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Bold Knot: The Palestinian Tech Gadget Going Global

Despite the constant challenges living in the occupied state presents, two bright, young minds might just have revolutionised the mobile phone charger, smashing their crowd-funding goals in just three days. We find out more...

A wearable pocket-size charger that recharges phone batteries for up to three hours, two times faster than regular chargers: that’s what Palestinian entrepreneurs Lama Mansour and her partner Ismat Tuffaha promise to introduce.

Their startup, BOLT, is swiftly pushing through the tech business world with rocketing numbers: in less than 24 hours, their crowdfunding campaign to launch their tech gadget BOLT Knot raised 50% of their target funding and was featured as a trending campaign at Indiegogo. In 72 hours, it had exceeded its goal.

In a harsh context where military checkpoints, lack of infrastructure and a frail legal framework hinder the development of tech startups, the young entrepreneurs stepped up to the challenge and sought support from accelerators abroad. “The project hit a wall in Palestine as there are no prototyping facilities, and bringing electric components would require waiting for months while they go through Israeli border controls,” says Mansour.

While seeking alternative startup accelerators and investment programmes, the entrepreneurs found Estonia-based Buildit Hardware Accelerator, who is now providing them with mentoring, technical support, and facilities to finalise the product’s development. Despite Palestine’s tech scene boasting vigorous startup accelerators such as Fast Forward, Arabreneur, and the Palestine ICT Incubator, most of their offspring is software-based. “There are no hardware projects in the country partly because we lack the technical resources. We were lucky to be able to develop the product and gain traction to get investment from Europe,” she says.

Now relocated in the Baltic country, the company launched a crowdfunding campaign to sell their first units in the international market and scale operations, aiming to become Palestine’s first startup to create hardware solutions. “Coming to Estonia opened up the international door for us; we have orders from Australia to the USA,” says the 22-year-old entrepreneur.

Shaped like a pocket-sized wool knot and customisable into a variety of different colors, the BOLT Knot promises to guarantee 8 hours of music, 3 hours of talking, and 2.5 hours of internet, which can be re-charged in the car, or on a portable computer with a USB exit.

Mansour, a business consultant from Qalqilya, met her partner Tuffaha at the An-Najah University in Nablus and decided to set the idea in motion together with an electrical engineer. “The idea came gradually, we wanted to recreate the normal charger and started developing it until we reached one that could be carried in the pocket," she says.

“We were looking for a friendly solution that was fashionable, something that breaks away from bulky heavy chargers that don’t suit the lifestyle of young people. Our market research shows that people usually only need an emergency charger that can cover three hours, so we thought it better to minimize the capacity in a way that users can carry it effortlessly.” Jamming all these criteria into one prototype proved a success: their design was awarded second place at the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in 2014, and the first place in Ibdaa USAID Competition.

The prototype’s most promising feature is rapidness, which is achieved through blocking data from passing through the wires while maintaining them exclusively to convey power, maximising cable performance while keeping safety for the phone and its battery. The USB cable is also made of durable parachute cords that keep the cable flexible and strain free.

Available for both iPhone and Android systems, the battery pack can be pre-ordered online for $29 through the online crowdfunding campaign they launched on Indiegogo. “We are very hopeful and excited about the campaign, launching it and relocating was a lot altogether. In less than 48 hours it’s doing really well, with already 12,000 dollars of funding, so we hope to catch the momentum and scale,” says the young businesswoman, who is already counting up samples of the product that they will manufacture according to the orders.

The innovators aim to ultimately help boost the startup scene in Palestine, a growing sector in the occupied state which nevertheless lacks resources and support. As entrepreneurship is an incipient sector in the country, “we don’t have rules and regulations to support that, it’s hard to have people open to help you,” she points out. “In the world of startups, you have to develop a product quickly; and it is difficult to do it here because of challenges related to logistics and border controls, while internally we don’t have basic resources like 3D printing,” she concludes not with a sigh, but the exciting assurance of new developments to come. “We are already thinking about our next three products, user-friendly gadgets such as phone cases and wearable trackers.”

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