus. President Xi is focused on growth, vowing to “strengthen macro-policy adjustment and adopt more effective measures to strive to meet the social and economic development targets for 2022 and minimize the impacts of Covid-19.”

Strains in emerging markets are being managed from within. Sri Lanka’s 22mm people are in the most severe economic crisis in nearly a century and India’s Foreign Secretary Kwatra underlined, “India stands ready to help Sri Lanka through promoting investments, connectivity and strengthening economic linkages,” beyond the $4bln aid already provided.

The East-West center of gravity between global war and peace sits in Kaliningrad, a tiny Russian province pressed between NATO countries. Lithuanian President Nauseda offered that “Russia cannot be stopped by persuasion, cooperation, appeasement or concessions.”

Elevated rhetoric continued when Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov drew comparison to Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union. “The EU and NATO are bringing together a contemporary coalition to fight and, to a large extent, wage war against Russia.”

* * *

Liquidity Unknowns I: How much QT is too much QT? We don’t know. There is no tidy math formula, no general equilibrium model, no linear approximation that will tell you. The trouble is, in a world of false precision, everyone wants a number. And policymakers have a hard time saying, “we don’t know,” especially when it’s true. Through the week ending June 22, balances with Federal Reserve Banks – previously known as ‘excess reserves’ – stood at $3.115trln. Powell guided the market that the end point for the Fed balance sheet would shrink another $2.5trln to $3trln. How does that math work?

Unknowns II: Yet again new tools were needed in this cycle. To make sure rates didn’t fall below the Fed’s floor, they needed a broader mechanism to absorb excess liquidity. That mechanism was private sector access to the reverse repo facility. Remember the 2018 period of QT. Excess reserves were $1.9trln before liquidity conditions started to bite in September. Private sector reverse repos were basically zero. Today? $2.5trln. The Fed’s liabilities are acting as the riskless asset to private money funds in a way. The Fed clearly thinks reverse repos will decline. We don’t know. Behavior could drive it up if everyone wants liquidity and wants to face the Fed. As reverse repos rise, excess reserves decline. QT has more liquidity plumbing risk today – tools can turn into weapons.

Unknown III: The risks are different but the strategy with QT is the same – start small, increase gradually, and then let it run. It isn’t the obvious choice. Reducing the pace as liquidity is withdrawn is a more natural path – you typically slow as you approach a stop sign, after all. We will know when the tightening – both in liquidity and interest rates – has gone too far. Weak links will break. Digital plays the role of EM in this cycle – big enough to be noticed, not enough to get policy to stop. Asset deflation, a USD credit crunch, and risks from maturity transformation has led to capital controls with 11 digital intermediaries. As in the Asia Crisis, the ecosystem will respond to gain independence and resilience.

Unknown IV: Digital is the warning sign, not the circuit-breaker. Typical candidates – a rapid rise in the US dollar, EM currency and debt crisis, and banking strain – are just not applicable. After each crisis is a response, and those responses act like a vaccine against future ‘shocks.’ Emerging markets have insulated themselves with large holdings in the US dollar. Currency depreciation forced EM central banks into more orthodox positions well ahead of the Fed, ECB, and BOJ. Banks don’t have the space to make the mistakes of the GFC, with leverage financing pushed to capital markets. But markets have not been weaned from liquidity. To the contrary, each crisis has increased dependency on Fed liquidity.

Unknown V: The adjustment in broader markets is orderly. How else would it be? Disorder is how it ends, not how it starts. “It is like jumping from the 100th floor of a building and saying, ‘so far, so good’ halfway into the drop,” a prolific investor remarked when confronted with “contained” language head of the GFC. Liquidity transformation in traditional markets, the driver of digital weakness, is everywhere. And it is a so-far, so-good story. ETF discounts make the point emphatically. An illiquidity pocket means that ETFs would clear the way closed-end funds do – hunting for a price where a buyer is willing to absorb the liquidity risk. Mortgage ETFs are down 9.7% for the year and trade exactly on net asset value. So far, so good.

Unknown VI: What we can see is rarely the problem. The grandest mismatch resides in private markets. “Prior to the pandemic, many had already grown concerned about public market valuations and were exploring private capital markets in the hopes of addressing lower return projections for their traditional 60/40 portfolios.” Pronouncements like these became the norm. A generation of “J-curve” investors – the pattern of private investments to draw capital and then deliver rapid returns – was born. Everyone wants a liquidity buffer. Nobody has one. And in the everything bubble, to get one you are selling assets in the hole. You sell what you can. You promise never again, even if enticed by the Fed toolkit. Until it happens again.

Tyler Durden Sun, 06/26/2022 - 21:13

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The Sussex researchers who used international collaboration and 3D printing to stem PPE shortages in Nigeria

Researchers at the University of Sussex and their partners in Nigeria used open-source designs and 3D printing to reduce personal protective equipment…

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Researchers at the University of Sussex and their partners in Nigeria used open-source designs and 3D printing to reduce personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages for a community in Nigeria during the Covid-19 pandemic – tells a recently published academic paper.

Credit: Please credit Royhaan Folarin, TReND

Researchers at the University of Sussex and their partners in Nigeria used open-source designs and 3D printing to reduce personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages for a community in Nigeria during the Covid-19 pandemic – tells a recently published academic paper.

In their paper in PLOS Biology, Dr Andre Maia Chagas from the University of Sussex, and Dr. Royhaan Folarin from the Olabisi Onabanjo University (Nigeria), explain how their collaboration led to the production of  over 400 pieces of PPE for the local hospital and surrounding community, including those providing essential and frontline services. This included face masks and face shields, at a time when a global shortage meant it was impossible for these to be sourced by traditional companies. 

In their collaboration, they leveraged existing open-source designs detailing how to manufacture approved PPE. This allowed Nigerian researchers to source, build and use a 3D printer and begin producing and distributing protective equipment for the local community to use. Plus, it was affordable.

One 3D printer operator and one assembler produced on average one face shield in 1 hour 30 minutes, costing 1,200 Naira (£2.38) and one mask in 3 hours 3 minutes costing 2,000 Naira (£3.97). In comparison, at the time of the project, commercially available face shields cost at least 5,000 Naira (£9.92) and reusable masks cost 10,000 Naira (£19.84). 

Dr Maia Chagas, Research Bioengineer at the University of Sussex, said: “Through knowledge sharing, collaboration and technology, we were able to help support a community through a global health crisis. 

“I’m really proud of the tangible difference we made at a critical time for this community. As PPE was in such high demand and stocks were low, prices for surgical masks, respirators and surgical gowns hiked, with issues arising around exports and international distribution. 

“We quickly realized that alternative means of producing and distributing PPE were required. Free and open-source hardware (FOSH) and 3D printing quickly became a viable option.

“We hope that our international collaboration during the pandemic will inspire other innovators to use technology and share knowledge to help address societal problems, which were typically reliant on funding or support from government or large research institutions. 

“With open source designs, knowledge sharing and 3D printing, there is a real opportunity for us to start addressing problems from the ground up, and empower local communities and researchers.”

Dr. Royhaan Folarin, a Neuroscientist and lecturer of anatomical sciences at Olabisi Onabanjo University in Nigeria, said: 

“During the pandemic, we saw the successful printing and donation of PPE in the Czech Republic by Prusa Research and it became a goal for me to use the training I had received in previous TReND in Africa workshops to help impact my immediate community in Nigeria.”

The international collaboration came about as a result of the TReND in Africa network, a charity hosted within Sussex which supports scientific capacity building across Africa. 

After initial use, testers provided feedback commending the innovativeness, usefulness and aesthetics of the PPE and, while the team’s 3D printer was not built for large-scale serial manufacturing, they identified the possibilities for several 3D printers to run in parallel, to reduce relative production time. During the pandemic, this was successfully demonstrated by the company Prusa Research, which produced and shipped 200,000 CE certified face shields. 


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