Mansata Kurang is the founder of VR Revival, an immersive virtual reality application for BAME dementia patients. OneTech is proud to have supported Mansata through access to WeWork workspace and the pre-Accelerator FFWD. She is an advocate for others within entrepreneurship and regularly gets involved in wider OneTech events – we’re very proud to have her as part of the OneTech community.
VR Revival creates different tailored scenarios with scenery and music from Africa and the Caribbean accessed via a headset.
It is a therapeutic tool designed to bring joy into the lives of dementia patients. It also performs an educational function for families to talk more and recognize the signs of dementia earlier. It has the potential to bridge the digital divide between young and old, as gaming is mostly enjoyed by younger generations but this can be fun for older people and for families to do together.
It can be used in care homes but also in a family environment, as personalised entertainment, and to create bonds between family members who can often be stressed and embarrassed by the patient’s condition.
“I realised it’s my mission to make a difference”
Where did your business idea come from?
The idea came up two years ago when I set up my foundation looking into how arts and music impact on the brain and can help dementia patients. In May 2018 I went to a hackathon and realised the potential because nothing is happening in this space for the BAME community currently.
I come from Gambia in West Africa. Mental illness is rife and it’s still a huge issue that no one’s willing to tackle. Through VR Revival people are starting to talk about it and that’s the whole point. That’s what I want. To de-stigmatise these issues and use technology as a bridge to provide the help that people need. I realised it’s my mission to make a difference.
What challenges have you faced?
At the hackathon, I met collaborators who brought a technical background that I lacked. We’re building a polygon so it takes so many different skills. But it didn’t work out in the end and I had co-founder fall out. That was very difficult. I actually had to learn and build everything myself. So it has all taken longer than I anticipated.
How do you overcome the challenges?
It’s so important to surround yourself with positive and skilled people. I always make sure I have the right professionals around me. My experience from setting up a foundation and a tech business is that if you’re doing something for the right reasons, the right people will show up.
“I’ve had to work out my own definition of success. You have to push beyond those boundaries that might be restrictive”
How does your culture influence your business decisions?
If I had listened to my culture I wouldn’t be doing this. I’ve had to work out my own definition of success. You have to push beyond those boundaries that might be restrictive. For instance, I’m female so I can’t do this because we are male-dominated. I didn’t have the skills, in business, medicine or tech. You have to almost step away from a little and evaluate where you want to go regardless.
What is your background? Is it an advantage or disadvantage to you as a tech founder?
I would say an advantage is having a good educational background. But with that comes an obligation to family and especially to parents. It’s a huge thing in my community. It’s almost like your family helps you and then you help them.
When I worked in finance I could send money to my family and all that was rocked when I became an entrepreneur, as I couldn’t afford to do that anymore. There was that element of guilt that I had to get through. It took a lot of strength to say I believe in myself and I want to live my own life.
“I do believe if I had been another race and another gender I would have been a lot further on by now”
What is your experience as a black woman in tech?
I do believe if I had been another race and another gender I would have been a lot further on by now. I’ve proven that I should have got funding by now. I still get a lot of rejections and I’ve seen this in my career as well. Even when I graduated top in my class with two degrees I just wouldn’t get jobs. I’d like to see more meritocracy. People being actually rewarded for what they’re capable of.
Ultimately it’s the funding that’s always a blocker because you get to that demo day and it results in nothing. So I wish there are people who genuinely want to put their money where their mouth is, because there are really, really good businesses out there.
What is your message to inspire underrepresented founders?
Have courage! And be curious!
You don’t need a degree or lots of resources. You can just go to the Internet and teach yourself a whole bunch of stuff.
Don’t feel you’re above or below anyone. You’re equal to anyone you know- you just need that courage to reach out to experienced and successful people. When you have a clear strategy and people know what you want to achieve you can really attract resources.
Sometimes you need that one person pushing you or celebrating you. It can just be that step that someone needs to push forward.
What are your plans for your business?
I really want to make an impact on the mental health space for low and middle-income countries.
I also want to generate wealth because I do believe that’s the way we can move forward. A lot can be done in investing back.