Q&A with Oded Ben Dov, Co-Founder of Sesame Enable
EdTech Times was honored to speak with Oded Ven Dov, co-founder of Sesame Enable, a startup developing hands-free smartphone technology that can also be of tremendous help for children and students with motor disabilities. Please read how Sesame Enable address the issue of using smartphones for such individuals.
Company at Glance:
Founders: Giora Livne & Oded Ben Dov
Founded: May 2013
Category: Assistive Technology
Product stage: Beta (going to market soon)
LinkedIn company page: http://www.linkedin.com/company/sesame-enable-ltd-
Company Twitter: @sesameenable
Founder Twitter: @odedbendov
ETT: What is the market segment your company is in?
Accessibility solutions in the smartphone space.
ETT: Who are your core customers and how did you come across the problem you’re addressing and how did you define it – what was your process in identifying it?
Our customers are people who suffer from paralysis which denies sufficient operation of hands to control a smartphone or tablet. Giora, the co-founder of the company, saw Oded (other co-founder) displaying gesture technology in a game he developed. Since Giora is paralyzed from the neck down, he immediately connected the dots and realized the potential this technology has for people like him.
After meeting it was clear the two are going to create a touch-free smartphone that could be operated without the use of hands.
ETT: And how did you develop a solution to this particular problem and what was your process of arriving at it?
We started with a Proof of Concept. Then advanced to an initial prototype. Then iteratively bettered the experience on all its aspects. The entire process was done closely with Giora to meet his needs.
ETT: What it is that you’re doing differently than your competitors? And do you expect to develop other differentiators in the future?
Currently there is no real hands-free smartphone anywhere else. Voice control does help somewhat, but it is usually not used extensively, and in any case it is limited in what you can do – e.g. you cannot use Facebook, YouTube, or to draw, play, etc.
The leading competitors are making PC’s accessible, and there too we differ in that we don’t require a special hardware or camera to provide touch free operation. Our competitors come with (sometimes expensive) hardware.
ETT: Please describe your product development strategy and product stage. What we should expect to see from your company in the next 12 months – i.e. describe your potential next milestones?
We’ve just finished a successful Indiegogo campaign, and had 50 Touch-Free Smartphones pre-ordered. These will be supplied, for the first time to the public, in the next few months. We are also working on a tablet version, and are looking into integration with more assistive solutions.
One exciting opportunity is to connect with the Internet of Things, thus effectively giving control over lighting, temperature, televisions and so much more. On heels of our winning the $1M Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award, we are looking forward to expanding and supplying more solutions to more people.
ETT: Are you a disruptor, and why so? Do you believe you will remain as a disruptor in near foreseeable future or become a more mature company? Why is that so?
We are definitely disrupting this space. We’re bringing top-technology into the hottest space around – smartphones. Our competition are quite mature and are moving slowly (if at all) in this space. Developing state of the art algorithms also allowed us to rid the dependence on external hardware, thus dropping the price substantially.
ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was?
My previous company developed iPhone applications that dealt with Computer Vision. That was my focus and strength from my CS studies in the Technion, Israel, and is what differed us from other app developers.
We tracked lecturers in a class, stitched panoramic picture, detected cans in the frame, made games that can be controlled by hand or head gestures, and more.
An older project, around 8 years ago, was porting BOINC – a scientific community for sharing CPU usage towards a search for cancer or signs from space – to the then year-old Android platform. We ported 40,000 lines of C++ to Java, and presented at a conference in Grenoble.
ETT: Did you or do you currently have a mentor who is/has been helping you through the startup stages of the company – who is that mentor?
The person who also invested in Sesame – Sharon Besser – is also offering his ongoing advice and experience. Sharon is also active in our Business Development.
Another mentor, who we met in an Inclusion Accelerator by Presentense – A3i – is Israel Roth, who was kind enough to continue offering his help long after the accelerator was over. His advice is priceless.
And now, after winning Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award – we are looking forward to receive guidance and mentorship from the amazing people at Verizon.
ETT: Where is education technology market going in the next few years?
The education field will pick up on the plethora of technologies existing today. I believe we’ll really see it “come into the 21st century”. Classes will be more interactive, personal, rewarding and professional.
Also, more people will be given access to education resources. For example, our Touch-Free Smartphone means the world for children living with paralysis. They can tap into hundreds of thousands of educational apps, they can socialize with their friends after school, they can submit homework online, and so much more.
ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?
Do it! From my personal experience, there is something extremely rewarding in developing something that is beyond just a game or an app. Many people are waiting for their big break to make a change in the world. When you work on something meaningful, you are doing it on the way to the big success.
Yevgeny Ioffe, or as people call him, Yev, has been working in both the startup world and established companies. His career spans from joining Xplana Learning as it launched to Cengage Learning to MBS Direct when it acquired Xplana in 2009. Yevgeny brings to EdTech Times his passion for start-ups and technology, along with his interest in the ever evolving world of edtech. Yevgeny obtained his BSc and MA from Brandeis University and MBA from Boston College.