Intel Funds 13yr Old to Develop Low-cost Braille Printer Idea
Author: Economic Times : Contact: economictimes.indiatimes.com
Synopsis and Key Points:
13-year-old boy receives huge investment from Intel for developing a low-cost printer for people who are blind.
Shubham Banerjee, CEO of the Braille printer maker Braigo Labs, had closed an early round funding with Intel Capital, the company's venture capital arm, last month to develop a prototype of low-cost Braille printer.
A braille embosser is an impact printer that renders text as tactile braille cells. Using braille translation software, a document can be embossed with relative ease, making braille production efficient and cost-effective. As with ink printers and presses, embossers range from those intended for consumers to those used by large publishers. Thus, an embosser can cost roughly anywhere from US$2,000 to $150,000.
Till last year, California-based Shubham had no idea what Braille was and it was only when he came across a fundraising flyer for people with vision disabilities that he started to wonder how people who are blind read.
So, like any other 7th grader would do, he asked his parents. His father's response: "Go Google it".
While Googling, Shubham discovered the high cost of Braille printers, which usually cost more than USD 2,000.
"When I found out the cost of a Braille printer, I was shocked," Shubham said in a recent media report. "I just wanted to help people with vision disabilities. I had a Lego Robotics kit, so I asked, 'Why not just try that'"
Built out of Lego's Mindstorms EV3blocks and little pieces from Home Depot Braigo Lab's printer turned out to function quite well. It earned Shubham a lot of recognition too, including 'The Tech Awards' 2014 and an invitation to the White House Maker Faire, an event that awards student entrepreneurs and innovators.
Shubham believes it could solve a decades-long problem that's been holding back so many people with vision disabilities around the world - the high cost of Braille printers.
Shubham says his printer could significantly cut down the price of Braille printers to less than USD 500. According to his website, there are 285 million people with vision disabilities worldwide, and 90 per cent of them live in developing countries.
It's not easy to drop a couple grand on a printer, even by a developed country's standards.
Impressed by his product and vision, Intel came calling last September and told him it would invest in his company.
And last week, the investment was made official at the Intel Capital Global Summit, when Braigo Labs was mentioned as one of the 16 tech startups Intel's investing in this year.
The exact amount of the investment was not disclosed, it's reported to be a few hundred thousand dollars, making Shubham the youngest tech entrepreneur ever funded by a venture capital firm.
With Intel's funding, Braigo Labs plans to build a new prototype that more resembles a regular printer, and bring it to market by next year.
Shubham says he has no plans to expand into other product categories at this point, but Braille printers seem to be just a part of a bigger dream he has in mind.
"I want to do engineering in the medical area when I grow up," he says. "And I want to finish college."
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