The current tech industry is full of companies and applications that are looking for an overnight success story. This desire to create a rocket ship leads to shiny new products that founders and investors think are “cool.” However, majority of the time cool doesn’t pay the bills.
Successful companies almost always solve a painful problem for a large group of people. It is widely accepted that founders who experience a problem first hand tend to be more effective at solving it. Transcense, a startup aimed at bridging the communication gap between the hearing impaired and the hearing world, is a great example.
Thibault Duchemin, the CEO, grew up with hearing impaired parents and a hearing impaired sister, which caused him to use sign language throughout his childhood. Skinner Cheng, the Head of Technology, has been hearing impaired since the age of 2. Both of these individuals understand how hard it is for a hearing impaired person to comprehend a group conversation.
Group conversations are quick and dynamic. This makes it hard for the hearing impaired to lip read and comprehend the conversation. The existing solutions of interpreters and captioners are expensive and inflexible. These professionals charge $80 to $120 per hour and it is nearly impossible to plan days in advance every group conversation that you’re going to have.
According to Transcense, 5% of the world’s population (360M people) suffer from disabling hearing loss. These people consistently struggle to comprehend group conversation. Transcense’s solution is a mobile application that translates who is speaking and what is being said. It displays the conversation in text on the screen of your tablet or smartphone and brings back full autonomy to it’s user.
The team of 5 from UC – Berkeley is currently testing an initial prototype and attending the Boost VC accelerator program. They caught my eye on Indiegogo because they are attacking a large problem that can change the quality of life for so many people. This alone does not guarantee them success – they still have to execute, find product / market fit, and successfully scale – but they appear to be in a solid position.
We need more companies and products like this in Silicon Valley. Technology can improve lives – we just need to find the entrepreneurs and investors who are willing to put in the work to make it a reality.