The Impact of Age on UX With The Co-Founders of ELEVU
In a tech climate where female founders make up a small percentage of the startup landscape, entrepreneurial duo (and twin sisters) Melanie and Mistie Halpin are working hard to improve those statistics with passion and a unified mission to change the UX status quo. Now knee deep in the tech arena, they didn’t start out there. “Neither of us are originally from tech backgrounds. I was an Occupational Therapist, working in the public health system and my twin sister Mistie worked in education and as a writer.” Melanie said, “We both knew we wanted to work for ourselves. We also knew it had to be fun and just as importantly we needed to be ‘of service’ in some way.”
Once inspired with the idea that would go on to become ELEVU, like many struck with inspiration Melanie was at a loss as to where to begin. With a sense of momentum pushing her forward, the future founder continued juggling full time work whilst spending her nights and weekends engrossed in everything startup. Filing a provisional patent within her second year, it was around the same time Mistie came on board as co-founder, giving the project an influx of fresh energy, ideas and support. A move that would prove incredibly successful, the sisters now would make a powerful team.
Like any team, every player has their role to play and it wasn’t long before the sisters sought the expertise of award winning Computational Mathematician Dr Tony Miller (formerly of the CSIRO) to play an integral role in making their dreams become a reality. “Our team importantly includes the amazing technical talents of Dr Tony Miller, whose skill set and expertise fit our project perfectly.” Melanie commented. Originally coming across Dr Miller’s work during research earlier in the project, feeling too intimidated to contact him, the co-founders kept it on the back burner for a year or so until they decided to throw caution to the wind and send him an email. “To our complete surprise he responded and said he was interested to learn more. The rest as they say is history.”
Their outreach paid off. Melanie noted, “Flash forward almost 2 years and together we’ve published two international patents and have a working conceptual prototype that continues to progress daily. We also went from bootstrapping this whole journey to getting on board our first investors earlier this year, allowing us to work solely on the company.”
Melanie Halpin, Co-Founder of ELEVU
Ideas can come in many forms from many places. “We come from a very large (kinda crazy) close knit family, ranging in age from 1 month to 87 years, and like most families we’re constantly sending each other texts, photo’s, video’s, face booking etc.” Melanie explained, “I noticed my parents as well as aunts and uncles all struggling to see their screens and as a consequence having to constantly search for their glasses, hold their phones at a distance or even enlarging their screens to the point a person metres away could read over their shoulder. You could see an obvious sense of frustration and at times embarrassment.”
Melanie took the next step and landed on what would be the focus of ELEVU. She shared, “It seemed ridiculous that modern technology had passed them by. It made me think – Why should age impact the user experience? Why should they have to adapt just because they were getting a little older.”
This observation led to a sudden realization of what could be a solution. Melanie shared her idea, “It seemed astonishingly simple and yet of course incredibly complex – why couldn’t we adapt the device, so users didn’t have to. Eliminating the need for glasses or some kind of altered user experience. The user experience could then be the same across the board no matter the age.”
With the idea of ELEVU now evolved into several patents and a website, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The Co-Founder described, “The day after our website went live, I received a call from an ex-colleague of mine who is in her mid 40’s. I’ll never forget the genuine emotion in her voice as she spoke of ELEVU, explaining that she’d felt this ‘gap’ appear between herself and her kids over the past couple of years when using technology and that this had become noticeable in the workplace as well. I got off the phone and got a little teary. Realising the emotional impact our technology would have as well as the functional one was massive.”
The Importance of Believing in Yourself
Mistie Halpin, Co-Founder of ELEVU
Launching a tech startup has been a big learning experience for Melanie and Mistie. On the biggest lesson she learned, Mistie noted, “Self belief is more important than anything. If the universe can inspire you with an idea, we believe it can help bring it to fruition.”
How do you actually bring your idea to life? The co-founding duo advised, “1. Never. Give. Up. (You just have to keep moving forward) 2. Don’t worry about where to start – just START.” The sisters elaborated, “Make a couple of phone calls. Ask your friends if they have any contacts. Search engines are your best friend. It’s amazing how much free advice people are willing to offer up with absolutely no obligation.”
The ELEVU Co-Founders did this themselves. They remembered, “In the initial stages of our startup we had the opportunity to sit down with some major law firms, academics and experts in their fields – all through doing the research and putting some calls out.”
The path to launching ELEVU wasn’t always easy. Mistie said, “To be honest, we don’t view anything as ‘failures’. In saying that, if you’re asking us has everything always gone the way we’d hoped or anticipated? No, of course not. We’ve had some doors that have been closed, deadlines that really went down to the wire and many a time where we didn’t know how the next bill was going to be paid. But in hindsight, everything has always come down to perseverance and trust.”
Mistie Halpin (left) and Melanie Halpin (right)
“Simply put, current technologies seem oblivious or sadly indifferent to the basic needs of a large percentage of their users. In our case ageing users, specifically aged 40+ which is the average age when people begin to experience blurred near vision known as Presbyopia.” The Co-Founders shared.
This reality is experienced by an impressively large amount of people. Melanie and Mistie related, “We know that there are currently over a billion people worldwide experiencing this inevitable human condition and it’s not going away. Current basic solutions are increasing the font size of the screen, which affects the user’s level of privacy, as well as fragmenting the experience and reading glasses. Isn’t ‘smart technology’ meant to be ‘smart’? We see the device as the problem, not the user.” ELEVU’s technology will eliminate the need to wear glasses to interact with technology, heralding a new era in the user experience.
How can other women in tech design UX in such a thoughtful way? The Co-Founders commented, “Always design with yourself, your family and friends in mind. Creating solutions to the simplest of problems can always lead to innovation that will serve not only a purpose but the community at large.”
In a final word of advice to entrepreneurial women, Mistie and Melanie said, “Ultimately, this whole tech startup caper (like anything in life) is meant to be fun. If it’s not, then there’s no point in doing it. Life goes way too fast, so if you’re not happy with what you’re doing, choose again, make a change. Set lofty goals, you never know what might happen in the pursuit of achieving them.” The ELEVU Co-Founders are certainly making headway on their own lofty goals. You can cheer them on and watch their progress on Twitter.
How are you thoughtfully creating UX?
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