August 28, 2018 · IGG

Changing the Conversation: SpeakSee wins $50K in flash funding from Arrow


SpeakSee joins Waggit and Anyware as winners of flash funding from Arrow in 2018. Become part of the Arrow Certification Program to qualify for your own chance to win flash funding, and learn about SpeakSee’s journey from crowdfunding to flash funding.

Jari Hazelebach’s parents were born deaf. Although Jari doesn’t think that his youth was remarkably different from anyone else’s, it bothered him that both of his parents had difficulty following conversations in group settings.

In fact, 466 million people around the world are deaf or hard-of-hearing and many of them face barriers in following what’s being said. The team behind SpeakSee is working hard to change this.

SpeakSee: changing the world, one conversation at a time

SpeakSee is the world’s first wireless, portable multi-microphone system that can be connected to smart devices (patent pending).  It uses speech recognition to transcribe in real time what’s being said on a smartphone app. If you’re deaf or hard-of-hearing, you can read what’s being said and still follow the conversation.

Hazelebach points out that the “unique advantage about SpeakSee is that it works accurately in group conversations and situations where there is background noise. It identifies the different speakers because everyone wears their own microphone and leaves out background noise because of the beam-forming technology we incorporated in the microphones.”

SpeakSee’s founding team is made up of CEO Jari Hazelebach, CTO Marcel van der Ven and Lead Designer Joshua Flowers, with each bringing a unique set of skills and passion for their product. Jari is an entrepreneur with previous experience from  another speech recognition start-up in San Francisco. Marcel is a self-proclaimed product geek who is passionate about making the world a better place using technology. Flowers has designed a variety of products from scratch to market, and was inspired to create SpeakSee because communication with his late-deafened grandfather was no longer possible.

Crowdfunding to learn from future customers

Crowdfunding was an easy decision for the SpeakSee team. As Hazelebach put it, they “chose crowdfunding because pre-selling your product is a great way to learn from your future customers before you’ve already finished your product completely. Also, it’s important to find out whether people are able and willing to purchase your product for the price you need to ask.” They chose Indiegogo because of the possibilities offered by the platform to do more customization for marketing preferences, and they also received great assistance from Indiegogo’s UK-based rep, Joel Hughes.

SpeakSee launched on Indiegogo with a video featuring self-documented footage of five people, all either deaf or hard-of-hearing, using a SpeakSee prototype in their daily life.

The product and the authenticity of the video resonated with their audience, and they were overwhelmed by the support they received. The SpeakSee campaign raised over $100,000 from more than 300 backers.

It wasn’t just the pre-orders that was important, but the feedback that they received from the backers was incredibly valuable as well. According to Hazelebach, “We also received a huge amount of feedback and even got surprised by the different ways users want to use SpeakSee and the features they requested. It has been incredibly useful for us to learn what we should further incorporate in our design. It even inspired us to think about other problems the SpeakSee microphone system could be used to solve in the future, besides the current use case.”

Arrow expertise helped with engineering challenges

The SpeakSee team applied for the Arrow Certification Program because they believed that Arrow and their team of engineers, with their extensive knowledge about electronic components, could help them make their product a reality. It was obvious to the SpeakSee team that “having an expert distributor on our side that helps us with engineering challenges is of great benefit for a hardware startup.”

The SpeakSee team praised Arrow for being a “great help to us by validating our Bill of Materials and with providing feedback on our product. They also introduced us to some useful contacts who assisted with developing the first prototype.”

Learn about the support and engineering expertise provided by Arrow for qualified entrepreneurs in the Arrow Certification Program.

“One of the challenges we tackled together was improving audio quality captured by the SpeakSee microphones. One of Arrow’s engineers had reviewed our design and after assessing the issue, he introduced us to the necessary contact at the manufacturer who had extensive knowledge about this particular domain. By ourselves we wouldn’t have been able to reach this contact easily. After that, the field application engineer at the manufacturer helped us to quickly tackle the problem we were facing.”

Flash funding: SpeakSee wins $50,000

As the latest Arrow flash funding winner, the SpeakSee team now has $50,000 to help them out on their path to production. Their main goals in starting their Indiegogo campaign were to raise funds and validate demand for SpeakSee. With that completed, they’ll be able to use the funds to further develop their prototype towards a product that is ready for manufacturing.

Who will be the next recipient of flash funding from Arrow? Keep checking back to find out which Indiegogo campaigner is the next winner. In addition, entrepreneurs can now join the Arrow Certification Program for a chance at the latest flash funding opportunities. Learn more to start accessing your own benefits.