Going to the Cinema, watching TV, replying to an email, or reading a notification on a mobile phone are all activities that many of us take for granted. Yet for the partially sighted and blind these simple actions are challenging.
Co-founder and CEO of GiveVision Stan Karpenko – together with his team – have witnessed this first hand having spent over 1,000 hours observing people with limited sight. Using his experience of creating apps with Google Glass and having received great user feedback, Stan subsequently set up GiveVision.
“We were appalled to see there was no innovation for the visually impaired and felt we could help them address some of their challenges,” says Stan.
Following an initial trial of their prototype SightPlus headset with 200 users, GiveVision were surprised by the uptake. 50% of the participants were so delighted with the vision it gave them, they asked to take it home. Some patients said they were not going to return the device and asked to be charged for it instead.
GiveVision exists to inspire social inclusion and create equal opportunities for blind and visually impaired people, through innovative accessibility solutions. It eradicates the barriers preventing those living with sight loss from living full and independent lives.
The SightPlus headset combines the capabilities of a near-distance reading aid magnifier and long-distance vision aid to enable severely visually impaired people to read, watch TV, recognise people’s faces and take part in hobbies such as drawing, sculpting and knitting. So far it has helped over 200 low vision patients in the UK to improve their sight. Put simply, it is an affordable and unique Sight as a Service (SaaS) offering assembled from off-the-shelf components.
As a result of the funding it has received since 2016, GiveVision has been able to grow its team to six employees. “Our people are very driven and dedicated, and they consistently put patient safety first,” says Stan. In addition to growing the team, funding has also enabled the company to carry out research into the impact the technology has, to measure any detrimental effects on quality of life. “All your own problems and challenges fade away when you see the emotion on someone’s face when they get to see again,” says Stan.
SightPlus has given users around 50,000 hours of sight in the last three years. It provides access to the internet, public services, medical instructions, education, toys, dating – and so much more, as well as unlocking loneliness and supporting mental health issues.
GiveVision received £200k of grant funding from Social Tech Trust at a critical time, when it was too early for VC money to come in. “They believed in us at a very early stage,” says Stan. “We wouldn’t have got off the ground without them.”
Since then, GiveVision has received funding from other sources including Innovate UK Biomedical Catalyst, a VC investment round, Pfizer Healthcare Hub and convertible investment from the NHS – to name just a few.
Stan attributes this investment to their visible and emotional cause that is easy to connect with, alongside positive stories and immediate results. GiveVision was valued at £1.5m in 2016 and funding has enabled the company to grow to achieve a £10m pre-money valuation in 2018.
Case study published May 2019.