A “locked-in” patient refers to someone who has full cognitive abilities but is unable to move or speak, rendering communication near impossible.
Communication devices for these patients are expensive and rely on visual feedback, meaning users are unable to communicate when they are not calibrated to the screen of the device.
Enter EyeControl, a wearable, screenless communication device, which enables communication by intuitive eye gestures and vocal feedback, eliminating the need for users to be calibrated to a screen.
We spoke to Or Retzkin, CEO and Co-Founder of EyeControl, about how his company is changing the lives of “locked-in” patients.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
All of the founders of the company have a personal connection to “locked-in” patients. In addition, one of the founders is also a “locked-in” patient himself. Their personal experiences in coping with the hardships, frustrations and sadness caused by the loss of communication, led them to create a unique solution, the EyeControl device.
Why do you think your company has been successful?
The founders all have a strong work ethic and have shown excellence and professionalism in their previous endeavours. They have committed themselves to building a cohesive, hard-working team that shares the same values and dedication. The success of the company is due to the strong commitment of the entire team. In addition, we are supported by advisors who are experts in their fields, sharing their wealth of knowledge and providing the needed guidance to keep up on track.
Describe your experience of the Creator Awards
It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The WeWork staff were incredibly supportive, helpful, and encouraging. The other Creators were inspiring, and supportive. Although it was a competition, there never felt like there was any of the normal tension one generally associates with competitive events.
What’s been your biggest achievement to date?
Our biggest achievement to date is not only having built a team that is dedicated to the mission of giving “locked-in” patients the ability to communicate, but also having built a community that supports our mission.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
One of the biggest challenges that every startup faces is securing financial resources from investors who share the same agenda of the company and can positively contribute to the development of their product.
What’s your team structure like?
Even though there is an underlying hierarchy of founders and employees, we all work together as equal members on the team, with each member helping and supporting the rest of the team.
Name one past failure that contributed to your success.
For almost 5 years I kept trying to solve this global problem with an existing technology (AdSpec – fluid filled eyeglasses). I knew that they would technically be able to scale to meet the need, but kept running into the cost and aesthetics issues (they were too expensive to be viable, and to ugly for many to were them). It wasn’t until I took a critical eye at the assumptions that I realised that something had to change drastically if this was going to work.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business or applying for a job at a startup?
Starting a business of your own or working for a startup requires an extreme level of dedication. This dedication needs to be backed by a passion to succeed, 100% belief in the mission and countless hours. My advice is to put your heart in it but don’t forget to find ways to maintain balance with the rest of your life.
How do you measure success?
We measure our success by the amount impact that we create. Our contribution to the assistive technology field will not only impact locked-in patients but will spread to the loved ones and caregivers who are also affected by the loss of communication. All those involved in bringing the company to success will witness the positive change that each one of us can create.
What’s your ultimate ambition?
To build our company as a market leader in the field of assistive technology.
How can companies nurture a more diverse team?
It is important for companies to recognise that talent comes in many forms. In order for a company to be successful in building and nurturing a diverse team, the idea needs to be supported at all levels. Including team members from different backgrounds provides different perspectives and adds strength to the team. To maintain a diverse team, it is important to create an atmosphere where team members can share their professional experience and be empowered by being included in the decision-making process. When doing this, team members feel valued and respected, regardless of their background. In order for the team to be harmonious, they should not only be diverse but they should all share the same dedication to the mission.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about EyeControl?
At EyeControl, we pride ourselves on doing everything with integrity and we keep in mind that it is possible to do well while doing good.
What does the future hold for EyeControl?
We already have ideas for how our unique technology can be used in further applications. We envision a future of steady growth as we continue to develop solutions for assistive communication and expand our technology into other fields.
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