At the age of 12 entrepreneur Andrew Bastawrous was diagnosed with severe visual impairment. Today he is the co-founder and CEO of Peek Vision, an organization that helps to identify people with eyesight problems and connect them to local health workers.
Peek uses smartphone-based technology to check sight and generate data that enables health care providers to supply cost-effective, targeted treatment. Their Peek Acuity vision check app and Peek Retina smartphone eye camera adapter are currently used in more than 150 countries worldwide.
Through their innovative approach, Peek has developed partnerships with leading eye health organizations, allowing their technology to translate into treatment for thousands of people. In Botswana, Peek worked with Combat Blindness International and other partners to restore the sight of 2,000 adults who were blind from cataracts. Now they are in the process of working with partners to roll out large-scale eye health screening programs for schoolchildren in Botswana and Kenya – and by the end of 2018, over 200,000 children will have been screened and connected to eye health services.
Andrew's audacious plan
The success of Peek led to Andrew being asked to present at the Venture Lab session of UBS's 2017 Global Philanthropy Forum in St. Moritz, Switzerland. His impressive presentation resulted in him becoming a UBS Global Visionary. But it was another session at the forum, a panel discussion featuring entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and TED talk initiator Chris Anderson, that inspired him to take his work even further.
The panel mentioned the Audacious Project, a TED model that aims to solve large systemic social issues through collaborative philanthropy.
This inspired Andrew to think bigger about how to approach the problem of avoidable blindness and visual impairment; eventually leading to the idea of a USD 1 billion Vision Catalyst Fund together with the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, UBS Optimus Foundation, Essilor, Standard Chartered, and leading eye health organizations.
The Vision Catalyst Fund partnership led to another big moment for Andrew. He had the honor of being invited to give the keynote speech at the 2018 Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey, in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, and other senior figures. During his speech he explained his motivation for starting Peek. "I was diagnosed with severe visual impairment at the age of 12, but I had access to simple treatment – a pair of glasses,” said Andrew.
"I'll never forget the moment I tried them on. For the first time, I saw leaves on trees. Later, I saw stars in the night sky. It was breathtaking. What else had I been missing? It turned out a lot. With that simple pair of glasses, my education, social life and hopes for the future changed dramatically, in fact, the entire trajectory of my life changed."
UBS Group Managing Director Eva Lindholm who is providing guidance to Andrew states, "listening to Andrew's story and seeing his determination actually opened my own eyes. By giving some of my time and expertise, I hope I can contribute to his overarching goal – to improve the lives of people without adequate help and to fully connect them to the word around them."