BeeLine Reader (Winner of Social-E Challenge 2014)
Have you ever thought of an idea that just might work?
That’s how Nick Lum, founder and CEO of BeelineReader (Winner of Social-E Challenge 2014), came up with a way to guide your eyes while reading. Last week, I was fortunate enough to hear Nick’s story. “I had a great idea, and decided to just try it out,” he told me. By using a color gradient to guide our eyes from the end of one line of text to the beginning of another, Nick built BeelineReader to help us read more in less time.
Initially, while tossing around the idea, experts and researchers were impressed: “Oh, you must have been combining the accessory search paper from 1992 and the other paper…”
“No, I wasn’t aware of the research paper, but please, keep talking… I’d love to hear more.”
Before long, Nick’s vision became more and more real, and he learned from users that his technology was actually really helpful for people with learning disabilities or dyslexia. Although some speculators suggested that BeelineReader could “jack up the price for people who couldn’t live without it,” Nick had another vision in mind.
With this mission, Beeline Reader entered the BASES Challenge competition, where the team received lasting insight from mentors and judges. “We learned about socially beneficial enterprises,” Nick recalled “[We] didn’t have to be a nonprofit, but instead, could be a for-profit that’s beneficial — that isn’t just about as many dollars as possible.”
I was surprised to hear that before Challenge, Nick was working as a senior-associate in a corporate law form. “I was at a point in a life in which I might not otherwise do this,” he told me. “After we won BASES, I quit my job.”
Largely contributing to Nick’s decision, BASES Challenge opened many doors for BeelineReader. “Winning was great, because we had been talking to people at the American Optometric Association (the oldest in the country with 40,000 members), and our contacts were having a little bit of a hard time.” With the credibility of “winning BASES,” the AOA was doubling down, writing articles, and spreading the word. “I talked to the chairman of the committee,” Nick informed me, “and this was the first time they ever had an unanimous vote on a committee in favor of technology.”
Today, BeelineReader is moving forward with tremendous momentum. Nick has even been talking to the Office of Accessible Education (Stanford OAE) at the Charles Schwab Education Center to make his technology available to Stanford students.
When asked about the takeaways of his journey thus far, Nick responded, “It’s really cool to see how you’re trying to solve Problem A but end up also trying to solve Problem B and C.”
As BeeLine Reader teaches us, sometimes, impact isn’t something you can plan.
By Vincent Chen