This is the latest in my series of posts spotlighting underrepresented communities around the world and the entrepreneurs trying to help them. In this installment, I talk to the CoFounder of Andromium, a company trying to turn your smartphone into a desktop computer.

There's little doubt that smartphones have completely taken over most of the world. We may not think of it often, but with innovation happening each year, the phones we carry in our pockets actually rival the power of the typical desktop computer. The most affordable smartphones today are often more capable than the most affordable computers from ten years ago.

That leads to a big question: why do we need both? Shouldn't there be a way to use your smartphone as a fully-functioning computer?

Andromium, creator of "Superbook," is trying to do that. It's a laptop-like device that transforms your phone's interface to that of a desktop computer.

In just 12 days, the product brought in $1.3 million on Kickstarter. The goal for the campaign was only $50,000.

"The Superbook is a shell that turns any Android smartphone into a complete laptop. On the hardware side, think of it as a standard laptop shell that comes with a 11.6-inch screen, keyboard, trackpad and battery. It connects into any modern Android phone device. You can use any of the apps and the files directly on your phone, but in a desktop interface," explains Andrew Jiang, CoFounder of Andromium.

"On the software side, we've built an app called Andromium. What Andromium does is it makes Android function just like a familiar desktop interface. Think about right-clicking, having notifications, being able to do multi-screen, multi-tasking. Combined, it allows you to use all of the things on your phone just as you would with a regular laptop."

 

Opportunities Abound in the Developing World

Superbook works with any Android device. It costs $99. It opens up a myriad of  opportunities for underserved communities around the world where people can't afford a standalone laptop, especially in developing countries.

"We've been talking to a close friend of the Nelson Mandela family around the Freedom Movement," Jiang says. "There are so many mobile devices in the world that can be donated especially for kids in schools. Having additional cell phones or smartphones doesn't really do them any good. What we can allow, essentially these kids in South Africa school to do, is to use the computing capability of  all the leftover smartphone devices, of which they are many, and do things like read books, go online, create documents."

The Nelson Mandela Foundation doesn't directly involve itself with commercial projects like Superbook, but Andronium is providing support by allowing its customers to donate a Superbook to The Freedom Movement Campaign. Through its Kickstarter campaign, which has more than 8,000 backers, anyone can buy a Superbook for use in South African schools.

"We'll take care of shipping support, as well as making sure that the other schools get online. What the campaign has been so far, before we got involved, was a telecom company, our phone provider, was providing a bunch of smartphone units to the schools so that kids could use them for educational purposes," Jiang says.

With plans to ship in January 2017, the Superbook is more than another piece of cool tech; it's an affordable product that can make a difference. By allowing better access to technology, as well as access to the internet, Jiang sees more people being able to advance from a labor jobs to knowledge jobs, allowing them to earn more and help nations grow as a whole.

If you like stories about entrepreneurs helping out underserved communities, check out some of the other stories in the series. Meet the entrepreneur who went from  troubled little brother to 'Big Brother of the Year.' Or, meet one of  the first Latina CEOs to interview at YCombinator, and how she's looking to curb workplace bias.

Published on: Aug 2, 2016