Simprints proves engineers are creatives, too

When Alexandra Grigore stepped out onto the stage at the London Creator Awards, she couldn’t have been more nervous. Winning was crucial to her nonprofit Simprints, which works to improve healthcare in developing nations. “It was pretty incredible,” says Grigore, the organization’s lead product manager. “When I heard people cheering, all the nervousness went away. I thought, ‘Let’s do this.’” She went on to win the top prize at the competition, taking home $360,000 for Simprints.

The team’s breakthrough is a fingerprint scanner that tracks mothers and children when they come in for healthcare—a must in far-flung regions where most people don’t have any form of identification. Simprints started as a side project among a small group of scholarship students at the University of Cambridge. But after working on it for a year and a half, they received their first grant in 2014. That helped fund a pilot program in Bangladesh, which proved the need for an inexpensive, rugged, and reliable device to track patients.

“People don’t think of engineers as creative people. But being in the same competition with artists and people from all sort of fields was really, really inspiring.”

Grigore says she’s thrilled that the Creator Awards will help them take their project to the next level by hiring seven new staffers. They’ll be able to expand their work in places like Zambia, Nepal, and Malawi.

WeWork Creator Awards winners Simprints

“I’m a scientist, a researcher, but above all, a builder,” says Grigore. “I want to build technology that works for the poor, not in 20 to 30 years, but right now. My colleagues and I founded Simprints for that purpose: to create a world equipped with the tools necessary to stop preventable suffering.”

But Grigore says the money will also let her team start thinking about where they will be years down the line. “It’s hard for us as a small, lean startup to put money into research and development knowing that it might not lead to huge rewards down the line,” Grigore says. “Now, because we have this money, we can afford to invest in the future.”

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