Eye-Able is the focus! One of our founders, Chris Schmidt, was interviewed by "Gründerland Bayern". We are valued for our current successes, which are vom winning the Culture and Creative Piloten Award of the Federal Government, about the Winning the funding programms Start?upschuss! the Initiative Gründerland Bayern up to the victory in the Businessplan Wettbewerb Nordbayern 2022 von BayStartUp go. Here we have the interview for you:
What makes your business idea so important?
Many everyday tasks and things are increasingly taking place digitally: making an appointment for a new ID card at the citizens' registration office, finding a specialist, paying bills or keeping in touch with loved ones. With our technology, we make it easier for as many people as possible to access this online world. We are not only targeting people with (visual) disabilities, but also those with (language) impairments.
Accessible means: everyone can easily obtain information, for example, on the Internet - emphasis on access, it is not about a purely handicapped-accessible Internet, but about an Internet that is accessible to everyone. Regardless of whether they have a disability or not.
What was your motivation to develop the software?
A close friend was forced to discontinue his studies prematurely due to his severe visual impairment. There are simply still far too many deficits for people with disabilities when it comes to learning and obtaining information, even though accessibility plays such a big role here.
We are equipping so many areas in our lives with technology to make our lives easier. Why isn't this happening in the social sphere yet?
My perception is that many people interested in founding a company are afraid that one may not or cannot make sufficient profit with social projects. Yet the social component can be a real economic driver: we show that you can also drive business growth with a sustainable and social business model.
In our case, digital accessibility generates more revenue for our customers - from individual companies to an entire industry such as e-commerce. Simply by including people with disabilities or other limitations in the business model and thus as a target group. Society is getting older and older, and people do not want to do without digital participation even in old age. If you add aspects like these, you get an approximate idea of how high the number of people is for whom barrier-free access to the Internet is or will become important, both privately and professionally.
Then there is the fear that technological work on and with people could lead to the loss of jobs. For example, if robotics were to be used in nursing homes to support the daily routine of caregivers. Here, founders face the risk that they will not be widely accepted in this area.
What can we do to bring about change here?
Only if we, as entrepreneurs, are allowed to act in a socially accepted profit-oriented manner, can we grow and bring new technologies to the market with reinvestments.
So if we manage to create greater acceptance in the business world and in society that it is possible and permissible to earn money with social projects, then more founders would also go into social areas. We have to do a lot of awareness-raising and a lot of talking about this.
You also live the topic of inclusion yourselves - what does that look like exactly?
People with disabilities can work very well in companies. Our task as employers is to create a workplace that suits their current life situation. This is also a major concern for me because I have a disability myself and know how people with disabilities are perceived in companies. And far too often, they are still seen as a means of meeting quotas. This is changing, but unfortunately often much too slowly.
The economic factor that people with disabilities can contribute to a real workforce is still underestimated far too often: It is not just that we are dealing here with very committed and loyal employees. Both the equipment of their workplaces and their wages are often subsidized in Germany. Openness to this also allows for a certain degree of compensation and economic opportunities, especially in times of a shortage of skilled workers. Both employees and employers benefit enormously from such an employment relationship.
What challenges are you currently facing as a growing social enterprise?
This is no different at all from other companies. Raising awareness of our offering among potential customers is one of our biggest challenges. Although there is a legal basis for accessibility in the public sector, the following questions arise: Why is accessibility important? What advantages does it offer? How can accessibility be an economic driver in the private sector?
We want to develop products that have both relevance to the market have and can also be operated by people with disabilities. At the beginning, therefore, it took a lot of energy and time to drive our research in the area of accessibility: How do we make our technology accessible to as many people as possible? And at the same time, to build up a company that is not yet making money. This is where Professor Michael Müßig from the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS) really motivated us to start up. Together with the Berufsförderwerk in Veitshöchheim, we were also able to work out initial problems with the use of websites and functions at the university.
Where do you currently stand with your company and what's next for you?
After being self-financed for a long time, we are happy that we have been able to win well-known customers for our assistance software since the market launch in April 2021 and are now standing on our own two feet. Currently, we have around 20 employees in our team and want to continue to grow. We are optimistic for the future. We see that there is a great deal of interest in the topic of inclusion and accessibility, particularly in exchanges with young people at schools and universities.
We are pleased beyond measurethat there is so much public interest in our work.in our work. The topic of inclusion is for us much more than a mere business model. It is our conviction and passion to bring accessibility into the world. We will continue to work hard in the future to implement our ideas, to ideas, continue to improve, and ultimately create an accessible accessible internet for all!