Marcel van der Ven is the Chief Technical Officer and co-founder of SpeakSee. He is responsible for leading the development team and overseeing the manufacturing process with our production partner.
What is your role within SpeakSee?
“I am responsible for the development team; we have three software developers and a hardware developer now. I am leading the team and I ensure that we maintain the general concept of SpeakSee throughout its development. In addition, I oversee the coordination with the factory and product assembly procedures.”
How did your motivation to start working on SpeakSee begin?
"I first gained an understanding of the experience of those who are deaf or hard of hearing in the workplace when I began my first job following university. I had two deaf colleagues there and I suppose this sparked an interest in me to do something that would help my former colleagues and many others to thrive in a working environment.
It was in October 2016 that I first met Jari through a sort of dating website for entrepreneurs and technicians. After hearing his parents stories the communication barriers that are present when you are deaf. I knew that I wanted to proceed with project and began to create the proof of concept in the new year.”
What did you do before SpeakSee?
“I worked as an R&D technician for an air conditioning company developing hardware and software for testing. In the two years prior to the foundation of SpeakSee, I was working on a freelance basis and I created an application for a company’s ordering system, but I wanted to do something for myself. I started my own company and then began travelling to different exhibitions to get inspiration for a project."
What has been your hardest challenge during your time with SpeakSee?
“After the crowdfunding campaign we really kicked off with the hardware and particularly the hub development. Once the first version of the hub was finalised, we then altered the design a further 4 times before we arrived at the design that we are currently using.
I think that the most challenging part of SpeakSee’s development came during this time, especially in the beginning when we didn’t have any developers except for myself. The product has so many different parts and at that time it was very challenging to ensure that I was familiar with all these elements. Now of course it is much easier because we were able to expand the team and add four developers.”
Do you have a memory from SpeakSee’s development that shows how far you have come?
“When we first began working full-time on the SpeakSee project, we needed to create a video of an initial prototype to show a new group of potential investors. Unfortunately, with the hardware we were using back then, there was still some interference and we were struggling to find a reliable connection to allow for SpeakSee to work. We were walking around the building of our previous office space attempting to find a stable connection but the transcriptions were slow or inaccurate so we decided to try on the roof of the building where there would be less interference. By this time the sun had set but we decided to record the video out there nonetheless, we recorded the video out there in the dark and cold on the roof without providing any context as to why the video had been shot like this. We never received any questions from the investment group about the video being shot in this way, however they must have found this a bit of strange way to introduce this technology."