Part of the “Women To Watch” featured in the November issue of Inc. Arabia. Contrary to popular belief, the Middle East and North Africa region is home to millions of highly educated, driven and successful women who stand shoulder to shoulder with men. Here are some of those inventors, change agents, business leaders, educators, innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors are no longer okay with the status quo.
HIND HOBEIKA always loved swimming. She has been swimming since she was five. But what she loved more though was getting better at it. She wasn’t in it just for fun. She wanted to be competitive at it. When she reached university (studying engineering at the American University of Beirut), she wasted no time getting on the swim team.
Once on the team though, she found that the traditional way of measuring performance by percentages that her coaches used was out of sync with the modern performance training. To explain that method—a training race could be 200 meters at 50% of a swimmer’s heart rate. While the traditional approach also improved performance, Hobeika felt that there had to be a better way to measure swimmers’ heart rate in real-time.
“There are many heart rate monitors in the market, but none of them has a design that is compatible with the aerodynamics and the techniques of swimming.”
This led her to form the wearable tech company Instabeat, a startup that is developing the first device that allows swimmers to monitor their heart rate and other metrics through a real-time display.
In 2010, the young Lebanese engineer decided to take her idea and present it at the Stars of Science competition run by the Qatar foundation, where she developed the first prototype and won the third prize.
During the incubation period, she developed a casing that can be mounted on any kind of swimming goggles, where the swimmer can measure her heart rate through the temporal artery and have a visual feedback directly projected into the lens of her goggles. It also measures calories, number of laps and flip turns, and syncs with a personal online dashboard to track progress.
In 2011, Hobeika was approached by Berytech Technology Pole, which offers access to venture capital funds geared at financing startups and SMEs. She received a $100,000 which allowed her to start up and work on further developing the prototype.
After two years, and endless hours in the lab looking for components, reworking the design, reducing the size, and improving the layers, Hobeika was able to make a final prototype almost perfect for performance swimmers.
In 2012, Instabeat won first prize at the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Business Plan competition. That same year, Hobeika was selected as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum. In between the product development, Hobeika has also indulged in further fundraising, crowdfunding over $50,000
But most of her time today is spent in San Francisco, where she’s working on developing the second version of the product along with a team of 12 people for a Spring 2017 launch of Instabeat’s final go-to-market product.
She is now itching to prove her detractors wrong .
As a swimmer, she has developed a thick skin. “Swimming is such a particular sport that prepares you to be very tough. It shapes your personality,” she says. “Your head is in the water. You have a specific objective that you are swimming towards. You need to be super focused. Showing up to practice every day…being part of a team. That reflects a lot obviously on the way I do business and the way I work.”
Photograph by Roland Ragi.