Entrepreneur of the week: Hyungsoo Kim, Eone
The Bradley timepiece is Eone‘s first device on the market. Based on principles of inclusive design, it aims to be both practical and aesthetically pleasing for sighted and vision-impaired users alike.
We spoke with founder and CEO, Hyungsoo Kim, about Eone and the opportunities he sees in the 50+ market.
Longevity Network: What does Eone, the company, do?
Hyungsoo Kim: Eone is redefining design to be beautiful, functional, and inclusive. ‘Inclusive design’ is the core principle that guides how we re-approach product design to make them more useable by more consumer experiences. We started with the Bradley Timepiece: a sleek, modern watch you can touch or see to tell time — so you can use it whether you have 20/20 vision or any range of vision impairments. The Bradley Timepiece has won numerous international design awards, including Red Dot, German Design Award, Core77, and more.
LN: Can you tell us about your product and how it works?
HK: The Bradley timepiece features raised markers that allow you to feel the time by touch: a triangular marker for twelve, elongated line segments for three, six, and nine, and shorter line segments for the other markers. Two magnetized ball bearings travel around the watch face in separate, recessed tracks: one track around the center of the watch face for the minute, and one track around the outside edge of the watch face for the hour.
LN: What opportunity did you want to address with the development of your technology?
HK: We wanted to merge beautiful design and accessibility to create a stylish product that can be used by more people. With friends and family with vision impairments, we know that most products don’t consider the needs of people with disabilities, including the 50+ population. We wanted to change that. Our goal was to break down the barrier between products for some people, and products for other people.
LN: Who are your primary users? In what ways can your products benefit the 50+ population?
HK: Some people have mistakenly categorized the Bradley as a watch for the blind. But the Bradley was not designed to be ‘assistive technology’ for one particular group of individuals. Rather, it is equally useful to people with all types of vision, and vision can fluctuate throughout one’s life. As vision deteriorates with age, the small hands on traditional watches become more difficult to read. The Bradley mitigates this problem, while also giving people a way to check the time without being rude. Stuck in a long conversation? Feel for the time under the table. Watching a movie in a dark theater? Feel for the time, rather than illuminating your watch and distracting other viewers.
LN : How did you assemble your team?
HK: My first team was all engineers as our initial approaching was more tech-driven. Our goal was to make a braille watch designed specifically for people with a vision impairment. I recruited engineers from MIT, but then we pivoted toward a design-driven approach, and I needed a new team. Our current team members have diverse backgrounds and skills, from product design, architecture, creative content marketing, finance, writing and more. This has helped us think outside of box to come up with innovative solutions for products that span age groups and abilities.
LN: How has Eone the company differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?
HK: I envisioned it would be very tech-driven company, as I mentioned. My first team thought that people with vision impairments would prioritize functionality over design and fashion. However, we quickly learned that we were wrong. People with vision impairments care about design, size, materials, and colors as much as anyone else. We had ignorantly assumed a correlation between visual acuity and wanting to look good. After learning that lesson, we decided to create something stylish, yet also functionally accessible for people with vision impairments. That’s when we changed our name to Eone, which is short for ‘everyone.’
LN: What do you wish you had known before developing your concept?
HK: I wish I had known the importance of knowing the target audience. We were developing the concept based on what we thought people living with vision impairments wanted, rather than what they actually did. Our thinking was steeped in stereotypes and misconceptions, not first-hand user insights. Now, we are able to use Eone as a platform to opening up conversations and break down barriers between ‘abled’ and ‘disabled’ people. It is our hope that these conversations not only build empathy between citizens, but also inspire other companies to innovate product designs to make them more useful to broader populations.
LN: What most excites you about the aging and / or health technology market?
HK: As a greater portion of our population ages, we have unique opportunity to reconsider who we are designing products for and how long our products will be relevant for our users. Living in a human body means that it will get sick, injured, age, and will sometimes require us to use our bodies differently than we once did. But what if our products could accommodate our changing needs? What if we anticipated the ways in which each of us might need to use products in the future? What if we didn’t need to acquire specialty products as we age because what we have is so well designed, that our needs are already met? This is what we’re trying to do at Eone.
LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?
HK: Some needs of 50+ individuals might be different, but it does not need to be considered an entirely different market. Look to see what are the common needs between the 50+ demographic and younger segments — and then design based on what would appeal and be useful to both crowds. A tea kettle that does not become too heavy when filled with water is imperative for a senior citizen, but also a selling point for a 20-something. A single-story house is important to someone who no longer has the mobility to climb stairs, but is also safer for parents with young children. At Eone, we found a common need among people who are sighted and people who are blind: the desire to look good. It’s a common mistake to divide markets unnecessarily.
LN: Do you have any other products in development?
HK: We have worked on another product, but it’s been on hold as we decided to focus on growing as a timepiece brand first. We realized we are still too small to invest in developing and launching new products at this time, so we’re focusing on our expertise and will grow from there.
LN: Where do you see Eone five years from now?
HK: We have two goals for the next several years. One goal is to become a well-established global brand. Our watches are sold in 35 countries, but our presence in each country is small. We’re especially looking to expand our presence in Europe and Asia. We will also introduce a variety of new materials and colorways to appeal to wider customer groups.
Another goal is to strengthen our involvement with other organizations that work to improve life for people with vision impairments. We currently support two organizations that work to improve access and independence: The Seeing Eye, the oldest guide dog school in the world, and the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust, a nonprofit focusing on braille literacy in East Africa.
About the Author
Hyungsoo Kim is the founder of Eone and a firm believer in the importance of inclusive design. With a goal to create innovative products that are accessible and useful for everyone, he launched Eone with the award-winning Bradley Timepiece: a stylish wristwatch you can touch or see to tell time. Hyungsoo holds BA and MA degrees in Psychology from Wesleyan University and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.