ACE Startup Feature: QaneMate
Small Steps to Big Dreams
Seng Ian Hao and Seng Ing Le are barely in their teens, but they’re turning QaneMate, their walking aid invention, into a social enterprise with some help from the ACE Mentorship Programme.
At just 13 and 11 years old respectively, Seng Ian Hao and Seng Ing Le might be too young to be labelled teenagers but they certainly aren’t too young to be budding social entrepreneurs.
For close to four years, the siblings have been working on QaneMate, a device that can be attached to walking aids so they remain upright even when not in use. The idea came after the pair saw an elderly lady injure herself while trying to pick up her fallen cane. Inspired, Ian Hao made the first QaneMate prototype with Lego blocks.
It took over 12 iterations before the siblings had a winning product that the elderly found easy to use. Each prototype was made from common household items and field-tested at the nursing homes where their family volunteers.
While the siblings insist that QaneMate is not rocket science (it can be easily assembled at home, by young children), the world seems to think differently. At the 2014 Young Inventors Showcase in Houston, USA, Ian Hao and Ing Le became the first Singaporeans to win the top prize in their category. At home, they bagged the Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors’ Award 2014 and the Commendation Award (Open Category) at the LTA Engineering Challenge 2016. They also represented Singapore at the 2017 Ageing Asia Innovation Awards and, having won the Innovation of the Year Award, went on to participate in the 2017 Gerontech Innovation cum Exhibit Summit in Hong Kong.
“So far, Qanemate has been given free of charge to the elderly. Now, we hope to turn it into a social enterprise in order to create a self-sustaining business model so that we can help more people in the long run. Through our social enterprise, we also hope to create an inter-generational platform to encourage bonding between the young and the old,” said Ian Hao.
“For the past two years, we have been very privileged to have Uncle Jayren Teo, President of EDGE, be our mentor. Uncle Jayren introduced us to the ACE Mentorship Programme as he felt it was a good platform for us to learn.”
Through the programme, which pairs budding entrepreneurs with experienced business leaders, Ian Hao and Ing Le have been benefiting from the tutelage of Lim Liat — an uncanny coincidence as the young inventors have been fans since reading his book, I-Ching for Success in the VUCA World.
“To us, Mr Lim is what the Chinese call a ??(a learned gentleman). We are amazed by his wealth of knowledge, wisdom and humour. With his help, we are exploring ways to create a social enterprise model that is robust and versatile enough to keep reinventing itself in a volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and deceptive world,” shared Ian Hao.
The siblings may have created a lauded invention and filed for international patent and trademark, but they are just getting started.
“We have many more ideas to help the elderly! As inventors, it is important that we form bonds with our users and grow old with them, so that our inventions stay relevant even as their needs evolve.”
Learn more about QaneMate at www.qanemate.com.
You can benefit from the ACE Mentorship Programme too! Sign up as a mentee now. We also welcome experienced entrepreneurs to volunteer as mentors.