The Making of a Modern Aging Startup: FingerReader

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This is the third article in a three part series about the experiences of the winners of Modern Aging Singapore 2017, featuring Roger Boldu, founder of ZuzuLabs, which produced FingerReader.

After learning how a teammate’s blind friend struggled to access visual information, Roger and his team were inspired to design a device to allow individuals with visual impairments to read printed texts without using Braille. Currently, such individuals either depend on others to relay printed information to them or use bulky, conspicuous devices like handheld magnifiers. Hence, his team sought to create a discreet device that would improve access to print information among the community of visually impaired individuals. Their product, FingerReader, is targeted at seniors who have developed age related eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. It is a ring like device worn on the finger; as users follow text with their finger, the device scans the information and transmits it aurally to them.

Initially, the FingerReader team had set out to design a product that would address all visual impairments. Since individuals with different visual impairments face specific difficulties, creating a product that would address the various concerns proved to be a challenge. While participating in the Modern Aging program, the team conducted interviews with ophthalmologists and seniors. Their insights led them to realize that their target group was too broad, hence, they decided to focus on a particular segment of individuals with visual impairments – those with macular degeneration.

Besides having to tackle the challenge of identifying a specific target group, the team also found it difficult to find interviewees as the community of individuals with visual impairments is a rather closed one. While the team already had existing contacts with organizations that worked with visually impaired individuals, their participation in the Modern Aging accelerator program helped them secure important contacts in other local and international organizations.

Roger shares that his entrepreneurial journey was a natural result of his interests and family background, rather than the product of a conscious decision. As a child, he derived immense joy from building and creating things. When he was sixteen, he realized that he could turn his interest into a career and also make a positive impact on society. Additionally, many of his family members had established their own businesses; this inspired him to pursue a similar path. As such, he did not have doubts about becoming an entrepreneur. Instead, his confidence was tested mostly when he made decisions about product design. For him, this journey has reinforced his belief that technology has the potential to transform lives. The key, however, is to create inclusive technology.

When asked what advice he would give to future Modern Aging participants, Roger shares that it is important to be open minded and adaptable. Besides that, he also believes that humility, diligence, good social skills, and a clear vision are important qualities that will set one up for later success. For budding entrepreneurs, early preparation through building networks from young is also key.

If there is one tip that Roger would share with his younger self before he embarked on this journey, it would be to focus his energy on the work that builds a successful startup. Given the tight timelines involved in developing FingerReader, he had to be decisive in prioritizing different suggestions for improvements. “You must know when to say no to things”, he explains.

FingerReader has come a long way since its inception. The team is currently developing an improved proof of concept for FingerReader after finding problems with the previous version of the device. As Roger puts it, “you’ll never finish the product”. Indeed, being an entrepreneur and innovator requires a tireless spirit and constant commitment to improving one’s product.

Come join the ecosystem of businesses in the elder care space and bring your solutions to the market – apply at http://modernaging.sg/accelerator/ by June 30, 2018!

Written by Tng Pei Ling
Edited by Eva Saddiqui

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