By Zoya Hasan and Alex York
Tomás Vega’s voice trembled with emotion as he demoed his startup Augmental’s latest technology: a tongue-controlled, computer mouse pad (called MouthPad) that allowed a dad to control robotic toys to play with his child right from his wheelchair.
While last week we reported on funding for impact-driven companies being on the rise, some companies like Augmental, founded by 2023 Under 30 Social Impact listers Vega and Corten Singer, are still finding themselves with little funding for their big missions.
Since 2019, the pair have been working on this hands-free, custom fit mouthpiece for device control, which they like to call a “third hand,” specifically created for people with disabilities. There are nearly 43 million Americans who live with some sort of disability, according to 2021 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The market is there, says Vega, who first launched this idea at MIT’s Media Lab, but “the idea of disabilities is not as flashy as B2B SaaS,” he says.