incubator

Update 2.5.19

“Maybe there are things you can’t necessarily measure,” Brady had suggested before the game. “But in the end maybe they’re more important than anything you can measure.”

3D printed ELIA Frame keycap prototypes on a Gigabyte Force K83 mechanical gaming keyboard.

3D printed ELIA Frame keycap prototypes on a Gigabyte Force K83 mechanical gaming keyboard.

Conversation with Sassy Outwater - Wright

We had the opportunity to talk again with Sassy Outwater-Wright of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind. She has been an advisor to us since October. She and I have been talking about what the ELIA community needs in terms of a concerted effort to change the education, employment, literacy and independence dynamics. Given that the blind and visually impaired have such untapped potential and costs, and that that potential for change be measured in the billions of dollars in lost wages and higher health care costs per year, we believe that a multi million dollar effort, a “moon shot” if you will, would be a worthwhile investment in this community. Every year, this community could be making valuable contributions to society, if we can harness the resources for a “barn raising” effort that includes hardware, curriculum development and some basic services. Sassy and I have been discussing who needs to be engaged to serve on the moon shot team and what resources we would need to achieve it. I posted a statistical overview of some of the challenges we face on LinkedIn.

Printer Development

We discussed and chose a new paper path for the printer that will result in the paper exiting the printer on the top of it. From a usability perspective, this is helpful, as the end user can retrieve output from any side of the printer, and it reduces the footprint of the printer. Indeed, the new printer is expected to be 50% smaller than our latest prototype. We also reviewed the electric engineering design and firmware design for the printer. Luckily, our in-house engineering team is led by Steve Getz, who adeptly managed the engineering discussion with Simplexity. The conversation wrapped up with a review of the timeline for this part of the engagement with Simplexity. This phase should conclude by the end of February, at which time we will have a clear road map for the final development of the TouchPrinter. Simplexity has been incredible, both in terms of their unmatched knowledge of our product’s development and in terms of the fluidity with which they are able to collaborate with us.

Kelsa Trom (NEW INC)

I met with Kelsa Trom of NEW INC this past week as well. She is the new programing lead at NEW INC and as such, I wanted to touch base with her and see how we could help her serve its community. There are a few initiatives, such as peer-to-peer check in groups and a social impact entrepreneurship and investing conference. Byron and I would value a peer-to-peer check-ins once a week and have discussed initiating one. If we could reduce the experience to best practices for NEW INC, we believe it could improve the success rates of entrepreneurs at NEW INC and make it a force for change in much the same way that Y-Combinator is a force. And indeed, a Paul Graham blog post from 2007 inspired this effort. It is worth a read if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur. And indeed, I would highly recommend you share it with any entrepreneur you know. It will change their lives.

Adam Linn and Community Development

Our discussions with Adam this week were informed by our meeting last week with Tom DeRosa. We reviewed labels. We discussed what we could do better, such as:

  1. Getting a small group of blind people together to learn ELIA and to teach us
  2. Giving a TED talk where we would share Adam’s experience with ELIA Frames and what it could mean for society
  3. Building relationships with 3M and other companies for prototyping

Check out @Linnspired here!

Project Management Software

One of our advisors, Rick Mangi, the CIO of Chartbeats, recommended that we manage our projects with project management (PM) software. So we have licenses for Merlin, which works on the Mac. PM has been a part of the week, as Byron has spent time to learning the ins and outs of it.

Merlin Project logo shown

Merlin Project logo shown

PM breaks a project down into tasks and subtasks, with dependent tasks delineated. It’s good for repeat projects like SBIR grants and for general large projects, but even for smaller ones. It is hard to escape the realities of a project when you’ve made a PM document. You can better budget your time and resources. Furthermore, if you are fatigued or don’t know what to do next, it acts as a surrogate brain, reminding you what comes next. And if you have 30 minutes here or there, sometimes you can just choose an easier task and square that away. It is also a good document to share across the team. Anyone can pick the document up and know where the project stands. …..We are still getting our feet wet with PM, but look forward to crushing tasks using it.

Update 1.29.19

Last week we continued to develop our collaborations with outside partners in gaming, protyping and production, product development and communication. Through them, we can serve our movement efficiently, as they bring industry leading expertise that we do not have to develop in-house. By utilizing them, we can focus on what we do well.

We also met with a new pilot participant who had sought us out for assistance with labeling of important items in their daily lives. And we had a helpful meeting at NEW INC.

Protoyping and Fabrication

Through Emily Sauer, of Ohnut, we met Andrew Brase. He helped Emily prototype and produce her product. He is helping us to prototype our keyboard overlay. To do so, he has been collaborating with our engineering team and Jon Bobrow, of Move38, who last year helped us prototype a keyboard overlay for iPads. We are sharing design files so that Andrew can create a product which cleanly overlays on Apple keyboards.

Adam (on the left) using his hands to show Tom (on the right) the letter “C”. Tom and Adam are both previously sighted.

Adam (on the left) using his hands to show Tom (on the right) the letter “C”. Tom and Adam are both previously sighted.

Labeling for Tom

Through our community consultant Adam Linn, we were introduced to Tom DeRosa, the captain of Adam’s blind baseball team (the NY Rockers). Tom wanted assistance labeling every day items. He sent us a list of labels and we produced them with the TouchPrinter. We used 3M adhesive to make the labels.

Tom had lost his vision in his teens and as such, has visual experience with the standard roman alphabet. In the space of two hours, we taught him ELIA Frames and he began reading. We then shared the labels for his critique. He will be using them and will advise us on their format, feel, durability, etc. He may also join us as a pilot reader, practicing ELIA Frames and learning to become a faster reader.

Manila tab folders with adhesive ELIA Frame labels saying “business”, “licenses”, and “intake”.

Manila tab folders with adhesive ELIA Frame labels saying “business”, “licenses”, and “intake”.

Tom reading the “business” and “intake” labels.

Tom reading the “business” and “intake” labels.

Rasu Jilani

We meet regularly with the NEW INC incubator staff to share our progess and challenges. They often suggest contacts within the NEW INC community who could be helpful. This past week we met with Rasu about having too many balls in the air and about how to build community. He had a number of suggestions that we are following up on.

Printer Development

We continue to collaborate with Simplexity. This week we reviewed four TouchPrinter designs, each with a different configurations of the core components of the TouchPrinter. It was fun talking with the Simplexity team as they are the most experienced inkjet printer engineers on the planet and have a nuanced understanding and appreciation of how a printer takes a blank sheet of paper and turns it into a document. They certainly love their work and as such, it is a pleasure collaborating with them.

Christian Mrockza

Christian and ELIA Life Technology, PBC began working together for the Kickstarter. He organized, filmed and edited the entire video. As it was a pleasure working with him on that initiative, we reached out to him to begin discussions of how we might work together to develop a series of testimonial and instructional videos centered on the ELIA Frames Font. He expressed enthusiasm for further collaboration and as such, we will work with him to plan our video presence.

Gaming

At ELIA Life, we believe that games can be a powerful way for people to learn the ELIA Frames Font, that games can also be a tool to teach people skills using the font (e.g. touch typing on a keyboard), and that they can be used to test and optimize the font for other alphabets (e.g. Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew or Persian).

Playmatics logo.

Playmatics logo.

Nicholas Fortugno is a founder of Playmatics, a leader in educational game development. His team is capable of designing a game that is engaging, generates useful data and improves training outcomes. We plan to work with them to load our toolbox with a number of helpful instructional, fun and enable us to better serve our target and impact audiences.

Update 1.11.19

The front cover of “The Little Zen Companion” by David Schiller.

The front cover of “The Little Zen Companion” by David Schiller.

Below is a summary of the week's pursuits. Please feel free to comment or email us for further information.

Workman Publishing

The Little Zen Companion is a staple of the ELT library. Its motivational teachings are invaluable, and we are looking to print the contents in ELIA Frames. This week we moved our conversations forward with Workman Publishing. They own the rights to The Little Zen Companion and had some additional questions for us regarding sales outside of the Kickstarter. We'll keep you updated on our discussions.

Allen Bromberger - Social Impact Lawyer

We are excited to be working with Allen Bromberger of Perlman & Perlman, LLP. He is a nationally recognized leader in the social entrepreneurship ecosystem. We met Allen at the Social Venture Network - Investors Circle conference in Brooklyn in December of 2018. He served on a panel about term sheets and social impact. We attended assuming that we would review best practices with respect to traditional term sheets. Instead, Allen and Teresa Pahl of Hanson Bridgett LLP led a discussion about how one could include social impact terms in a terms sheet and how they could benefit both side of the negotiation (both the company and investors). In short, by aligning the expectation of both parties behind future milestones, social impact goals are not just more achievable, but they are an opportunity to focus the company with respect to its social mission. Given that ELIA Life is a PBC, we sought a legal representative who understood corporate law, not for profit law and PBCs (which are a new hybrid). We met with Allen this week to begin the relationship and to begin collaboration. We will continue to consult with Paul Oakley, our lawyer for over a decade, but he is pursuing his own entrepreneurial endevours and encouraged us to engage Allen.

ELIA Touch Printer

HP logo is shown.

HP logo is shown.

The team had a kick-off conference call about the TouchPrinter with our engineering team at Simplexity PD. Simplexity was recommended to us by our partner, HP, which collaborates with them extensively. We chose Simplexity in large part because many of the Simplexity engineers worked at HP for a decade or more. They continue to do so from outside HP. Their experience will be invaluable as we integrate HP components into our printer. (We have an exclusive license from HP for us of the components). Of note, Simplexity's offices are right acrosse the street from their former HP office. We also chose Simplexity because of their company ethos. They share and demonstrate the same core values to their community as we do.

We expect the printer to be available for sale in Fall 2019.

If you are interested in purchasing a printer, please send us an email.

NEW INC logo.

NEW INC logo.

Check-In Session at NEW INC.

As social impact community members at the NEW INC. incubator, Byron and I attend entrepreneurial programming. This Friday we have our first check in of the year. These check-in sessions are a great opportunity for us to practice pitching and also evaluate our recent milestones. Our peers and mentors share their perspectives and insights, offer assistance and ask tough questions. It's awesome. Without a vehicle such as these, getting perspective on our efforts is much more difficult. Through these sessions, we advance with focus and intention.

Peer-to-Peer Discussions with Collecteur

We had a discussion with Evrim Oralkan, one of the founders of Collecteur, which provides digital public access to private art collections. They too are a PBC, and at NEW INC, and as such, they are kindred spirits. Their view of work, public good and the service a compamy can give to society is evolving much like ours. What does it take to build a movement? What does being a PBC mean? How can we use being a PBC to further our mission? If one could rise about IRS distinctions about for-profit companies and not-for-profit institutions, how would a for-profit company serve its community? How do we become a better PBC? We both believe that PBCs are the future of business and, in many ways philanthropy. How do we help make that happen?

T-Shirts

A red shirt with “LOVE” in ELIA Frames.

A red shirt with “LOVE” in ELIA Frames.

A blue shirt with “PEACE” in ELIA Frames.

A blue shirt with “PEACE” in ELIA Frames.

On the Thursday before the holiday break, I awoke with a kidney stone. Holy cow! It was painful. In the doctor's office, I read about an article in Money magazine ablout Merch Amazon, where people sell design intensive T-shirts. Amazon handles everything but the design. I've been wanting to wear ELIA T-shirts with funky saying on them. So over the holiday break, from the comfort of my in-law's couch, while the kids learned how to build with Legos, I learned the basics of Adobe Illustrator. With it, I designed a few shirts and posted them on Amazon. They have words in ELIA Frames, words like love and peace. They could have sayings of your choosing. For example, one person requested a shirt in ELIA Frames that says "All leaders are readers." (Harry Truman) I made one with a quote from Hannibal and one with "Never Quit!" on it. I'm looking forward to wearing these as power t-shirts; they will be something that will set the tone for my days but not intimidate those around me. Both new designs are working their way through the Amazon approval process. Search on Amazon under ELIAFrames for the list of shirt designs we have posted. We'll try to post a new shirt a day. Ping us if you would like a shirt with something specific on it. We'll design it, post it for you, and send you a link.

Fundraising and Strategy

As we start the year, we are evaluating potential goals, needs and initiatives, in addition to internal practices and professional goals. Earlier this week we continued our conversation regarding fundraising and strategy. We will delineate each of these initiatives in later posts, but the initiatives we will focus on are:

  1. Fulfilling Kickstarter Reward Delivery
  2. ELIA Frame demonstration events in NYC
  3. Building relationships with strategic partners
  4. Finishing the ELIA TouchPrinter
  5. Mechanical Keyboard Beta Testing
  6. Sharing our creative assets (testimonial videos and the game).