One woman entrepreneur from Cambridge is developing a waterless toilet for low-income and developing communities without modern sanitation. Another businesswoman, from Lowell, is building adjustable and affordable prosthetic limbs. And a Boston-area doctor is trying to improve emergency health response times using technology.
The three women, out of thousands of applicants, are finalists in a global entrepreneurship competition sponsored by Cartier, with one them poised to win $100,000 at the conclusion of the contest in April, the French fine jewelry and timepiece retailer said Wednesday.
The competition seeks to identify women entrepreneurs with early-stage businesses that promise an environmental or social benefit while succeeding financially. The Boston-area nominees will represent North America in the competition, making up 18 total finalists from the six inhabited continents. One winner from each continent will get $100,000 and one year of mentoring; runners-up receive a consolation prize of $30,000.
The Cartier competition is in its 13th year, and includes French business school INSEAD, consulting firm McKinsey & Company, and the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society.
“In a decade, this initiative truly has made an impact: out of 198 finalists creating over 6,000 jobs, 80 percent are still in activity, which is an amazing rate for startups,” Cyrille Vigneron, chief executive of Cartier International, said in a statement.
These are the three Boston-area finalists representing North America:
Erin Keaney, Nonspec . This Lowell company mass produces prosthetics that cost less, and are also adjustable to fit individual patients. The company has a patented technology blend of plastics that have more give than metal, allowing people with prosthetic limbs to walk more comfortably. Nonspec was also a 2017 MassChallenge winner.
One of the company’s users is a 15-year-old cancer patient who lost her leg two years ago. “When she was fit with our device, she was actually able to go out and play badminton for four hours right after,” Keaney said in an interview, something she was not able to do with other prosthetics.
Diana Yousef, change:WATER Labs . Taking aim at a massive global sanitation problem, Yousef is developing a waterless toilet for households and communities without indoor plumbing. Yousef’s toilets use a membrane that she jokingly nicknamed “shrink wrap for crap,” that converts liquid sewage into clean water vapor and contains solid waste without using heat, energy, or water.
“Our core inspiration was how hard it is for girls who don’t have access to private toilets in their homes or their schools,” Yousef said. She hopes to sell the product to humanitarian and nongovernment organizations and government agencies that service low-income, displaced communities or provide crisis relief.
Dr. YiDing Yu, Twiage. A practicing physician, Yu is developing technology that tracks ambulances during emergencies and allows attendants to send critical patient information ahead to the hospital.
“That allows hospitals to start preparing treatments and resources even before the patient arrives, so we can hit the ground running on arrival,” Yu said.
She said hospitals and ambulances that use Twiage can get a 14-minute head start on treating the patient, a critical time saver in life or death situations. “With heart attacks and strokes, every minute counts,” she said.
The technology is currently being used at eight local hospitals, including South Shore Hospital, St. Anne’s, and Morton.
The winners from six continents will be announced at the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards on April 26th in Singapore.