Happy Valley’s Kijenzi Enables World-Class Manufacturing for Anyone, Anywhere

January 3, 2022
At the beginning of COVID, the Kijenzi team presented their work to a team of doctors and administrators from Kisumu County. They delivered 100 NIH-approved face shields for use at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching & Referral Hospital and provided 900 more in the following weeks.

Started right here in Happy Valley, Kijenzi is now developing solutions to deliver medical equipment to remote areas in four different countries around the world utilizing 3D printing. The founding team at Kijenzi came together through Penn State's humanitarian engineering and social entrepreneurship program.

“We launched out of the university and kept Happy Valley as our home,” John Gershenson, CEO and co-founder of Kijenzi, says.

“Kijenzi is democratizing supply chains by creating a network of global digital manufacturing hubs that localize manufacturing in lower and middle-income countries,” Gershenson says. “These hubs are all networked on a quality and workflow platform that enables world-class manufacturing for anyone, everywhere.”

Kijenzi began making spare parts for malaria-detecting microscopes in Kenya and has since delivered more than 13,000 products to clients in four countries. Whether it’s spare parts for OEMs, prosthetics production for hospital systems, product manufacturing for local companies or local production for international companies, all of Kijenzi’s clients have the same thing in common – they have specific and dynamic needs that are not being met by a supply chain built on off-shore mass production.

“Kijenzi is democratizing supply chains by creating a network of global digital manufacturing hubs that localize manufacturing in lower and middle-income countries,” Gershenson says. “These hubs are all networked on a quality and workflow platform that enables world-class manufacturing for anyone, everywhere.”

A Lack of 3D Printers Wasn’t the Problem

Kijenzi’s original concept was to create an easily moveable 3D printer to quickly produce health equipment like braces, clamps and vacuum pumps at low cost. But by working in Kenyan communities, the inventors soon realized the lack of 3D printers wasn’t the problem. What was really needed was access to the CAD design files needed to print the equipment. This changed the team’s focus from printing, to developing a system that allows hospitals to have access to these files and to trained people to print the parts. 

“I am not sure that Kijenzi would have made it through its earliest days without the partnership with Ben Franklin.”

Kijenzi now has a catalog of items that allows hospitals to order what they need at a fraction of the original price, and it’s solving a global problem that’s huge, going far beyond the original health equipment and malaria-detecting microscopes that Kijenzi started with. After all, the issue of inefficient and incomplete supply chains plagues institutions and businesses in the majority of lower-resourced areas around the world, the need for spare parts and products exists in nearly every industry, and digital manufacturing can be used for much more than just plastic parts.

Another Ben Franklin Technology Partners Success Story

Kijenzi is one of the many businesses and success stories that received early-stage investment and mentorship through Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Ben Franklin Technology Partners made a pre-seed convertible debt investment in Kijenzi’s business model in 2019.

“Ben Franklin Technology Partners came on board at an early stage when few others would have. Thanks to their infusion of early capital and their mentorship, we had the room to figure out an early business model that led to follow-on funding and grants,” Gershenson adds. “I am not sure that Kijenzi would have made it through its earliest days without the partnership with Ben Franklin.”

“While not the center of the startup universe, with Ben Franklin, 1855 Capital and the new Penn State Innovation Hub, [Happy Valley] is growing and it is a place from which you can launch – and the mountain biking is great!”

For 40 Years, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA has provided startup funding and business support services to tech-based startups and small manufacturers located across Pennsylvania.

“While not the center of the startup universe, [with] Ben Franklin, 1855 Capital and the new Penn State Innovation Hub, [Happy Valley] is growing and it is a place from which you can launch – and the mountain biking is great!” Gershenson says.

For more information visit www.kijenzi.com

 

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