Start-up snapshot: Detecting substance abuse in employees with camera device

Start-up: OculusID, South Africa

Ashley Uys

Ashley Uys

OculusID, was founded in 2013 by South African serial entrepreneur and scientist Ashley Uys. The company develops biometric solutions (such as applications for cameras and mobile phones) that analyse the pupil of the eye and can detect impairment due to substance abuse, as well as some diseases such as diabetes.

One of the company’s products, OculusPro, is a camera device that acts as an employee access control system. It integrates facial recognition and detects visual impairment to improve workplace safety in sectors such as mining, allowing employees to use the technology to both clock in, and determine work impairment.

OculusID’s parent company is Medical Diagnostech – also founded by Uys – which produces diagnostic test kits for HIV, malaria, pregnancy, fertility, and a range of drugs.

1. Give us your elevator pitch in 100 words or less.

OculusID is a platform for non-invasive and hygienic testing. The technology itself is advanced… We have developed a system that can accurately detect how the eye reacts to light, and based on the eye’s reaction to light it develops profiles of certain diseases and of impairment.

2. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

So when it comes to any science business, you have to do research and development first. So what we did was invested all our money into developing the concept and we successfully did that… So [now] I would invest $1m in operations to upscale production, as well as invest it in marketing.

3. What risks does your business face?

The risk of course is protection of intellectual property. We have patented our technology. We don’t want any company to reverse engineer what we have done, and that is a big risk for us. [We have] to make sure that we are protected in our design and how our unit functions.

4. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

The most successful and easiest way to market is basically social media, word of mouth and providing demonstrations to potential clients – so proving the technology by how it performs.

5. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

I entered the Innovation Prize for Africa, which is hosted by the African Innovation Foundation. It’s a competition that they run across the whole African continent and they do their due diligence. So it was a source of pride for me when we were recognised as one of the top 10 companies in Africa for innovation [in 2014].