14 Apr 2016
uSound
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uSound is a smart audio system that converts a Smartphone into a hearing assistant device (hearing aid). Team members: Sebastian Fama (MBA 2016), Ezequiel Escobar, Alex Mendez

How did the idea for your company come about?

uSound was inspired by Ariel, a university student from northern Argentina who had a dream like any of us. He wanted to be a software engineer, but unfortunately he had a hearing impairment and couldn’t afford to buy hearing aids. So he was forced to arrive very early to class in order to sit in the front row or he wouldn’t be able to hear the class. this was not always possible and he wouldn’t feel comfortable asking other students for a sit. So instead of sitting in the back and not being able to quite follow the lesson, he ended up dropping out university. Ariel’s story was a trigger that inspired this project.

What does your company do? How is it distinct in its product/service category?

uSound is smart audio system that converts a Smartphone into a hearing assistant device (hearing aids). It uses the functionalities of smartphones so they work as digital hearing aids, reducing 93% of the cost. Users can configure them by entering data regarding their audiometry – a measure of the range and sensitivity of a person’s sense of hearing, or they can carry out a hearing test with the app itself. The phone captures sound; uSound compensates for specific frequencies and plays back the adjusted sound over headphones in real time. It has medical and clinical components embedded into it, it’s interactive and it can learn and grow from the specific needs of the person. This proprietary system is the core of our company.

We also created our own set of smart earphones which assure the best user experience from start to finish as they are designed and created to have greater performance of uSound.

Where do you hope to take it in the future?

According to the WHO in the world there are 640M people with the hearing impairment. This number is becoming bigger every year mainly due to noise pollution in large cities and the popularity of listening music too loudly. Only 1 out of 40 has access to a hearing aid. The main reason is that digital hearing aids are expensive, costing between $2000 to $5000. This means that the remaining 39 are deprived of essential aspects in life like communication or education.

In addition, we discovered that many people, especially the youngest, don’t like using traditional earring aids because it makes them feel different from the rest.

In the US in particular the situation is not very different. There are 30M people affected by different levels of hearing loss ranging from mild to severe, but only 20% of them have access to hearing aids. Of this 20%, most people bought the devices out of pocket and the rest got them through their health insurance.

How has your time at HBS influenced your efforts on your company?

I learnt about uSound before coming to HBS and met the team in Argentina. HBS empowered me to dream big, so a time ago I decided to join the team as truly believe in the potential impact this product can have in million of lives around the globe. I also found a team of people that embrace very well the mission of HBS of becoming leaders who make a difference in the world that I finally took the determination to commit and join uSound.

Any advice you’d offer to other young entrepreneurs?

I would only advise them to get around passionate and ambitious people who sincerely believe in what they are pursuing.

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