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#IMakeApps: A Spanish acrobat makes the world more accessible for deaf people

June 28th, 2018

Editor’s note: To celebrate the hard work, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of app makers around the world, this week, and over the coming months, we’ll celebrate our Android community by featuring founders, product managers, designers and developers from around the world. We’ll showcase their passions and also hear about what they do when they step away from their computers. Meet our next app maker, Manel Alcaide, a Spanish acrobat, co-founder and CEO of Visualfy. And check out more #IMakeApps stories on g.co/play/imakeapps.

Manel started performing aerial acrobatics in 2008. He has also hosted integration workshops for deaf and hearing children, bringing them together through circus techniques. His passion for making the world more accessible led him to co-found Visually, an app for deaf people that translates sounds into visual and sensory alerts.

We caught up with Manel in the small Spanish town of Benissanó, where he runs his tech startup:

When and why did you get involved with technology? I got into tech through my long-time friend and co-founder Angel Albiach. We both ran an association that brings together deaf and hearing people through circus arts. Angel cannot live without tech and slowly he made me fall in love with it and its potential too, so we decided to combine his expertise in tech and my business vision to build a team that drives social impact through tech.

Why did you decide to set up your company in Benissanó? Benissanó is a small village near Valencia (Spain), with a population of under 2,000 people. I grew up here, playing around one of the best kept medieval castles in Spain, as my grandparents were the housekeepers. It’s an unexpected place to be running a tech startup but I just feel inspired here, it’s quiet, the air is clean and nights are starry; and there’s top talent to hire, who want to make an impact whilst keeping this lifestyle.

How did you come up with the idea for the app? I had been working with deaf people for more than seven years. One day in a meeting my smartphone vibrated and one deaf person told me someone was calling me. Without looking at the screen I told him it was a text message, not a phone call, and explained to him that I use different sounds for different notifications. That was the moment when we decided to create our first app.

What has been your experience with Android & Google Play? Android’s openness allows us to create features that are just not possible on other mobile platforms, so we can deliver a much better experience for our users. The wide variety of devices with affordable prices, not just on smartphones but also on wearables with Wear OS, helps us reach more people and have a bigger impact.

How has your app business grown since you started? Within five months of launching the app and without spending a single euro, we had more than 5,000 downloads in 122 countries. For the past three years, we have been creating a hardware solution that works with our app to improve the quality of life and home safety for people with hearing loss. Our team of professionals is now 22 people strong; we work hard every day to make the world a more accessible place.