“Speaking with Julis”
3 October 2017 - Marlou

foto 3It was her sister Julis who inspired Daniela Galindo to launch her own company. Julis was born with a disability and therefore not able to speak. Daniela developed a technological solution: a software program to aid communication by using a database with words depicted by images. Julis tested the first “home made” version and proved that it worked. Hablando con Julis (in English: “Speaking with Julis”) was born.

Daniela: “When I grew up, I heard so many negative things about my sister from other people. That she would never be able to speak, learn, or do anything. Since I was young I felt the need to show people that this disability doesn’t mean she can’t do anything, she just has to do it in other ways. We started with the idea of using images to transmit a message. People who are not able to speak or write can use our images to create sentences. We connected the images with words and voices. With these tools, people with autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsey, deafness, people who are illiterate or have other learning disabilities are able to develop writing and speaking skills.

When we first tested the software in 2009 we didn’t have any expectations. We had the example of my sister in our mind and just wanted to see if the system could work. I will never forget the moment when my sister came back from her room and demonstrated us her first written sentence: “Tomorrow Jack (our dog) will be two months old”. It was the very first moment we proved the teachers and doctors who said she could never make it, wrong.

 

“Over 600 million people around the world are facing similar difficulties. I want to work for the people who aren’t part of the society to stimulate social inclusion.”

Challenges

We started with a very simple software version. In our latest commercial version our database has more then 65.000 words with the option to add any missing word. But of course there were challenges along the way. It took a lot of time to come up with the right software. But that wasn’t even the hardest part. It was difficult to convince people of the social purpose. In South America, people with disabilities are ignored by society, a forgotten group, who are socially excluded. A lot of people don’t believe in the ability of their disabled kids. We proved them wrong, but we still need to change this mindset more.

Scaling

There are other image based software programs on the market, but unique to our concept is that we are not just selling the software but a solution. We help with the process of education and learning. People abroad are starting to recognize and support our concept. We won last years innovator under 35 years old competition held by MIT technology magazine (see video below) and we ended up in the top three companies nominated in the category innovation and social entrepreneur of Pitch at Palace Global. Pitch at Palace Global really extended our network because we are now working with the British embassy to see how the UK market works in order to launch our product there in the future.

My expectations for the Accelerate week? I would love to find a mentor who can help us to scale fast in different countries. I also read about the UN who is launching a new project regarding people with disabilities. It would be a great opportunity to collaborate with them. I think we can give results and decrease poverty in countries with people who are illiterate or suffering from these disabilities.

Being an entrepreneur

I am very happy I chose this entrepreneurial path. I think I have learned so many things. Being a part of a project and watch it grow, seeing that my efforts, tears and smiles all lead to something is satisfying. It’s very gratifying to see people improve their communication skills with our system. My biggest personal achievement is the personal development of my sister. She is right now a part of the team and able to do interviews and work with us.

What’s next? It is still a long journey to go before we can have real social inclusion of people with disabilities. I want to continue in showing our society that people with other conditions can be a part of society with the help of technology and good education. We are doing well but we need to do better!”

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.