We are delighted to announce that WeWALK – the UK-headquartered startup behind a revolutionary ‘smart’ walking cane for people living with visual impairment – has been recognised as ‘Startup of the Year’ at the Amazon Launchpad Innovation Awards 2021. The team at WeWALK took home a grand prize of €100,000 to invest into their growing business.
British period care startup Callaly has also received a €10,000 prize as one of five finalists, in recognition of their work creating a biodegradable ‘tampliner’, which brings innovation to a product that has hardly changed since its inception in the early twentieth century.
This year, the Amazon Launchpad Innovation Awards, a free-to enter competition designed to support innovative European startups, received over 1,800 incredible entries from 26 European countries. Finalists were selected by a panel of five industry experts, and customers were then invited to vote for their favourite as ‘Startup of the Year’.
To celebrate the Innovation Awards, Amazon Launchpad is running a 48-hour ‘Innovation Day’ – a curated storefront spotlighting the forward-thinking products designed by WeWALK, Callaly and the other winners. Customers will also find a host of other innovative products on offer from startups across Europe.
“We’re delighted to announce WeWALK as ‘Startup of the Year’ – their forward thinking and unique mobility solution for the visually impaired is a fantastic product, and we’re thrilled that customers recognised this as they cast their votes. Innovation is part of our culture. We continue to invent on behalf of customers, but we’re also a destination for innovative new products from small businesses,” said Xavier Flamand, Director, EU Seller Services for Amazon.
“Amazon Launchpad has supported over 2,000 startups in Europe. These awards demonstrate both our commitment to supporting emerging brands and how we love to delight our customers with new and innovative products,” Xavier added.
We spoke to the teams at WeWALK and Callaly to find out more about their businesses – and what it means to be recognised by the Amazon Launchpad Innovation Awards.
The inspiration behind WeWALK came from the lived experience of one of the three co-founders, Kürşat Ceylan, who himself is blind from birth. During a trip to New York, Kürşat found himself struggling to pull his luggage with one hand while trying to navigate the streets with his white cane and open GPS on his smartphone with the other hand. The ordeal resulted in a minor injury when he bumped his head into a pole, but he also realised that the white cane, which is crucial to the visually impaired and blind community, had been left behind by technology.
“The white cane is not just a navigation tool, but also offers a sense of security and is heavily relied upon by those of us within the community,” explains Kürşat. “We have been on a journey to transform the traditional cane into a ‘Smart Cane’ by marrying its simple functionality with modern technology, and so WeWALK was born.”
“We’re now well on the way to making WeWALK a global movement and this support from Amazon Launchpad is vital in helping us set solid foundations. ”
Headquartered in London with its robust research, development and production team spread across London and Istanbul, WeWALK created a ‘smart’ handle that can be attached to any cane to help users feel safer and to better navigate the world around them.
"It has been a great privilege for us to be named as one of the winners of the Innovation Awards and we are even more thankful to our community and Amazon Launchpad for their support in helping us win the honour of ‘Startup of the Year’. It has boosted our morale across our community and helped to increase the visibility of our brand!
“The advice and training from Amazon Launchpad is improving our marketing strategy as well as improving our sales and marketing content. We’re now able to leverage Amazon’s inventory warehousing and fulfilment capabilities to improve our delivery services to customers, on which we are already receiving great feedback," he adds.
“Our ultimate vision is a platform that unites our community, improves societal integration through mobility, and allowing everyone, regardless of their ability, to walk together. We’re now well on the way to making WeWALK a global movement and this support from Amazon Launchpad is vital in helping us set solid foundations and reach users across more countries.”
British period-care startup Callaly is one of four other finalists receiving a €10,000 prize in recognition of their work creating a biodegradable ‘tampliner’.
Started in a gynaecologist’s office, the team behind Callaly are on a mission to change the landscape of period care products by creating the biodegradable ‘tampliner’ which combines the tampon with elements of the panty liner, doing away with the risk of leaking and the need to use different products at the same time.
“We are now able to tap into Amazon's global distribution network to share our products with the rest of Europe – and soon the world! ”
After nearly a decade of continuous research and development, patent and design registrations, market testing and soft launches, Callaly came to market in early 2020. In just a year, and with patent and design registrations covering nearly 80% of the globe, they are now ready to disrupt the period-care industry using Amazon as a launchpad.
“Since we launched, we have received amazing feedback from our customers in the UK and European markets such as Sweden, Netherland and Ireland,” explains Thang Vo-Ta, CEO and co-founder at Callaly. “We are now able to tap into Amazon's global distribution network to share our products with the rest of Europe – and soon the world! Amazon is also part of our key go-to-market strategy for the U.S., and we will be using Amazon as the launchpad into that market once we have our third and final clearance by regulators at the end of this year.”
“Amazon is one of the most entrepreneurial companies in the world and we share Amazon’s ‘day one’ mentality within our own company culture,” Thang adds. “Our products could revolutionise the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world and the scale of change might be staggering, so Amazon is going to be an important part to this journey. We are grateful that Amazon is willing to support startups like us and other companies of the future.
“The Amazon Launchpad Innovation Awards was not just another award entry for us! This recognition provides the exposure we need to bring innovation to the market while also helping half the world’s population tackle taboo topics on menstruation, change habits and take better care of their more sensitive female bits.”
Find out more: Small business success on Amazon - UK SME Impact Report 2021