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A man, a mop, a year, and an app (thestartuptoolkit.com)
257 points by robfitz on Dec 28, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

Disclaimer: I own the development company that built Aeir Talk for equity.

If there's anyone who can be labeled a "hustler", it's Joe Hill.

First, he had to sell us on the idea - we get a ton of people who want us to take equity stakes in lieu of cash, and we almost always turn them away. But not Joe. He had tapped the few investors in our area (Hampton Roads, Virginia) and came up short. Our area is pretty conservative, and investing usually is restricted to real estate and other safe bets. But we heard him out and realized that even though he had no business background, no history of successful exits, or any other factors that mitigate risk, he had passion and an amazing story (along with board positions in a few autism societies).

He partnered with EVMS, a local medical school, along with a few speech pathologists with one goal: to bring Apple-like simplicity to medical products. He took the graveyard shift at a local Marriott, and managed to support his wife and two special-needs children WHILE working out of our office during the day.

He launched his app last month at Start Norfolk, a regional startup weekend we put together. If you really want to be inspired, check out the launch video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2WLc1LszZ0&list=UUdXCw6_...

> He took the graveyard shift at a local Marriott, and managed to support his wife and two special-needs children WHILE working out of our office during the day.

He is undoubtedly a hustler, but above all he sounds like a great man.


Would you mind explaining what you mean by "hustler"? I realize it's not the effect you're going for, but I can't help but picture a drug pusher or shady Wall Street-type when I see that word.


Disclaimer: I am the founder of Aeir Talk. Thanks to all who have read the article so far. It's a great joy to see Aeir Talk be so well received and see that it helping a lot of people. Feel free to reach out if you want more information, also the app is at aeirtalk.com if you want to see it. Thanks again everyone.

At what age/level did the therapists find this helpful? My son is currently in autism therapy I have noticed therapists using polaroids so I can see where this would be useful.

To be honest any age group can use this. You can make the flash card's as hard or as easy as you want. One of our customers purchased the app for her 14 year old child. You can read her son's reaction here: http://hamptonroads.com/2011/12/chesapeake-father-creates-ap...

We are brand new but the feedback I am getting from therapists working in the age group 18 months - 10 years and in the moderate to severe category of Autism. Older children with higher ranges of Autism are still using the app. Rather than words however, they are using it for social interaction (learning visual and emotional cues) through the flash cards.

Hey Joe -- thanks for taking the time to share your story w/ me. Both the tale & the app are great.

Hopefully the HN crowd can figure out how to help in some other wonderful & unexpected ways ;) (hint hint)

Thanks Rob. I would be more than receptive to any help given. :)

Pleasant surprise waking up to see this as the top story on HN. I work with We Are Titans (the company that developed Aeir Talk in exchange for equity) and did most of the technical development (along with @nickmjones) on what became the final product. Feel free to ask or reach out if you've got any questions about that side of things.

This actually seems like a much bigger market than just autistic children. I would imagine that many parents that have iPad-crazed kids would would gladly give their kids an app to learn new words instead of Angry Birds. A child would probably be more interested and learn faster if it was Mom's voice talking instead of a robot.

Another interesting case that comes to mind is how Clay Christiansen, author of Innovator's Dilemma, used Rosetta Stone to practice speaking again after having a stroke.

I would imagine too that you could scale pretty quickly by allowing users to create Flashcard sets, and then other users can buy the flash card sets and rate them. This could turn into a crowdsourced Rosetta Stone pretty quickly.

The iPad 2's onboard camera and microphone make it perfect for personalized flashcards. Aeir Talk, while built for special-needs kids, could be used as a flashcard app for any child.

My 3 year old uses it and loves it. Instead of simple clip art of a cat and a robotic reading of the word, we're able to take a picture of our cat Tobi accompanied with mom's voice.

Crowded sourced content for this app would be great, especially in other languages. Rosetta Stone only covers a small sliver of the world's spoken languages.

Regarding the site slowness: A while back, I changed the blog from a subdomain to a directory and didn't update the caching. It was caching pages at the wrong URL and thus being entirely useless.

It's fixed now -- sorry for the annoyance to anyone who got held up.

As an cofounder of a startup and an aunt of a autistic nephew, I am inspired. Thanks for a great way to start may day smiling and motivated.

This is invaluable for anyone trying to raise a bilingual child. Big, big thanks to the developers!

Bump! This is awesome!

Am I the only one to have read/noticed: "My background is in bible theology. I went to school to be basically a history teacher." and instantly tensed up??

Are you worried that he would try to teach things like young-earth creationism etc?

Afaik bible theology and history are two completely separate circles on the venn diagram, one completely based on evidence the other completely on the lack of evidence and entirely on faith/beleif? How did this get so far off topic?

You started an off-topic thread. This is the second thread I've read on HN this morning that is judgmental of others religious convictions. Why even focus on it?

OP was quoting the article, about as on topic as you can get! I am never judgemental of others religious convictions, people are obviously entitled to believe what they want, however I would expect someone with a background in mathematics to teach mathematics, someone with a background in history to teach history, someone with a background in science to teach science and someone with a background in bible theology to teach R.E. (religious education)! I cant help but wince every time I hear a story about a deeply religious person becoming a teacher to teach biology or history! Especially in america where some already dispute the "theory" of evolution and refuse to teach it in schools!

Eh, the study of theology is mostly the study of historical development of theology. Theology student to history teacher isnt as far of a jump as you would think. If he was a philosophy student, you wouldnt have jumped to the same judgement.

Just because somebody believes in religion does not mean that they do not believe in science. And because someone believes that God created everything does not mean they do not believe in evolution. It is perfectly fine to believe in both.

Fitzgerald: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

Hitchens: “Some people say it’s a sign of intelligence to be able to keep two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time, and it can be a sign of intelligence. It can also be a sign of stupidity, or of unwillingness to make up the mind.”

Take your pick.

> I cant help but wince every time I hear a story about a deeply religious person becoming a teacher to teach biology or history!

History? Why?

As to biology, while evolution is fundamental for some things, it's irrelevant much of the time[1]. Insisting on "true believers" in those cases is imposing an irrelevant religious test.

[1] Yes, irrelevant. Very little in biochemistry or molecular biology depends on how life evolved to use the chemical reactions that it uses. Cellular biology is much the same. There are parts of physiology where evolution has a little more relevance but ....

Regarding your footnote, this is true, but keeping evolution in mind helps explain the sometimes convoluted steps in biochemical reactions to get an end-product (that would otherwise be pretty simple in an organic chemistry lab).

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