Communication barriers are often limiting for a person that cannot hear. Using our technology, we are able to give back independence and freedom to communicate. Since 2013, Pedius enabled more than 20,000 users to make their first phone call in eleven countries with seven different languages.
Location: Rome, Italy
Product / Service Offering: Technology for the Hearing Impaired
Co-founder Interviewed: Lorenzo Di Ciaccio
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight Series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
After four years working as an IT consultant for in the IT and pharmaceutical industries, my job was to find a solution to company problems using the technology. After watching the Gabriele Serpi story, I decided to use my skills for hearing impaired people and I quit my job two weeks later.
Besides Pedius, I am also an active speaker for social entrepreneurship at TEDx and lecturer in business ethics in several universities.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
Pedius was incorporated in October 2013. The idea was inspired by the story of Gabriele Serpi, a deaf man that had a car accident and was not able to call a tow truck or an ambulance. It shocked me, with all the technology that we have, that a deaf person cannot make a phone call in case of need. After much research, we decided to create something on our own.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Many services are only accessible by phone. Communication barriers are often limiting freedom for the person that cannot hear. Using our technology, we are able to give back independence and freedom to communicate.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Before Pedius deaf people were used to contacting a special call center where a sign language interpreter would mediate the conversation. Those services are not present in all the countries and even when present is not working 24 hours.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was to obtain the trust of our user starting with the quality of the transcription and the availability of the app. If Pedius is the app that helps me when I am in need, I really want it to work smoothly. To deliver that quality, we are continuously working on our core technology. Today the usage and the feedback of our users tell us that we are on the right path.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
The first resources are the users. The first beta of Pedius was by personal invite for only 100 people, a number that we considered big enough to have feedback but small enough to keep a dialogue with each of them.
When we launched the first beta with just 100 users, we received the best message ever. It was from a deaf mother that had stomach pain during her pregnancy. She used Pedius to call the doctor that came to visit her. We have this mail in our office to remind us why we are working.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
The decision to start as a social enterprise was the first decision of this kind. Some of our advisors told us that a social service will be not attractive for investors. One of the biggest investor we met told us “none of my investor networks will bet on disability”. Besides the first feedback, we decided that acting as a company but with a social purpose will be the best way to scale up our solution maximizing the impact. Fortunately, in our path, we met a different kind of investor, like enterprises and angels that embraced our challenge and raised 1.8M euros in two different rounds.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
Since our background was mainly from the tech world, we had to learn a lot in terms of business, administration and over all negotiation. We face everyday unknown questions, but in the end, you only need to know the answer to the fundamental question that an entrepreneur must always know the answer. Why are you doing it? Once you know that answer all the other answers will come out.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Selling to large enterprises are still struggling for us. It is not easy for David to sell to Goliath. Accessibility is now getting more relevant for large enterprises, but most of the time this relevance does not affect their budget. Most of our work today is to prove that an accessible workplace is not only empowering people with disability but is unleashing new potential and a new source of inspiration for all. This should be the rule of the technology, serving the diversity to the people and let them get inspired.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Time is the most precious resource you have, but this is not an excuse to not listen to your users. Every CEO should do some customer care in first person even if it looks time-consuming. It is very important for a startup having a bird’s eye view on all the value chain.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Since 2013, Pedius enabled more than 20,000 users to make their first phone call in eleven countries with seven different languages.
Pedius is part of the 2018 Kickstart Accelerator.
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