Patrick Freuler, Founder, Audicus (NYC)

The Unicorn

Hearing aids aren’t covered by insurance and cost up to $7,000 per pair. And there’s stigma attached. Most people don’t realize how tiny they’ve become.

My company Audicus is addressing this issue by offering high-tech, affordable hearing aids online. We are making it possible for anyone with hearing loss to obtain hearing aids without the inflated cost due to the middleman. Since June 2012, we’ve saved people more than $12 million.

The Wound

When Audicus launched we were selling sound amplifiers (non-customized devices) and programmable hearing aids (customized). After getting feedback from existing and potential new customers and looking at numbers of how the products were selling online, we found that programmable hearing aids were twice as attractive to our customers than amplifiers.

How to Restore the Unicorn’s Health

We really took a step back to see what customers actually need, not what they thought that they need. From there we took a drastic leap of faith and cut out personal sound amplifiers all together and started selling only programmable hearing aids. In the end, this shifted our entire business model and was something that helped define Audicus.

How to Care for your Unicorn

I am a big fan of the book The Lean Startup. The Lean Startup helps entrepreneurs put their business ideas into perspective, for example, how applicable is a five year business plan going to be? Would it be a better use of time to look at real data first and from there derive a more tangible business plan? All valid questions to ask yourself when just starting off. This book is encouraging while also helping to prevent entrepreneurs from getting ahead of themselves before knowing if the market is there. Bottom line, you need to test something out to know if it works or not.