US venture capitalists Sequoia Capital Operations LLC and Andreessen Horowitz are backing a tech startup that says it’s the world’s largest medical drone delivery service, sending 148 types of medicine to areas around Ghana.
San Francisco-based Zipline International Inc struck a deal with the West African nation’s government to make on-demand deliveries of vaccines, blood products and other treatments, Chief Executive Officer Keller Rinaudo said an interview from Omenako, the site of the first distribution centre about 70 kilometres north of the capital, Accra.
Venture capitalist funds invest in early stage companies they see as having the potential for rapid growth.
Sequoia’s investments include room-booking giant Airbnb Inc, while Andreessen Horowitz was a backer of Pinterest Inc ahead of the IPO.
At completion, the project will make as many as 600 deliveries a day in less than 30 minutes per trip to 2,000 health facilities in four regions with a population of 22 million people, the CEO said.
The infrastructure investment is “in the tens of millions of dollars,” he added.
The rollout in Ghana followed after Zipline started deliveries of blood products to 25 hospitals in Rwanda in 2016.
“Healthcare is an unsolved problem globally,” the CEO said. ‘A couple of really forward-thinking, innovative governments in Africa decided to be the first ones to solve the problem.”
Zipline will launch two similar projects elsewhere in the next two years, including North Carolina, according to a company statement.
One of the biggest obstacles is working with national civil aviation authorities on the regulation of the drone service, Rinaudo said.