In 4Q 2017, ELIA Life Technology launched an ELIA Pilot Program, became a public benefit corporation, presented to the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual conference and prepared products for market. Here are the highlights:
I. Pilot Program
ELIA Life launched a pilot program through which we’ve begun teaching the ELIA Frames Alphabet and helping blind people use it in their daily lives. Our first participant, Thomas Reid, has learned ELIA and has been reading with it. He’s been providing us with feedback and advice about the presentation and content of program's reading material. We’ve also been interviewing him about his daily life and how we might be of assistance. We are currently recruiting new participants. If you would like to be a part of the pilot, please let us know.
II. American Academy of Ophthalmology Conference 2017 in New Orleans
On the recommendation of Dr. Alan Morse of Lighthouse Guild, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) invited ELIA Life Technology to present our new TouchPrinter and ELIA Frames alphabet at the 2017 AAO International Conference (held this year in New Orleans). As a result of the presentation, we enlisted the support of several members of the vision rehabilitation community. They include Dr. Linda Lam of USC’s Department of Ophthalmology and Rob Nevins, a board member of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).
III. Electropositive, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY Thursday, December 14th, 2017
The company also applied for and was chosen to participate in a showcase of startups from the FutureWorks incubator program, in which ELIA Life Technology took part this year. We got the word out, meeting investors, potential hires, and other interested stakeholders associated with the hardware startup community in New York City. Through FutureWorks, ELIA gained expertise and connections in the hardware space this fall. These connections will be helpful as we launch the TouchPrinter, develop and prototype subsequent products, and build out our team. The investors we met there have also been supportive and interested in our initiatives.
IV. ELIA Life Technology- A Public Benefit Corporation
On November 1st, 2017, ELIA Life Technology, Inc. became a public benefit corporation (PBC). Shareholders and the board of directors voted unanimously for the change to the new for-profit corporate status.
Being a PBC enables the company to pursue and generate profits, while also investing in its social mission – to enable people who are blind or have a visual impairment to obtain full educations and employment, and maintain their literacy and independence. We believe that by investing in the well-being of our customers, we can change the economic dynamics of the blind community.
Part of that effort will be building an ecosystem of products and services that helps the community achieve more. Like a traditional company, we will build and sell assistive hardware, software, and curriculum that enable our customers to achieve more. And those products will generate a profit. We will also provide assistive services that require the collaboration of stakeholders. These services will build a more fertile foundation for our products and result in gains for our customers. They may require a long-term investment that our shareholders understand is building this foundation for greater sustainable growth and impact.
For example, by teaching people the ELIA Frames alphabet and providing them with tools to enjoy its benefits, they can maintain and build high literacy skills. Skills that they need to compete in their educations and the workforce. ELIA Frames can also enable them to use literacy to live more independently day-to-day, minute-to-minute – because we all use the alphabet for basic daily tasks. Research shows that hundreds of millions of people who have a visual impairment and don’t use a tactile alphabet have average rates of employment, education, and independence that are equal to sighted people who have low literacy skills or are illiterate. We believe that that is unacceptable and unnecessary. The technology and tools exist to change this status quo.
By becoming a PBC, we can bring literacy back to our customers. That will require our company’s efforts and those of non-profit organizations, government agencies, and for-profits companies. As a PBC, we can partner with those organizations more easily, because we can more easily share common goals and commit to actions that a purely for-profit company could not. Our hypothesis is that if we focus on the well-being of our customers, and collaborate with other organizations, we can swiftly change the economic and social dynamics of our customers. From a company-profits and value perspective, we also hypothesize that by focusing on the well-being of our customers (not pure profits), we will better understand what they need and be more capable of creating great products to serve those needs. With that understanding we can build a more profitable company, one whose brand is recognized as a leader and a trusted partner. By being a PBC, we have the leeway to pursue social benefits and long-term profits. Pursuing a less balanced approach would result in less of both.
V. ELIA Bookmarks – Back in Stock
The ELIA Bookmarks are back in stock. We originally ordered 2,500 as a way to showcase the alphabet. We gave them away at conferences to people who signed up for our newsletter, and to people we met while networking. After the FastCompany article (XXXXX), people began ordering them from our website and ordered the last of our stock. So we ordered another 2,500. They are one-of-a-kind. The Center for Book Design said that few letterpress professionals could have created them, but ours can. With a smooth two-color print finish and beveled corners they are the best bookmarks you’ll find. And with them, you can introduce people to the ELIA Frames alphabet. Order yours now while they last.
VI. Intern Hire - Isabela Caetano
For the fall 2017 semester, we were fortunate to employ Isabela Caetano as an engineering intern. Isabela is an electrical engineering student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she is the recipient of a Bill and Melinda Gates scholarship. This semester, Isabela advanced several engineering efforts, including our ELIA keyboard prototyping and ELIA Frames stencils. She also collaborated with us on organizational efforts to prepare for our spring Kickstarter and events throughout the fall. And she generally pitched in across the company, including establishing daily and weekly productivity and wellness practices.
This was Isabela’s second internship at ELIA Life. We recruited her through the national STEM educational organization called MOUSE, from which we have worked with six interns.
We expect to utilize the efforts of interns on an ongoing basis. We’ve developed and adopted best practices to get better at hosting and leading them to productive stays with us.