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Published: 09.12.2016

Press Release from Clearly

THURSDAY 13 OCTOBER [WORLD SIGHT DAY] LONDON: On World Sight Day, Vula Mobile, a healthcare app, has won a global hunt for the best innovations to help the whole world see, receiving a share of a $250,000 USD prize

A revolutionary app connecting primary healthcare workers in remote areas with on-call specialists has been awarded the inaugural Clearly Vision Prize, a competition to accelerate the ventures tackling the number one unaddressed disability in the world – poor vision.

Vula Mobile has been awarded a share of $250,000 in prize funding, for demonstrating the potential of its solution to help the 2.5 billion people around the world suffering from poor vision, without a means of improving it.

 At a private event held in London, Sir Mark Walport, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, crowned Vula Mobile as winner, alongside four other highly commended ventures, ranging from open-source eye-screening tools and education initiatives to emergency and last-mile transport.

·   First PlaceVula Mobile, an app connecting primary healthcare workers in remote areas with on-call specialists, enabling primary health workers to do basic eye tests.

Awarded $100,000 in funding

·   Second Place: Folding Phoropter, a business developing a cost-effective eye-screening device. Built using origami, the simple, open-source and disposable device is easy to use.

Awarded $50,000 in funding

·   Third Place: Essmart, a last-mile distribution company delivering affordable reading glasses to local shops across India, supported by educational tools and materials.

Awarded $25,000 in funding

In addition, two runner up prizes of $10,000 were awarded to:

·   Maza Transport, a venture that has developed a transport network of affordable leased vehicles, providing urgent transport to remote rural communities.

Awarded $10,000 in funding

·   Smart Focus, a high-growth healthcare company providing low-cost eye exams and eye glasses to millions in China, with a focus on rural, school-age and underserved populations.

Awarded $10,000 in funding

Dr. Andrew Bastrawrous, Founder of Peek, was also awarded the Clearly Lifetime Achievement Award, to recognise unparalleled achievement in tackling the global problem of poor vision. Peek has innovated groundbreaking technology helping to detect cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetes and glaucoma.

 The Clearly Vision Prize is part of a unique and innovative campaign called Clearly, being spearheaded by James Chen, a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur and venture philanthropist. With one in three people globally lacking access to eye care, Clearly seeks to address the challenges brought about by poor vision and accelerate a revolution in eye care.

 The Clearly Vision Prize garnered over 100 applications from 21 countries across the four key areas which provide the most common barriers to universal access to vision:

•   Improving reliable detection – regardless of where people live, their age or gender

•   Using technology for training – to identify the conditions that lead to poor vision

•   Enhancing supply networks – to give access to basic solutions like glasses

•   Harnessing insights and data – to help eye care providers work more efficiently

James Chen, Founder of Clearly, commented: “I would like to congratulate the winner, Vula Mobile, and finalists of the Clearly Vision Prize. Each of these brilliant breakthrough innovations have the potential to revolutionise how we detect, deliver and supply eye care across the world. They help bring us closer to the Clearly campaign’s mission: to help the whole world see within the next 20 years. In this era of electrifying progress, the world has the talent, technology and capability to ensure everyone can see clearly. It can and must be done. I am looking forward to working with all involved in the Clearly Vision Prize final to transform the lives of millions of people.”

 Sir Mark Walport, Government Chief Scientific Advisor, commented: “The problem of poor vision has gone unnoticed for too long – it’s astounding that 700 years after glasses were first invented there are still 2.5 billion people across the world without access to something as simple as eye screening or a pair of glasses. The Clearly campaign, and the finalists we have awarded tonight, have the potential to solve that global problem.”

 Dr. William Mapham, Founder of Vula Mobile, winner of the Clearly Vision Prize, commented: “I am truly honoured to receive the inaugural Clearly Vision Prize, and be part of this incredible campaign. Poor vision costs the global economy $3tn a year, limits access to education, slows productivity and hinders our personal development and growth. It’s high time we work together to make sure the whole world can see Clearly.”

 Brian Doolan, CEO, Fred Hollows Foundation, commented: “Today, it’s clear that we have in our hands all we need to end avoidable blindness and poor vision. Clearly is not just a campaign to help ensure good sight – it’s a revolution. It is challenging us all to wake up and catch up. Clearly reminds us that this is the twenty-first century, not the dark ages. Never again should anyone have to suffer avoidable blindness or poor vision.”

 James Chen will award a further nine ‘Innovation Awards’ of $5,000 to ventures demonstrating particular potential, as well as a Lifetime Achievement award of $10,000.

Notes to editors

Please click here for more information and to view the Clearly film:

About Clearly

Clearly is a global campaign focused on helping the world to see.

There are currently 2.5 billion people in the world that have poor vision and no means of improving it. It is the number one unaddressed disability in the world.

Clearly is a year-long campaign that seeks to inspire talented and creative minds to solve this problem that the world has forgotten about – and help the world to see.

Launched in April 2016, Clearly focuses on two core pillars:

•  The Clearly Vision Prize, a competition for entrepreneurs designed to gather new solutions to the problem of poor vision

•  A series of ‘Clearly Labs’ challenges, for companies who have the ingenuity and the heart to aim as high as possible to help find the answers

The campaign has garnered the support of a number of Champions, including:

•  Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of eyewear brand Warby Parker, and former director of charity, VisionSpring

•  Brian Doolan, CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation, focused on preventable blindness in developing countries

•  Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of eyewear brand Warby Parker

•  Sir David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of Shanghai Tang

About the Clearly Vision Prize Finalists

Vula Mobile

Cape Town, South Africa

Vula Mobile is a mobile phone app designed to improve rural healthcare referrals. It gives primary healthcare workers instant access to medical and surgical specialists through a secure medical chat and referral system. Vula Mobile detects eye problems and gives targeted information to specialised doctors for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Through secure medical chat, nurses and doctors obtain case-by-case training, without being removed from their day to day responsibilities. By streamlining the referral system, the supply of specialist skills and knowledge reaches the most under-served people. As these exchanges happen though mobile phone technology, Vula Mobile provides real time data that can be harnessed for targeted interventions.

Folding Phoropter

Hyderabad, India

The Folding Phoropter is a highly cost-effective device, which enables mass screenings for refractive error in low- resource settings. The device is built using origami and can be assembled in a matter of minutes. It was inspired by Dr. Manu Prakash’s “Foldscope” and the Google cardboard.

The device was developed by the Srujana Centre for Innovation, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderbad, to combat the lack of access to low cost and user friendly tools for screening for refractive error in low resource areas. Uncorrected refractive errors are the largest cause of avoidable blindness in the developing world.


Bangalore, India

Essmart is a last-mile distribution company for innovative, life-improving technology products, such as affordable reading glasses, solar lighting, and smoke-reducing cookstoves. Essmart is partnered with Essilor, an ophthalmic lens provider, as part of its ‘2.5 New Vision Generation’ initiative which launched in 2013 to increase access to vision correction in emerging countries.

Essilor supplies affordable reading glasses and UV-protection sunglasses, products which Essmart then connects to places where people already shop in India – 15 million local, mom-and-pop retail shops which account for 90% of India’s $550 billion in annual retail spending. Essmart’s urban and rural sales team provides educational marketing, distribution, and after-sales service to these local retail shops, enabling the last-mile adoption of life-improving technologies by villagers.

Information on the Clearly Vision Prize Semi-finalists can be found here.

Maza Transport

Accra, Ghana

MAZA’s mission is to provide timely access to health care for critical conditions in remote rural areas where distances are vast, road networks are limited and transportation is scarce. It leases motorized tricycles to drivers in remote rural communities at a discounted price in exchange for their being on call for urgent and emergency health transportation twice a week.

MAZA’s services currently run in Ghana, and it aims to scale up to offer rural communities in other African countries the same timely access to health care. Through the support of Clearly Vision Prize, MAZA plans to offer “last mile” delivery for vision screening and correction services for eye health institutions in Ghana that cannot afford to cover the full logistic costs.

Smart Focus Vision

Stanford, CA

Smart Focus, a healthcare venture spun-out from Stanford University, delivers unprecedented eye care access to the underserved in China. Uncorrected vision debilitates 30 million children in rural China from learning, because they cannot see the blackboard clearly. The company has developed a portfolio of innovations encompassing screening, a telemedicine platform, machine learning of electronic health records, supply chain, and disruptive medical technology.  

Working in alliance with Luxottica OneSight, the world’s leading eye wear organisation, Smart Focus develops and operates eye care clinics, which have provided sustained access to over one million people to date.  

About James Chen

Born in Asia, raised in Africa and educated in Europe and the US, James Chen is a venture philanthropist with a global outlook.

He is founder of his family office Legacy Advisors Ltd, Chairman of Wahum Group Holdings, a third generation family-owned manufacturing business, and founder of the Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation, which has a focus on early childhood literacy, library development and education enhancement.

James is the founder of Adlens, a global enterprise leading the development and sale of adjustable focus eyewear, and the founder of Vision for a Nation Foundation, a UK charity that supports emerging nations to provide nationwide primary eye care and affordable glasses to all their citizens.

Clearly is the culmination of James’ 12 year journey to improve universal access to eye care. 

Read more here: Clearly Vision Prize calling for innovations in eye care

James Chen Introduces Clearly – a global campaign to help the world to see