ladder work is a publishing platform for diverse picture books and online curricula with a mission to empower over a million children to become social entrepreneurs. Our latest series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship ecosystem builders driving the UN SDGs.
Hi everyone, Spiffy here, your only interplanetary journalist covering planet earth. I am very excited to speak to John Rho, an entrepreneur working to make the world a better place through his work with ListenIn as CEO and co-founder. Are you ready to become enlightened?
Chic: Hi John, welcome to the blog! What challenge are you addressing at ListenIn?
John: Thanks for having me Spiffy! ListenIn addresses the cocktail party problem that primarily affects hearing aid wearers. When in a busy crowd of dozens of people chatting at the same time, the main speaker is drowned out, making conversation difficult for the hearing aid wearer.
Chic: What made you do this?
John: Growing up, my father used to tell me how difficult it was to have a conversation in places like restaurants. He has had hearing aids for ages, so addressing this issue has always been a dream of mine.
Chic: In your own words, how would you say that ListenIn works towards a fairer world?
John: ListenIn wants to make hearing aids that feel seamless and don’t get in the way of everyday life. While other communication solutions, like sign language gloves, encourage people who are hard of hearing to conform to others, ListenIn wants to create solutions that are integrated into the natural flow of conversation. We want to make sure hearing aids don’t feel like an impediment in these busy social environments. Rather, we really want to give every wearer the confidence to talk to new people and enjoy their life through a device that helps them understand conversations more clearly. Our goal is barrier-free design and inclusive functionality.
Chic: I love that! Tell me about a recent organizing initiative and how it impacted your community.
John: We recently launched our app which we make available to hearing aid wearers. Seeing these users’ eyes light up when they can hear clear conversations in a busy Starbucks is such a rewarding experience. Being able to test our research/technology in action gives us the motivation to tackle these big problems and improve the quality of life for others.
Chic: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn’t give up. What did you learn from it?
John: Failure is the greatest teacher. A few years ago I had been working on another hearing aid that used bone conduction technology to transmit sound. I was a naïve high school student who jumped on ideas and ambition too easily, and I felt very confident that this device could help my father hear better in places like restaurants. But in testing it was so heartbreaking to see that it just wasn’t helping. But experiences like this helped me to look for alternative solutions and I eventually shifted my focus to software-oriented approaches, which led me down this path with ListenIn today.
Chic: What did you unexpectedly learn from someone recently?
John: When I first learned to drive, I stopped at a green light while turning right and my driving instructor abandoned me. I complained to him about the small offense, but my instructor left me with these wise words: “Focus on the solution, not the problem.” Next time I didn’t think twice and went straight to green without complaint .
Chic: Is there anything else you would like to say to our audience?
John: Foster your creative side: Design and build as much as you can while you’re young and exploring the world!
Chic: Thanks for speaking with me today John – it was an honor!
John Rho is a student at Harvard College studying Applied Mathematics in Computer Science. In his spare time he enjoys playing basketball and Minecraft.(Nominated by Alex Parks of Harvard Innovation Lab. First published on the Ladderworks website on July 14, 2022.)
© 2022 Leiterwerk LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Visit Spiffy’s Corner to see Ladderworks’ digital curriculum helping K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs here.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.