I recently spoke to Joseph Hill of Aeir Talk–a beautifully designed speech & language helper app for autistic kids–and wanted to share his story for a couple reasons.
First, it shows an unbelievable amount of hustle — he built up enough market evidence & excitement for a development team to agree to get involved and build it for equity. There was no magic bullet, just working hard talking to users, customers, and doctors.
Second, he has ignored and subsequently overcome basically every danger zone and warning sign I can think of. He took big risks, and when the launch schedule slipped from 3 months to 6 and then 12, he made ends meet by mopping floors and got it shipped.
I’m not sure I can recommend his course of action to others, but I definitely admire it. Check out the story, screenshots, and interview clip below.
The need to create
I think I’ve been scared through this entire process. I like comforts!
Basically, I’ve had the rug pulled out from underneath me in the last 2 years several times, like losing a job and having to start another that was high stress and high pressure.
I said: “If I’m going to have all this pressure, I may as well start my own company.”
I didn’t want to work for someone for 30 years to have them say “no thank you” anymore.
Instead, with no money and no team, he went after the medical devices industry.
Both my sons have autism, so I really wanted to do something that was out there and was different.
A lot of the [speech pathology] solutions out there sucked… [clunky devices] and expensive therapies.
I interviewed lots of parents while I was a financial planner… they didn’t have a lot of money and they wanted better tools for their kids.
Getting it built
One of the big decisions in the product design is to make it highly personal — as a parent or teacher, you’re encouraged to switch out all the images and even audio to portray faces, voices, and objects your child will recognise and be comforted by. You can also completely change the language or add entirely new flashcards with the camera to further make it your child’s own.
I wanted something memorable that kids would come back to and it could connect with a lot of people.
So let them use their parents voice, not a computer voice. Let them use pictures of what’s around them.
Mommy’s no longer a stick figure with a dress on, it’s actually mommy.
And that would connect with a lot of kids with special needs or anyone with a brain injury or children with autism.
And it looks great! Joseph doesn’t have a design background, but he was willing to put in the time.
We spent several weeks just wireframing and drawing it out.
I have no design background, just making my own decisions. My background is in bible theology. I went to school to be basically a history teacher.
But I love art, I love design and how things flow.
I knew what I liked, and when I saw stuff I didn’t like I decided to push this out there.
What can we do to help out?
Just spreading the word.
Autism affects 1 in 100 children, so within a couple degrees of separation, you know a family that’s affected.
If you have a child yourself, check it out.
It’s $40, like a dinner out.(Updated: Just realised it’s currently on sale for $10!)
My son is now saying “seahorse”. How many three year olds do you know who know who say seahorse?
(PS. this story is currently struggling on hacker news. I’m sure Joseph would love any help spreading the word)