With already seven start-ups under his belt, Nic Klopper is always looking for new opportunities. He is without a doubt a true entrepreneur at heart. When he was asked to lead the effort to commercialize hearX Group’s intellectual property, he didn’t hesitate to take on the challenge. His hard work has paid off, as hearX’s technological solution for hearing screenings has become a leader in the industry. Their mission is to have screened a billion people by the end of 2030 and make their solution available for everybody. Nic is chosen as one of the Accelerate 2030 finalists and will be in Geneva during the Scaling week. We had the opportunity to speak with him.
Nic: “What I really liked about hearX from the beginning was the true disruptiveness and social impact of it. Its aim to make hearing solutions accessible for everybody was something I admired. If you look at the numbers, they are astonishing. In South Africa alone more than 3,2 million people are affected by hearing loss. And globally one out of seven people are affected by hearing loss. That means over 360 million people worldwide.
However, hearing test equipment has always been expensive. The screening technology before 2013 was out-dated and due to it’s price, was inaccessible to the majority of South Africa. It was our aim to revolutionize this. The idea of a new device was born in 2013 by Prof. De Wet Swanepoel and Dr. Herman Myburgh at the University of Pretoria. It took them two years to further develop it and by the end of 2014, we were ready to launch a new solution breaking the traditional barriers to hearing loss detection.
Our solution consists of commercially available hardware like a smartphone, headphones, and customised software. The new solution reduced costs by approximately 80 per cent making it accessible to a wider audience. Our unique product allows people with minimal training to conduct screenings in resource constrained environments. Something incredibly useful for undeveloped countries or parts of the world where healthcare is difficult to access. Of course there were challenges along the way. We had to secure funding and find top talent to develop the product. But the biggest challenge was ensuring our technology met the difficult regulatory compliance and requirements. You can’t just put a medical device onto the market without it being adapted to international standards. It has to be approved as a medical device in different countries with different regulatory standards.
Journey as an entrepreneur
Although I consider myself a true entrepreneur at heart, there is no one in the family who shared the same path. There were no footsteps to follow. I had to pave the way myself. Both of my parents have an academic background and I do think this contributed to me developing the mind and skills of an entrepreneur. For me being an entrepreneur is more than a job – it’s a lifestyle. To succeed you need to know your product and your customers better than anyone else and have a burning desire to succeed. Usually entrepreneurs are more dooers than dreamers. If you have those skills, it doesn’t really matter which industry you are in. I wouldn’t say success is guaranteed but perseverance normally prevails. Like we always say: “If you are not embarrassed by your first product, you launched it too late.” In my opinion South Africa is definitely a conducive environment to innovation. We don’t always have access to services, products and technologies. So, if you come up with innovative solutions you can succeed in business while having a positive impact in South African society.
Our biggest achievement thus far has been to successfully screen more than 70,000 people from more than 25 countries for potential hearing loss. Furthermore, the hearX Group has experienced immense success in terms of awards and accolades, one of the highlights of 2017 is our selection as a finalist for the Accelerate2030 program. Our growth has been astronomical: Double digit numbers per month.
I am looking forward to the scaling week in October. Part of our core values is a partner centric approach. So to collaborate with partners to understand the local landscape of the country and the local context to assist us in launching and scaling up the product in those respective countries. I think the scaling week would be very useful to assist in those. Our future goals? We are aiming to reach a billion people by 2030 and want to overcome the existing barriers to the screening for and prevention of hearing loss in children. Our children are the future and healthy hearing is a vital ingredient to receiving a sound education.
For more information about the hearX Group, please visit www.hearxgroup.com
This article is one in a series in which we get to know the International Finalists of our Accelerate2030 program a little bit better. Accelerate2030 is a 9-month program co-initiated by Impact Hub Geneva and the UNDP with a mission to scale the impact of ventures that contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals internationally. All nine finalists will be present at the Impact Hub Geneva from the 6th until the 13th of October during the Scaling week.