Mohamed Dhaouafi – Tunisian Entrepreneur
My life before Entrepreneurship
I come from an average Tunisian family of 5; my parents, my two siblings and I. Both parents were civil servants and education was given huge priority over other things, so I attended the regional pioneer high school within my locality; Lycee Pilote de Sousse”.
The foundation of good education allowed my mind to develop at a very early stage in my life. I was always inquisitive and curious, always wanting to know “Why” and “How” everything is the way it is or done the way it’s done.
I hold an engineering degree in electronics and embedded systems from Ecole National d’Ingenieurs de Sousse and a master’s degree in management of NGOs from Tunis Business School.
Even though no one in my family is self-employed, my father and grandfather raised me to believe in myself, to always challenge the status quo and never rest on my oars. These lessons have helped in my personal life, just as much as in my entrepreneurial journey.
I am the founder and CEO of CURE, a bionic company that works on ensuring that amputees can function in a world that is built for humans with four limbs. Our purpose is to ensure that these members of our society are able to live their lives to the fullest despite this physical challenge. We intend to achieve this objective through our two programmes: the development of personalised, 3D printed bionic hands and the provision of disruptive physical rehabilitation solutions for these amputees who mostly live in rural areas and have limited resources using virtual reality.
Why I chose to be an entrepreneur
I have always had the interest of others at heart. Even as a young undergraduate, I got involved in several extra-curricular activities: clubs and NGOs to satisfy my curiosity about life and my desire to do more for others than for myself. In 2015, I joined the Junior Enterprise network where I learned the basics of entrepreneurship and started networking with diverse brilliant students from different backgrounds and experiences in my country. As a restless young man, full of energy and ambition, I also participated in every student community event at my university which led to me elected as the student representative for my university. A year after that, I became the vice president of Eureka ENISo, the first club of my university.
I then joined the “Youth Council Tunisia” project, which is co-financed by the Polish development cooperation program of the ministry of foreign affairs, Republic of Poland. Our first project was the refurbishment of a local youth library in Sousse, Tunisia. Later on, I was elected local coordinator of the Youth Council Tunisia Project. Under my leadership, we implemented two other projects: the upgrade of our local children’s hospital and “El Tounsya El Horra El Megdiya” project , which means, “strong and free women”, to empower local women through social entrepreneurship by training them on handcraft skills so they can start their small businesses, get regular income and become self-sufficient.
In 2015, I joined Rotaract Pragma El Kantaoui and in less than a year, I became the president of its “Community Service” committee that works on implementing creative projects with social and environmental impact.
How it all started
During my university education, I took part in a student challenge: Tunisia Entrepreneurship IHEC _ ENISO for business and engineering students. It required us to solve problems with innovative ideas that can be turned into businesses. One of my teammates had a cousin who was born without hands and whose parents were unable to afford prosthetics. My team chose to work on that idea. That was my first foray into the world of prosthetics.
Later on, I visited the Centre de Traumatologie et des Grands Brules hospital in Tunisia where they take care of children amputees. I met an 8-year child who was electrified and had lost both his right hand and leg, he was in pain, and his mum was in despair as they could not afford prosthetic limbs for him. That day, I decided to work with children amputees, particularly those who did not have access to prosthetic limbs either because they are not made small enough or because their parents could not afford them.
My Tony Elumelu Foundation Encounter
I found the advert for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme online and did not hesitate to apply. I believed very strongly in my idea and the opportunities that the Tony Elumelu Foundation could expose me to so I was glad to be selected. During the TEF program, I learned new business management skills through the online training. I also learned more about my business and the industry in the process of developing my business plan. The seed capital also helped significantly, I was able to develop the project further and that transformed my idea to a stage where I can seek additional funds or investment.
My Growth and Achievements
While the business itself has not turned a profit due to its peculiarity, medical or technologically heavy projects like ours mostly require a lot of research, development and testing before being commercially available. We have however achieved our growth in areas more synonymous with our sector, received recognition and support from global and local organisations and authorities.
My family and friends have also supported me tremendously on this journey.
- In July 2019 I became an Obama Africa Leader
- In 2018, I raised additional funding of $,5000 from the UNDP funded YAS! Open Innovation Challenge.
- I was recently selected for the UN Solution Summit as one of the best eight projects from more than one thousand ideas.
- In recognition of my work, I was invited to the presidential palace by the immediate past Tunisian president: The late President, Beji Caid Essebsi.
- I have also had the privilege of participation in more than 60 national and international programmes and events as a participant, a panelist, a speaker or as a trainer
- In 2018, alongside my friends, I cofounded ZETA HUB, the first private early-stage incubator and capacity-building center for university students in his city Sousse
We currently employ three people who work in research and product development, but our team will grow in leaps and bounds soon as we go into commercial production to make them available to thousands of amputees.
What is next for CURE
We plan to go to market with the bionic limbs by the end of this year and we will expand our business once we validate the concept in the local market.
We are also in the testing phase of our VR based rehabilitation programme, which should be launched in the first quarter of 2020.
We are however still in search of additional funding and partnership opportunities for this first African-made prosthetic hand.
Contact details for interested partners
+216 55 968 767