EyeFocus: the vision accelerator

Imatge | Blindsense

All kinds of startups deserve a business accelerator to help receive funding for a good business idea. There are even some that provide experience, training and money for new companies from specific sectors, such as eye health.

With headquarters in Berlin, EyeFocus is an accelerator for startups that helps people produce products “for preventing, curing, and living with eye disease and blindness”, says Tobias Stone, its founder.

According to World Health Organization data from August 2014, there are 285 million people with visual disabilities in the world; of which 39 million are blind and 246 have some degree of vision impairment.

EyeFocus began its first program in February, which is ending now in late May. The idea was born, according to Tobias, after a year observing accelerator programs throughout Europe, “studying what works and what doesn’t. I decided that a very focused accelerator can offer better support for start-ups, but also that it can act as a catalyst to build an ecosystem”.

In this sense, the eye care market “is interesting” describes Tobias. “It’s a big market where you can start profitable companies, but it is also a sector in which everything we do has a social angle, as we are helping people who are blind or visually impaired.”

Many companies have been attracted to this project and have come in search of investment. Among them, Tobias points out BlindSense, a project of Palestinian origin that can convert the text on the screen of a digital device to Braille; or Mr. Patch, that was already in Startupbootcamp in Copenhagen and whose job is to monitor the activity of patients undergoing vision rehabilitation. Another one mentioned is dbGlove, which develops devices for improving the communication of blind and deaf-blind people. The dbGlove is like a handful of buttons that, when pressed, allow for the communication of certain messages.

Accelerating with the support of the big pharmaceuticals

For now, the accelerator receives sponsorship from companies like Bayer and Zeiss, and does not accept other forms of financing. “It was a conscious decision,” explains Tobias. “Without investors or any government or money from the European Union we have been able to do a lot of interesting things and move very quickly to support our startups“. Yes, it seems that some people have expressed interest in investing in the accelerator, so “we will consider that when we develop the next program”.

Following success in Berlin, Tobias hopes to go ahead with an EyeFocus 2 and begin its internationalization: “We expect to increase our activities in India, which is a big market where many people need innovations in eye care.”

Entering new ecosystems through accelerators focused on diabetes and sexual health is not ruled out either. The final idea is that all stakeholders – universities, companies, experts and startups themselves – work together for the common good. We wish them a lot of success and great technological solutions for improving the lives of the citizens.