I generally enjoy writing about startups, but I love writing about startups that are working on something undeniably good for the world. This is one of those.
SoundFocus is trying to improve the experience of listening to music for people who are hard of hearing, or unable to hear certain frequencies. They’ve just raised $1.7M to get it done.
The investors in this round were Kapor Capital (Lotus and EFF Co-Founder Mitch Kapor’s fund), Y-Combinator, Greg Badros, Ovo Fund, RTA Capital, Vegas Tech Fund, Garry Tan, Alexis Ohanian, and Harj Taggar.
We first wrote about SoundFocus back at the tail end of 2013, just after they’d first launched their iOS application.
The app, compatible with both your iPhone’s built-in music library and tracks streamed down from Spotify, automatically adjusts music based on a person’s unique abilities to hear different frequencies.
When you first launch the app, a quick one-minute test helps you determine which frequencies you can and can’t hear. When you later play a track through the app, it’ll adjust the music accordingly. Can’t hear highs very well? The app will take those higher frequencies and attempt to drop them down into a range you can hear. Even if you hear frequencies better in one ear than you do in the other, it’ll be able to compensate.
How does one find themselves in this space? One of the company’s co-founders, Alex Selig, grew up with hearing loss, requiring hearing aids in both ears. He and his co-founder, Varun Srinivasan, met during a gig at Microsoft, and the two set out to, as they put it to me, “change the way the world hears”
The app is, and always has been, free. So how does the team make money?
As we’ve written before, they’re working on a hardware equivalent of this app that’ll bring similar functionality to any music source — not just your iPhone. They’re still not saying much about what exactly this hardware solution will be, but they’re hoping the free app will help raise awareness (both of the problem and of their efforts) in the long run.
You can find SoundFocus (currently iOS only) in the App Store right over here.