The Future of Handwashing
Updated: May 20, 2020
City Health Tech solves 20-second hand washing problem, to help prevent the next pandemic.
Entrepreneurs Ibraheem Alinur and Irewole Akande know handwashing for 20 seconds can save countless lives. They founded City Health Tech with the goal of creating a product that makes hand washing fun and interactive. They just launched Opal – a device that sits next to sinks and encourages hand washing for the full 20 seconds by using interactive timed videos. “We were tired of singing the happy birthday song twice,” Alinur said. “We knew there must be a better way – so we invented it.”
City Health Tech would provide Opal to interested parties free of charge, with accompanying sponsored content that encourages users to wash their hands properly. For customers who purchase Opal outright, City Health Tech would install an additional device in elementary schools of need. "Hand washing impacts every single person on the planet,” Alinur said. “There are millions of lives that could be saved just around hand washing.” Hand washing is often cited as the single most important thing the public can do in preventing themselves from getting sick. The CDC recommends hand washing for 20 seconds to prevent infectious diseases from spreading. While hand washing is extremely important, CBS News notes only 5 percent of people wash their hands well enough to prevent disease. Surveys show that 83% of teachers agree that absenteeism is the number one problem they face in schools. Hand washing has been proven to reduce overall absenteeism in schools and businesses by as much as 50 percent, according to the American Journal of Infection Control. Schools will be a key target market for the company. City Health Tech currently has partnerships with some of the top private schools in Illinois, and hopes to expand its connections across Chicago and the rest of the country. The company is already working closely with the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association as well as teachers and nurses across the city. Hospitals and businesses are logical target markets as well, Alinur said.
Alinur and Akande both have experienced incredible entrepreneurial journeys. Akande, 26, grew up in Abuja, Nigeria. His father is a brilliant entrepreneur and his mother, a leading visual artist, is also an entrepreneur, but when Akande was 9, his dad had a car accident that left him with severe amnesia. With Akande’s mother taking care of his father and working, Akande took care of his three younger siblings – taking them to school, helping them with their homework and making them meals daily. He’d find different ways to save up money by getting paid to tutor and keeping the change from running errands.
“As a 9-year old, I wanted the extra money so I could treat my younger siblings.” Akande said.
Akande earned a full-tuition leadership scholarship to Illinois Institute of Technology, where he also played on the school’s soccer team. “There are a few tears in my eyes thinking of how far I’ve come,” Akande said.
Alinur grew up in a low income household near Orlando, and he and his two siblings were raised by their mom, a recent award winning nurse and an immigrant from Trinidad & Tobago. Alinur, 23 of Evanston, said he’s been an entrepreneur since he started selling candy out of his backpack in elementary school and also tutoring from a young age. He earned a Gates Millennium Scholarship to attend Northwestern and was named as one of Chicago Inno’s 25 under 25, 25 under 25 social entrepreneurs in the US, and is a member of the Obama Foundations Community Leadership program.
“I’ve always been hustling, out of necessity and nature,” Alinur said. “I quickly learned how much of a change you can make through entrepreneurship as I got older. My dream is to help build the cities of the future.” The duo met randomly three years ago at a conference where Alinur was manning a table while working for UI Labs. Their conversation turned to the startup world, and Alinur told Akande what he was working on with City Health Tech. The team has won over $20K in local competitions and programs, including awards from both Kellogg and Booth. “I really connected to the message and knew this was a problem worth solving,” Akande said.