Arthur was one of the top kids in his class, lucky enough to be in school, and yet American movies taught him to skip out.
Like most kids he was into big action movies, but what got his attention wasn’t the explosions, it was all the high-tech hospital equipment. So one day, instead of going to school, he just walked from hospital to hospital, asking doctors if they had an ECG to show him.
The BBC just published a short documentary on Arthur Zang, the founder of Cardiopad, a startup that allows patients in rural Cameroon and Nepal to get diagnosed by medical specialists anywhere in the world.
Cameroon, for example, has a population of 22 million but only 50 cardiologists — and all of them in the capital.
When I met Arthur, he was a typical African tech entrepreneur, with a solid engineering background, a work ethic that made Gary Vaynerchuk look like Ozzy Osborne, and a mastery at raising awareness (and funding.)
We met in Accra, for the first week of The Africa Prize education programme. He was quiet and soft-spoken. His eyes were always bloodshot.
I’ve seen this before — the entrepreneur who doesn’t sleep. But another clue revealed itself.
Every morning and every evening, I’d look out my hotel room window and see Arthur swimming. Turns out Arthur never had access to a swimming pool, and he wasn’t going to let the opportunity to learn to swim pass him by, and the Source Institute crew was happy to oblige him with daily lessons. (We also covered subscription business models and a few other topics that helped him take Cardiopad to the next level.)
The same way Arthur learned to swim, that’s how he learned electronics, and programming. It was the same way he’d learned to speak English, just months before joining The Africa Prize.
The same teenage Arthur had walked to each his city’s hospitals, and walked in to unassumingly convince a doctor to show him the machines, he’s still persistently learning and learning.
That’s how Arthur won The Rolex Prize.
That’s how Arthur met the president of Cameroon, and got a substantial donation.
That’s how he got on a plane to China, and negotiated his first large order.
That’s how he won last year’s Africa Prize For Engineering.
And that’s why I expect he’ll be successful in establishing a sustainable business model that allows rural people in poor countries to get access to specialist healthcare.
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