Hello, my name is Jingru Ma. I am an entrepreneur from China and currently enrolled as a student majoring in Finance and Banking at UAE University. I love to learn new things and be creative in life.
Since I was young, I thought that I might have my own company to change this world in some way. It turns out that someday is now.
A Founder and Student
My friends and I have been running a startup since May 2016 when we invented a phone-sized device that can help the visually impaired read by converting any text into Braille language. Our startup is Brailleye. At the beginning, our team came up with this idea because we wanted to help our co-founder who is visually impaired and struggles with reading in daily life. After we conducted market research, we were surprised to find that there are 285 million visually impaired people in the world who are facing the same daily struggles. Our company aims to alleviate the daily challenges experienced by this community and make their life easier. We hope to launch our product before summer 2018.
I met my team in the Challenge for Innovation competition (C4I), which was organized by the UAE University Science and Innovation Park in November 2016. This is where the dream began and we received the first seed money to run our business. It was also my first opportunity to meet with a group of great entrepreneurs who are full of energy and creativity with interesting ideas. Together, we are fighting to make our dream come true as the motto of the Science and Innovation Park was: “if you are committed to your dream, we are committed to make it happen.”
We started with a simple idea. After we had been selected through the C4I, we enrolled in a one-year incubation program called Prototypes to Market (P2M)–a program which helps us bring our prototype to market and create a real business. Through the program, we had access to training (workshops), mentoring, coaching, networking and exposure activities, as well as seed capital and business services. This experience completely changed our minds and we learned how to transform the lessons from our mistakes into opportunities to build a sustainable business in the future.
As the Chief Financial Officer of our company, the Womena workshops made me more interested in investment and finance. Additionally, the workshops gave me the confidence to know how to seek the right investments and maximize the effect and impact of our startup.
Starting a business is not easy – it is a long journey but I am really enjoying what we are doing. Even when facing different challenges and difficulties, I think the most important thing is believing in what you are doing and trusting yourself, no matter what role you play in life. Since our founding team is still in university, finding a balance between work and study is very important. The good thing is that as entrepreneurs we have the chance to apply our knowledge in real life, which makes me feel excited.
What I’ve learned thus far as an entrepreneur
What my entrepreneur journey thus far has taught is the need to do market research and customer validation to know your market well. Ultimately you are building something that your customer needs and solving the problem that they are suffering. Listen to them and they will give you valuable feedback and suggestions for your product.
Running a business is like raising your own little baby – you need to take care of your baby. It will take some time to let your baby grow up, so be patient with your business.
Teamwork is an essential part of boosting your business; everyone should conduct his or her role in the team. Good ideas should involve good execution – and with this, I believe my team will have the biggest possibility to achieve our success with Brailleye.
For other students interested in entrepreneurship as a career, I would recommend that if you want to start your own business, don’t hesitate or doubt yourself – especially if you have good ideas. If you are committed to your dream, I believe you will make it happen.
In the last year, we participated in a variety of events, including competitions to spread awareness about our company.
- We won “Best Smart Industrial System” in Think Science and Challenge for Innovation in UAE University where we received the first seed money for our startup.
- We won “Golden Prize of Technology“ in the Tamaiaz competition
- We won first place in Seeds for the Future from HUAWEI Company.
- In September 2017, we went to the University Startup World Cup competition in Denmark which attracted 70 startups fromover 40 countries. At this competition, we had mentorship training and networked with a global community.
- In October 2017, we presented at GITEX where we spoke with a variety of investors and potential clients interested in our startup.
- In November 2017, we participated in Emirates Award for the Arabian Gulf Youth competition hosted Kafa’at and Emirates Foundation.
- In December 2017, we won the Pitch Palace in UAE region and traveled to London to pitch.
Now, our startup is in the prototype stage. We are also working with the biggest radio show in the USA, Blind and Beyond, to let more people know about our startup. Currently, we have had two devices pre-ordered from the radio show!
We are also looking forward to work with any institutions and communities who share the same vision to help all visually impaired in this world.
If you are interested in our company or have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. I can be reached at Jingru.firstname.lastname@example.org. You are also welcome to visit our website at www.brailleye.com.
You can read more about Brailleye:
- Arabian Business
- Gulf News
- Al Bayan
- Khaleej Times
- Global Accessibility News
About Author: Jingru Ma interned with Womena during winter 2017.