The competition is stiff and the time is incredibly short – five minutes, to be precise.
That is the time allotted to persuade investors to grant them the first place spot and a million dollars in the Chivas Venture competition, the final phase of which will take place on 24 May in Amsterdam.
Vying with 26 start-ups from all over the world, Piraeus native Ignatios Fotiou is representing Greece in an international social entrepreneurship competition with his Seatrac beach ramp, which allows free, autonomous access to the sea for disabled swimmers.
“We began with the aim of helping disabled people to enjoy swimming. They tell us we show respect for their dignity. What remains as an objective is to change the way that a minority is treated. Help us make waves to change the world,” Fotiou said.
The 38-year-old, Patras University-trained mechanical and aeronautical engineer conceived of his project in 2009, as a graduate student.
Deputy Prefect Gerasimos Fessian, who uses a wheelchair, told Fotiou that he wants to go swimming without assistance.
By 2010, the first Seatracs had been installed at the beaches of Agios Vasileios, Rio, and Akolis, in Aigion.
“It was the result of collaboration with my friend Yorgos Sotiriadis and Professor Vasilis Kostopoulos, who told us that the level of a society’s interest in people who are confronted with difficulties is a measure of its civilisation.
The Seatrac mechanism is powered with a solar panel and uses rails on which a specially-designed seat moves from the beach to the sea and back, by simply pushing a button on a control panel.
Already, Seatracs have been installed on 61 beaches in Greece, Italy, and Cyprus. They were used over 13,000 times in the summer of 2017.