STARTUP OF THE MONTH
For developing a technology capable of substantially improving the lives of millions of people around the world, Sunu is LatinSF’s startup of the month.
Sunu is a cross-boarder technology startup based in Guadalajara, Mexico and Boston MA. Started by Marco Trujillo, Cuauhtli Padilla and Fernando Albertorio, Sunu was founded with the vision of a world where no person is considered (or labeled as) disabled. The company’s mission is to empower independence and bridge the access-gap for the visually impaired through technology that enhances our human abilities and the senses.
Sunu had its initial conception in the fall of 2012 when both Marco and Cuauhtli were engineering students at the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterey, in Guadalajara. Marco and Cuauhtli grew up together in Guadalajara and shared a similar interest and talent for electronics and computer science. They also shared a curiosity and passion for assistive technologies, and were always tinkering to find solutions that would help improve the life for a longtime friend who lives with multiple disabilities. Marco and Cuauhtli won a series of hackathons and competitions. The duo created six award-winning assistive technologies through their high school and college years and collaborate on various projects that include a drone, an autonomous vehicle and other devices. Marco and Cuauhtli chose to complete their community service degree requirement at a school for blind children in Guadalajara, ‘Escuela Para Niños Ciegos de Helen Keller’. Their eureka moment happened when they observed the children during the weekly mobility lesson. Some of the kids, though using the white cane, would bump into sign posts, tree branches and a variety of obstacles that littered the sidewalks. The prototype that Marco and Cuauhtli brought to the school was a wristband with a sonar sensor and a vibrating motor wired up to a circuit board. This device would vibrate when an obstacle was nearby. They children were eager to try it out and quickly learned how to use it. What happened next caught the attention of teachers, the principal, parents and even the governor of the state of Jalisco.
There are 280 Million people worldwide who are visually impaired, included blind and low vision. Accidents like those described above are a frequent occurrence for blind and low vision pedestrians. Even though the white cane or guide dog help guarantee the next step, accidents to the upper body and the head pose a serious health risk and at times require emergency care. Frequent accidents lead to a decline in activity which can lead to isolation and depression. Globally, we spend approximately $10 billion annually in healthcare related costs for the blind and visually impaired.
In 2014, Marco and Cuauhtli were joined by Fernando Albertorio, a legally blind technologist and serial entrepreneur. Since then, the team developed its technology in partnership with leading experts like Daniel Kish at World Access for the Blind as well as with some of the largest institution serving the visually impaired in the US and across the globe. Sunu also successfully competed and won the largest tech startup competition in the world, the MassChallenge, and was part Summer 2017 batch at Y-Combinator, the world’s most selective startup accelerator.
Sunu’s flagship product, Sunu Band launched in the market in late November, 2017. To date, Sunu’s community has grown to over 1,500 blind and low vision Sunu Band users, and in 42 countries, including Mexico, the US, England, Denmark, Germany Australia and more. Sunu recently launched a partnership with Vision Australia, the largest provider of services for the visually impaired with 28 centers and 30 clinics throughout the continent.
Today, the team has grown to 12 employees. Sunu is scaling up production of Sunu Band and continue to carrying out cutting edge technology research with leading institutions worldwide. Recently, launching a partnership program with the Mistletoe Foundation, team Sunu continue to investigate new technologies which will further enhance navigation and independence for people who are blind and low vision.