Sussex Innovation

A technology-assisted service that addresses the challenges of inadequate healthcare provision and underemployed medical professionals in Ethiopia has received a prize worth £10,000 for first place at the annual StartUp Sussex Awards


The 2023 University of Sussex Entrepreneur of the Year was Development Studies MA student Emnet Tiruneh. Her social enterprise, Addis Health, was judged to be both the best commercial proposal and to have the most potential to bring about positive social change. In total, Emnet and her team received a prize worth £10,000 to take the project forward. 

Emnet and her team at Addis Health became the first double winner in the annual competition with their plan to deliver convenient, affordable, door-to-door preventive healthcare services for communities across Ethiopia, whilst reducing underemployment for qualified medical professionals in the country. 

The Awards, held at the Sussex Innovation Centre on March 30th, were the culmination of a programme delivered by the University of Sussex Careers and Entrepreneurship team throughout the year. 

The StartUp Sussex competition is underwritten by the University of Sussex as part of its commitment to support student entrepreneurship, backed by a generous private donation from a Sussex alumnus. It is part of a programme of support that includes weekly Ideas Lab sessions, one-to-one coaching, speakers and entrepreneurs-in-residence. In line with the University’s values, social impact is targeted and incentivised throughout. 

Each of the finalists will receive a kickstart grant of £500 and a place on the University’s summer accelerator programme. The four winning ideas will also gain a membership with Sussex Innovation as part of a one-year business incubation programme beginning in the autumn. 

Previous StartUp Sussex winners have included Molly Masters with Books That Matter, a feminist literature subscription box that has won multiple national start-up awards and appeared on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, and Darren Tenkorang with TRIM-it, a mobile barber service that has received £1.1m of seed investment and been the subject of Channel 4 documentary The Money Maker, as well as features by BBC Business and Forbes. 

“All the judges agreed that this year’s pitches were consistently the highest quality we had seen in nearly a decade of StartUp Sussex,” said Nigel Lambe, Chief Executive of Sussex Innovation, who chaired the judging panel. “The scale of Emnet and her team’s ambition was extraordinary, and their model has real potential to deliver huge social impact, making Addis Health a worthy winner of both prizes.” 

The three other prize winners in this year’s competition were: 

• Sarah Stephens is developing Chat Legal, an affordable mobile-first legal services platform: “It’s really exciting, and it also feels like a validation of everything that I’ve been thinking about and working on for so long. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is don’t be scared to start… the first thing I’m going to do is build something and start to validate and test it.” 

• Yasmin Mustafa is launching RINGZ, a stylish and empowering personal safety product: “The entire experience has felt quite surreal, it’s very uplifting to learn that all these professionals saw validity in my idea. I came in with barely a semblance of an idea, and meeting with the entrepreneurship team and asking loads of questions has made me feel more confident in myself and my own entrepreneurial capacity.” 

• Andrea Dumitrascu and her team are working on Victims of Trust, an initiative to fight human trafficking. “We’re really happy,” said teammate Isa Gomez. “We’re working on a realistic plan for the next 12 months, and then how we can grow and have more impact after that. Doing this alone doesn’t compare to creating something together with a team. We’re looking forward to working together for real change, for women all around the world.” 

Q&A with Emnet Tiruneh founder of Addis Health


Congratulations! How are you feeling? 
It honestly feels like a dream. I’m very honoured. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. 
As a medical doctor from Ethiopia, I’ve seen the challenges when it comes to finding work - there aren’t enough health facilities to employ all the graduating doctors, despite demand. At the same time, there’s a very high prevalence of what we call the silent killers; preventable, non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. So Addis Health is a platform that offers preventive health care, while also creating jobs for medical doctors in Ethiopia. 

What’s the first thing you’re going to do with your prize? 
This fund is going to be more than enough to finish the licensing process and become a fully qualified legal entity. It will also help us to launch our call centre and digital interface. Once we do that, we already have more than 500 medical professionals lined up. We’re going to contract them and pilot our services in two regions of Ethiopia. And the rest is history! 

What’s been your biggest takeaway from the last year? 
Honestly speaking, I didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur. All I had was an idea. StartUp Sussex helped me to refine that idea and come up with concrete steps to get to that goal. The team has been incredible and motivating. 

What does the future look like for Addis Health? 
Big things await! We want to expand our services across Africa, and give the continent a reputation of being health empowered and health conscious. Sadly, we’re not usually known for all the right reasons, and we want to change that. We want to be known as a place where people took their health into their own hands, and be the hub for a healthy society. 

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