November 30, 2018 - Last Week in Review

A note: The approach we've take to publishing these weekly reviews is that on Tuesday we make an outline of the last week's activities. We share it with the team internally. By Friday we aim to complete a post of the activities of the prior week.

Below please find our summary of the activities of the week of November 23rd.

Simplexity / Agile Systems

At the suggestion of HP, we have engaged the two product development teams that HP contracts with for much of their engineering and product development efforts. The firms we engaged are Simplexity, an 80+ person firm and Agile Systems, a 20+ person firm. Both have expertise in developing ink jet printing technology (and more). We have solicited proposals from both firms for assistance in the last phase of the TouchPrinter's development. Through one of the firms, we will complete the design for manufacturing, UL testing, and sourcing of components and manufactuing capacity.


We continue to work with Adam Linn, our ELIA Pilot Program participant. He's been brutally honest about the ELIA design, not letting us rest over letters he finds difficult. We frequently have heated debates. And they have led to improvements in the font across the board. Over the Thanksgiving day week we prepared for new work with Adam and prepared for an expansion of the Pilot program once the Kickstarter rewards are in hand.

Pitch Presentation

Roughly 25% of Reed's and my work is spent on the current round of capital. During the week of the 30th, we revised the investment presentation (aka the pitch deck), to address feedback from advisors, in preparation for presentations in December and January. Some of those presentations require that the presentation include specific information. So we adjusted it accordingly.

SBIR Research

In preparation for a January 5th SBIR grant submission, we have been coding and designing our computer simulated visual impairment tools for the study. Last week Byron worked on how to design a system that can take research participant's responses and feed them into a confusion matrix for analysis.

ELIA Frame Game

Our computer game progresses. Its beta version can be found at Please let us know your thoughts on its functionality and format.

November 23, 2018 - Last Week in Review

SBIR Research Preparations

We consistently conduct research to better understand our field and develop our expertise and intellectual property. Byron Johnson has been leading preparations for a research effort that will help us cost effectively test and create new tactile symbols. We hypothesize that tactile reading is like visual reading through frosted glass, or while visually impaired. As such, by using computer simulation to create a degraded image that is similar to the experienced in both tactile exploration and visual impairment, we can quickly and inexpensively test new tactile symbols and graphics. Byron has been busy creating assets that can generate images along two continuums of degradation - limiting contrast and / or blurring the images. These images reside in a database that feeds the test monitor. The subject will give their responses to the images. Responses will be collected by the program and fed into a confusion matrix for analysis. Error rates and common confustions will be evaluated. Based on the findings, designs and design features will be prioritized for use with new alphabets or graphical symbols.

Keyboard Development

Through our connection to Emily Sauer of Oh-Nut (a fantastic Start up that also Kickstarted), we were introduced Andrew Brase, a design and prototyping professional who is managing our silicon keyboard overlay design and production. We had extensive discussions regardin the effort. We have recently recruited him to taken over the effort as our staff's bandwidth has been curtailed. Furthermore, he is outstanding. Over the next two months, the overlays will be produced and shipped to customers.

Jon Bobrow discussions

We met with Jonathan Bobrow, an advisor and collaborator who leads the game development company Move38. He also completed a Kickstarter in the spring. He will be manufacturing his products in China and had helpful advice and insights into design for manufacturing. His products are beautiful. They look like something Apple would launch.

We also discussed general business challenges and agreed to establish a peer-to-peer advisory group that will meet at NEW INC. I'll share more on that later.

Jim Fructherman Communications and Retirement

Through Charles King of Housing Works we reconnected with Jim Fructherman, a legend and a pioneer in our field. Among the companies and initiatives he has created is BookShare, which enables people who have a print disability to access a giant library of the latest books. We have in regular disucssions with foks at Benetech and touched base with Jim over the possibility for additional collaboration. We were especially keen to work with him and/or Benetech on a "Moon Shot" to create a dense tactile graphical display. Jim shared that he is retiring and that Betsy Beaumon will be taking the reigns of the company. Others are working on a tactile display. We congratulate both of them on their milestones!

Related to the matter, in partnership with Sassy Outwater Wright, of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, we are advocating that greater resources be devoted to this effort. In effect, the effort would be a "Moon Shot." By our calculations, less than $3 million per year are devoted towards a new tactile display. A Moon Shot would be $25 million per year. Within 10 years, we expect that a robust device would be commercialized.

Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) Technology Meeting

On Saturday the 17th we attended an FFB sponsored technology forum at the Andrew Heiskill Library for the Blind. Chancey Fleet spoke, as did Dorrie Rush of OEPatients, and Fernando Albertorio. Dorrie discussed the suite of new apps for people who have a visual impairment. Fernado demostrated the Sunu Band, a navigation device for people who have a visual impairment.


We also spoke with Allen Bromberg about legal representation. His groundbreaking work for both Social Impact investors and entrepreneurs has helped build our community's best practices, and enabled entrepreneurs and investors to build common ground and great companies.

Our current consul, Paul Oakley, who has been with us for ten years, has recently reduced his legal work in order to better serve the start up he joined, named Ori. They have a fantastic modular furniture innovation that allows people to seamlessly shift a central piece of furniture from one side of a room to another, thereby better utilizing an apartment's space.

Printer Development

We contiue to collaborate with two product development companies (PBCs) to develop our Touchprinter. Our partnership and licensing representative at HP, Paul Barton, recommended that we seek out the PBCs for the final stages, as they can add custom firmware, help with design for manufacturing and manufacturing assessment. The PDCs will submit proposals for collaboration and we will engage one of them.

November 16, 2018 - Last Week in Review

NEW INC Pitch Presentations and Employment discussions The week began with meetings with Code Society, SOW, StreetWise and a social impact investor at NEW INC. In addition to giving a presentation to the group about our work, we learned from both SOW and Code Society about students who do not attend college, and how it is easy for them to get lost between the ages of 17-24. They don’t have the technical skills necessary to thrive in the information economy, especially in the STEAM fields. This mirrors the experiences of recent high school grads who have a visual impairment.

Subsequent to the conversation, we reviewed Census Bureau Statistics from both the SIPP and the ACS surveys regarding education and empllyment. We plan to share that data, as if demonstrated how important a college education is for people who have a visual impairment. As one might imagine, employment rates drop much further for a person who has a visual impairment and no college degree(compared to those with a collage degree) than for a person without and impairment who doesn’t have a college degree (compared to college educated peers).

Folks Kitchen Wear One of our industrial design advisors, Charlie Morgan, shared information regarding the Folks Kitchen Wear collection. It is a thoughtfully well designed tool that enables B&LV folks to prepare meals. We will be looking into their products further.

ELIA Game We created a video game and launched it on Friday. It challenges people to translate words in our font using a keyboard. It includes quotations from famous people and classical music. Please let us know your thoughts. It can be found here.

Printer Development We are in discussions to partner with one of HP’s recommended product design firms. The expectation is that they will share their expertise in firmware development and paper path optimization. Furhermore, for this final stage, they will help us design for manufacturing.


The Pilot continues, with Adam Linn gaining speed and sharing insights into what it is like to learn and read the ELIA Frames font. Adam has done a good job of learning the alphabet, mastering the reading skills required for ELIA, advising us both on design and content, and helping us steer the company towards productive waters.

Kickstarter -

The Kickstarter rewards progressed this week. The ELIA Keyboards are in the process of design and manufacturing. The ELIA Poster is undergoing final font updating before it is sent to print.

November 9, 2018 - Last Week in Review

This week was a blur. We participated in the Investors Circle - Social Venture Network Bridge to the Future Conference in Brooklyn NY. It was great to see old friends in the social entrepreneurship community, to learn best practices, to share ideas, and to develop new relationships.

The top three takeaways (and there were many) were:

1) Transparency and alignment of values is essential between a company and its stakeholders.

One of the seminars I attended was entitled Social Impact Term Sheets (by Allen Bollenger and Teresa Fahl). I frankly did not know how specific and fascinating this would be. I thought they would just discuss normal financal term sheets for companies raising capital and investors considering investments. I never imagined that a term sheet could include social impact performance measures that were agreed upon by both parties. Of course, in hindsight it makes sense that this could be included in a term sheet. I would not have considered doing so, if not for Allen and Teresa's presentation. Now ELIA PBC will ensure that the social impact measures are considered in our term sheets. These terms add to a relationship of transparency whereby the investors and the company ensure that their values align.

Ben and Jerry's, when they sold to Unilever, had hundreds of clauses in the agreement that locked in their social impact values, almost a hundred of which were binding to the continuing operations of the brand. Many of these values and practices proliferated into the larger company's practices.

Transparency was discussed in other business practies as well, including compensation, internal company town hall meetings, supply chain sustainability, financing and social impact reporting to the public. Jeff Hollender shared his radical transparency practices at 7th Generation, spoke of the difficulties and reviewed instances where they aggressively aligned their values with their operations.

2) Raising capital is at least a 25% of your day job. It comes with much more rejection than your normal work. It takes persistance and it takes preparation and constant communication. Also, regarding forms of capital, there were indepth discussions of revenue based investments. The concept is logical, though we have never considered such a vehicle.

3) There is encouraging progress on recycling, energy use, and corporate social responsibility. We aren't moving fast enough, but despite a legislative headwind, the green sector hasn't stopped innovating and making progress.

Printer - Design File Sharing with Product Development Firms

Our partner HP recommended that we do what they do - leverage product design (PD) firms to enhance our engineering capabilites and accelerate our progress. Thus, we have been sharing printer files with PD firms, with the expectation that we may collaborate with them to

Keyboard - Prototyping

For our silicon overlay, we've engage Andrew Brase. He was recommended to us by Emily Saner, of Ohnut. They are both awesome. Our very own Dan Periard is working on the mechanical keyboard prototyping and that is coming along as well.

Pilot - What we learned this week

At the smallest font size (0.7 cm) Adam slows down to identify the letter Y, which, at that size, feels similar to the F. We will try an extended frame for the letters K, V, W, X, Y and Z. We don't view the font as uncustomizable. Just as other fonts can be modified to be bold, italicized, underlined,or at different font sizes, so too ELIA Frames can be customized for a user's needs.

Financing - Additional conversations

Through the IC-SVN conference we spoke with several investors in the social impact space. They were very helpful and we will continue to follow up with them. We'll apply for the Investors Circle December pitch event. And we may have a presentation to an impact investor this week. Based on the conference, we are revising our financing and metrics page, to provide more meaningful information. Financial projections are always only as valuable as the set of assumptions that feed them. We'll focus our presentation slide on those meaningful measures of our success, and we'll tighten up the projection methods behind the revenue, gross profit and operating profit estimates.

Boston Trip Follow Up

We were in contact with Dina Rosenthal and Jane Wiseman about possibly working with the Carroll Center for the Blind and establishing a pilot program. It would have been pretty cool. it won't work out to work with this semesters residents. They suggested that we circle back to them for a possible Spring collaboration.

We will probably be speaking with other folks we met in Boston next week. And we'll be sending the new presentation to Paul Marz of the South Shore group.