About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

WeWALK – intelligent navigation for visually impaired people

What are we doing?

Nesta’s impact investments team backs tech ventures working in areas that align with our 2030 impact goals. Nesta’s healthy life mission looks to increase the number of healthy years lived by all, with one area of focus on combating loneliness. We have made our first investment of £750K towards this goal in backing WeWALK.

Nesta has made this investment alongside King’s Health Partners (KHP Ventures) and APY Ventures, as well as notable angel investors including the Manchester City and German international footballer İlkay Gündoğan. Additional support in this round comes from Innovate UK’s (IUK) Healthy Ageing Partnership, with £240K of grant project funding alongside the investment.

WeWALK’s first product, launched in 2019, is a smart cane that connects to a smartphone app to make navigation easier, safer and more accessible for the 253 million visually impaired people worldwide. The smart cane detects above-ground obstacles missed by a typical cane, provides navigation prompts and updates users with key details such as bus and train timings. It also includes an exploration mode to notify users of nearby points of interest such as restaurants. The WeWALK platform aims to radically change how people with visual impairments move around public spaces.

Why are we doing this?

The impact of improved mobility and independence for visually impaired people is significant in addressing loneliness. Over 25% of visually impaired people suffer social isolation while 48% suffer moderate or severe loneliness. This is far higher than the general population and the WeWALK smart cane has the potential to be a key part of solving this problem.

What's next

With this funding, the WeWALK team is planning to push the capabilities of their tools even further. Working in partnership with Imperial College London and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the team will use this investment to develop “computer vision” capabilities for the smart cane. This will empower users with far more information about what’s around them including signage, approaching buses and integration with a wide-range of smart city technologies.

The WeWALK team have lived and professional experience of visual impairment. They plan to extend their innovation to help other groups of people with reduced mobility. This might include the enhancement of walking sticks for older people, or the development of navigation tools for people with dementia to stay safe.

Nesta’s Healthy Ageing Investment Partnership with Innovate UK attracted grant funding to support WeWALK’s project to develop a mobility tracking system for the monitoring and diagnostics of age-related mobility problems. This will extract mobility data, such as cane swipe and gait, fall/incident detection, and mobility metrics. It forms the foundation for predictive analytics to be used by mobility coaches and clinicians, which should include a monetisation strategy.

“WeWALK’s products are already transforming the lives of visually impaired people across the world by improving their mobility, but there’s so much more to be done. We want to scale our business to reach a wider global audience and advance our technology to offer better, more meaningful information to visually impaired people, older people, and anyone that faces mobility challenges. This VC-backed round will enable us to unlock that next phase of development and transform mobility for millions.”

WeWALK Co-founder and CEO, Gökhan Meriçliler


Tolly Humphreys

Tolly Humphreys

Tolly Humphreys

Investment Manager, Impact Investment

Tolly is an investment manager in Nesta’s Impact Investment team. He works on transactions across Nesta’s impact missions with a focus on healthy ageing.

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