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10 September, 2014 - 09:13 By Tony Quested

Google backs Cambridge smartphone for the blind

Soraya Jones, CEO of Cambridge Wireless

A Cambridge UK wireless technology startup that has developed a smartphone for the blind has turned the heads of Google and looks set to land multi-million pound investment.

Zone V is already being backed by ARM and Qualcomm and is set to complete a final round of investment funding. The business is also considering inviting investors to come in at £50k as part of a consortium to make up the last £1 million required to develop the device.

The funding surge has been handed a timely boost by Google via an introduction to Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs. Google for Entrepreneurs has joined forces with Blackbox Connect for a high-profile showcase in Palo Alto this autumn designed to open new horizons for non-US innovators.

Zone V is one of only 16 companies globally chosen for the Californian programme. The partners have identified the most innovative startups chosen from hundreds of applicants all over the world.

The two-week immersion programme is designed to help non-US start-ups to access resources, scale their companies globally and present their ideas to Silicon Valley’s business and technical experts.

Running from September 29 to October 10, the programme is packed with mentoring, pitch coaching sessions and networking opportunities with investors and executives from the Valley.

Zone V is focused on empowering the aging and visually impaired through inclusively designed smartphones and apps which address not only regular sighted seniors but also blind and partially sighted people. It is a member of the Cambridge Wireless members network.

Abhi Naha, CEO and founder of Zone V said: “We have been very fortunate to attract some of the leading companies in the world to create a very positive impact in our Digital Inclusion vision.”

Soraya Jones, CEO of Cambridge Wireless, added: “I’ve seen Zone V grow from strength to strength and we are delighted to see the company selected for this prestigious programme. This is extraordinary news for the entire Cambridge technology cluster and the CW SIG Champion community.

“We will continue to support Abhi, our founder member and SIG Champion, in his efforts to gain traction to raise the final million.”

• The Silicon Valley programme culminates with a demo day at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California where all selected startup founders will have a unique opportunity to pitch their ideas to industry specialists, angel investors and VCs from the Silicon Valley community.

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