Meet the Woman who’s Changing the Lives for Individuals with Hearing Loss
Elevate is looking to feature Canada’s most promising AI startups on stage at this year’s festival through our ElevateR Pitch.
ElevateR Pitch is a March Madness-style pitch competition where Canada’s best AI startup companies compete for the attention of international media, investors and global tech leaders. Finalists from across Canada will face-off with over $1,000,000 CAD in funding up for grabs for select finalists. On Tuesday, September 25 at the Sony Centre, the final four companies will get to pitch live on Elevate Main Stage right before Al Gore’s keynote.
We interviewed the founder of Lisnen, Eyra Abraham, who is an applicant for the ElevateR pitch this year. She developed a mobile app that detects specific sounds for the deaf and hard of hearing. Learn more about her inspirational story below.
What problem is your company solving and how?
Lisnen is a mobile app that detects specific sounds for deaf and hard of hearing individuals using their mobile phone and smartwatch. When a fire alarm, sirens or doorbell is resonated in the nearby environment, Lisnen will alert the user using a flashing and vibrating notification indicating the sound identified.
A deaf and hard of hearing individual can miss important sounds that provides information to take timely action but when the communication is broken it makes them feel inadequate, dependent, and less safe in any environment both indoors and outdoors.
Tell us about your lightbulb moment where you came up with the idea.
Lisnen was formed due to a problem that I was experiencing. I grew up with a severe-profound hearing loss. When I moved out of my parents’ house to live on my own, I realize how vulnerable I was. It started one night when I slept through a fire alarm. While, I was safe and nothing happened, I knew I needed an assistive alerting device to help me with hearing things when I don’t have my hearing aids on. What I found was a number of impractical solutions for an active and mobile individual like myself. I decided that I was going to take on the challenge to make this happen.
What was the biggest challenge in your first year?
My biggest challenge in my first year of business is getting started with all the information that is thrown at you to explore. It’s a game of chess trying to figure out what steps and actions you should take or skip with your own situation and path.
What was your turning point?
My turning point was when I had a product-market fit. It was a moment of celebration for me because while I knew I had the problem, I wasn’t sure that others like me had the same issue. I hit the road attending events in Toronto and also in the US to chat with other potential customers. People started to pull out their phone ready to download the app, and I had to tell them it is just an idea at the moment. What I realize was that I had to trust myself and the process will lead me to the answer.
What is your biggest challenge today?
Finding AI experts in machine learning/machine hearing in Toronto with no capital is a challenge. AI is a broad topic and the knowledge and expertise that I need to acquire are within the AI research that applies to sound classification. I’m looking for someone who is willing to challenge themselves to go beyond what they know and have a deep desire to improve on yesterday’s research and build a product that will impact many peoples’ lives.
Best advice you’ve received:
“Know your strength and find others who are smarter than you to do the things that aren’t your strength.” This advice teaches you to be self-aware and know your limits. Bring on other people to support your journey. Be humble and collaborate to get an amazing product that you alone can’t achieve.
Worst advice you’ve received:
“Do it yourself.” This is something that I would like to listen and do but working in silo will take a long time, create burnout, and wouldn’t help you to reach the milestones that you need to develop a sustainable business.
Best perk of your job:
Discovery. I have to say that as I go through the journey of creating my company, I am in love with the unknown: discovering and learning new things and people. Like many of my past careers, I love working on creating a vision into a reality.
Your latest tech discovery:
My latest tech discovery would have to be a deaf technology that allows users to sign to Amazon Alexa and it responds back. This is amazing breakthrough of what is possible for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
One piece of tech from your childhood that you miss:
Floppy disk! We’ve come a long way. Boy, have we!
One thing that excites you about the future of tech:
AI excites me! The possibilities from AI will benefit the deaf and hard of hearing community. As we continue on this path, AI will impact hearing aids and cochlear implants by improving the quality of sound in loud places and assistive devices will improve our everyday needs.
What are you most looking forward to at Elevate?
Elevate, in my opinion, is about strengthening connections within Toronto’s tech community through new and old relationships. I also look forward to hearing from experts across all disciplines and being inspired by other startups ahead of their journey to know what is possible.
Join us September 21-27, 2018 in Toronto to be a part of a diverse and inclusive community at the forefront of innovation. Buy your tickets here.