Predstavljamo tinejdžere koji su stvorili super biznise i zarađuju velike novce -Riya Karumanchi, 16

17 sep

Founder and CEO, SmartCane

When Riya Karumanchi saw her friend’s visually impaired grandmother struggling to move around her own home, she knew there had to be a better way. The white cane — that simple tool that helps the blind identify obstacles — hadn’t really changed in nearly 100 years. “I thought that was insane,” says the 16-year-old. “Change in tech wasn’t being distributed equally — not just geographically, but community-wise.”

Karumanchi — who taught herself to code in the fourth grade and has participated in youth innovation programs in Toronto for years — talked with the visually impaired community and heard a common refrain: The white cane was great at identifying obstacles on the ground, but users were still vulnerable to things like errant branches and fallen twigs.

She started building a device dubbed SmartCane, using ultrasonic sensors to identify a wide variety of obstacles and alert the user with vibrations; different levels of intensity and placement on the cane help signal just where the obstacle is. A navigation system plots a safe route, while sensors identify other dangers, like wet, slippery sidewalks.

With the help of four part-time employees, Karumanchi has raised $85,000 in funding and in-kind services from companies like Microsoft, Arrow Electronics, and Inertia Engineering. Next up: user testing.

“When you’re creating a device for people within the accessibility community, there’s a saying that goes, ‘Nothing for us without us,’ ” she says. “Input from [the visually impaired] has been so important every step along the way.”

Ideally, SmartCane will hit the market by mid-2020 — just in time for Karumanchi to finish the 11th grade. And while she’s open to the idea of eventually attending college, her ultimate dream is a little loftier: become what she calls a “unicorn person.”

“Instead of [building] a company that has a valuation of a billion dollars, it’s the person that can impact a billion people,” she explains. “It’s ambitious, but that’s my goal.”

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