This startup found the right way to reach the market and chose a non-mainstream niche for that. BlindShell introduced smartphones plus software for visually impaired people and made it easy for them to learn and use mobile technologies.
Generally, blind people use standard button mobile phones (in most cases old Nokia), since more up-to-date sensor smartphones are too difficult for them to use: too many functions and too small chances to press in the right spot. However, button phones provide a very narrow range of functions for the life in the 21st century. BlindShell, a startup quartered in Prague, Czech Republic, solves this problem with their specially designed smartphones for visually impaired users. The BlindShell smartphone was developed in cooperation with blind people, has a short learning curve and is very well accepted by the target group (especially elderly people aged over 50). The potential market is pretty huge: according to statistics, there are 285 million visually impaired mobile users in the world, 39 million of them are blind.
BlindShell was founded by Daniel Novak (CEO, an expert in biomedical engineering), Petr Svobodnik (CTO and main developer) and Jan Simik (CBO, business promotion). Several more people made a great contribution to BlindShell: Filip Molcan, Ondrej Zapletal, and Radek Fiala. All of them possess valuable tech, engineering and business backgrounds. Initially the BlindShell capital comprised $100 000, with only $10 000 of founders’ money: $60 000 more was provided by EU and $30 000 invested by Vodafone. In 2015, BlindShell registered its EU trademark and filed the US patent.
So can BlindShell mobile be considered competitive enough today? Well, there are two competitive specialized hardware solutions – Claria Vox and Kapsys, plus software solutions represented by iPhone VoiceOver and Google TalkBack. However, these are more suitable for technically skilled young people. BlindShell has two key advantages to its possible substitutes:
- low price (BlindShell 30-50% cheaper)
- short learning curve (±1 hour).
Now BlindShell is represented in 8 European countries and intends to promote their business further: in 2016-2017 the guys plan to expand to the USA, Brazil, and India. At the moment, BlindShell team markets their product through specialized stores for blind people and advertises BlindShell in specialized magazines. They also expect to launch their own branded phone manufacturing by Q1-2 in 2016 in cooperation with FoxConn. Currently, the revenue is made through hardware and software bundle sales via B2B channel.
BlindShell is in search of investors, who would in total provide $ 1 000 000 for further business development. In the future, they target to build a take-over by some giant mobile operators or software producers. With 100 new users and 3 new partners per month, everything is very likely to happen according to the BlindShell business plan. Good luck!
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