Global Winner of Talent Unleashed Awards
Top Finalist of GSMA Best Mobile Health Product/Service Award
Tell us about ACE HEARING and what inspired you to start this company?
ACE HEARING is the brainchild of Professor Andrew van Hasselt, a world-renowned figure in the Ear Nose and Throat field. He came to Hong Kong in the 80’s and built up the Audiology Department at Prince of Wales Hospital and has been helping people in Hong Kong with hearing problems ever since.
He and his team, with a combined tally of over 100 man-years in audiology services, understand that hearing health is a very underserved human need. Over 38% of the world has some level of hearing loss and most of them don’t even realize it. What’s worse is that even if they do, there is no remedy for the majority of them.
His daily interactions with his clients inspired him to come up with ACE HEARING, a breakthrough solution that provides individualized audio for everyday electronics.
Tell us about your team.
Our multi-disciplinary team consists of experts in audiology, sound processing, software and hardware engineering. I believe this is the exact right mix in cross-domain expertise to yield this invention.
The team was self-sufficient in R&D, clinical trials, medical journal publications and developing software and hardware solutions. We needed (and still need) to hire outside help to aid with patents and trademarks, product design, marketing and manufacturing.
What was the development process like?
The project began in 2010 and it took about 18 months to complete our R&D. It was a ton of fun – there is nothing quite like developing a working product from scratch, then verified through clinical trials with the results accepted by peer-reviewed medical journals, filed a patent and winning major international awards.
What are some of the biggest challenges you encountered so far?
The single biggest challenge is to raise the general public’s awareness that they have an unrealized need negatively impacting their quality of life.
Our goal is to individualize the audio output of all consumer goods, and we have been getting fantastic responses and interest from almost every brand we have talked to, because we offer a breakthrough solution to an underserved problem.
However this is also the precise source of our biggest challenge: we offer the world’s-first solution (that no one has experienced) to a real problem that no one is aware of or simply accept is a fact-of-life (hence no one cares). The brands are confronted by the marketing effort required to generate consumer desire. One raised an analogy that “this is like making people to want to wear seat belts back in the 70’s”.
It is indeed a substantial challenge but I see it as a huge advantage. If the public is already aware of all the audio they are missing and are actively demanding a solution, we would not be poised to take on a Blue Ocean market with billions of untouched customers.
We have some very exciting plans to solve this challenge in a very fun and global way in 2015. Stay tuned!
CrystalPlayer is our music player app that plays music on your iOS and Android devices, tailor-made for your hearing prints. We are just weeks away from the iOS launch, with the Android version following very shortly.
Our marketing plan involves hitting up internet and traditional media for interviews (make sure you pick up your Jumpstart magazine!), as well as some unconventional events. You won’t have to wait too long to find out.
Did you raise funds to launch ACE HEARING or was it self funded?
At the time of this interview, it has been 100% self funded.
How are you protecting the idea in Hong Kong and internationally?
Legally, we are patented or patent-pending in major markets globally, including Hong Kong. We also have trademarks in effect.
On the non-legal side, we have also been establishing ourselves as the leader in this breakthrough category of individualized audio. We have verified the accuracy and benefits of ACE HEARING through clinical trials and multiple publications in peer-reviewed, international medical journals. We are also gaining recognition through major international awards, including the Wall Street Journal’s Asian Innovation Award, the GSMA Global Mobile Awards, and the most recent Talent Unleashed Awards, whose star-studded judges include Sir Richard Branson and Steve Wozniak.
What’s next for ACE HEARING?
There will be an app launch in the immediate future, within 2014. We will likely do a Kickstarter, and we are actively working on a shockingly fun global event next year.