“Clear eyesight is the gateway to education, prosperity, safety and self-sufficiency.”
For those of us with clear eyesight it can be easy to take for granted, to forget that not everyone has access to corrective eyewear. Global Vision 2020 is a charity looking to improve people’s quality of life by developing a kit that allows anyone to deliver prescription eyeglasses.
We caught up with J. Kevin White, Executive Director at Global Vision 2020, to find out why the company has been successful and his plans for future expansion.
Images courtesy of WeWork
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Long story – it started when I observed military doctors dispensing eyeglasses in Morocco. I realised how inefficient the distribution of donated eyeglasses was, and started working on ways to improve that system.
Why do you think your company has been successful?
The majority of existing companies working on this problem tackle the problem with conventional approaches (1 year of training for instance). We see ourselves as a technology/industry disrupter that can change that educational requirement from 1 year to less than one day, and the outcome (at least for the patient) is identical when it comes to getting a usable, affordable, pair of eyeglasses. The only difference is the USee system costs significantly less.
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?
Screening all children in four High Schools in Maputo City, Mozambique, and giving all that needed eyeglasses their first pair.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Building a network of partners (especially those that fund distributions) to facilitate the growth of operations in places like Mozambique.
What’s your team structure like?
Our team is small by both design and necessity. We do not see your job as going into places in the developing world to screen for and distribute eyeglasses to solve poor vision. Our job is to enable existing networks (school teachers, community healthcare workers, etc.) to have that capability. Once these networks can get the kits and learn the systems, exponential growth can be possible.
What was your dream career as a child?
I wanted to be a farmer. More specifically, I wanted to drive a tractor.
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 too ugly for many to wear 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?
Evaluate your level of passion for the mission. If you get bored talking about the same topic, thinking about ways to improve your processes and trying to recruit others to help you, then a startup is probably not for you.
How do you measure success?
Success is another kit, making it into the hands of a refractionist, changing peoples lives.
What’s your ultimate ambition?
The USee kits will be a ubiquitous kit that can be found in any pharmacy, or corner store in the developing world, where anyone can walk in, turn a pair of dials, and walk out seeing 20/20 (perfect vision).
How can companies nurture a more diverse team?
Value diversity in all of its forms – age, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and make that diversity part of your company fabric. Participate in community events that highlight diversity, and encourage others in your company to do the same.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your business?
That it exists. That our vision distribution solution is clinically trialled, and it works. That solving global refractive error (a problem that effects 2.5 billion people world wide) is solvable. We just need some help!
What does the future hold for your company?
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