Award-winning startup aims to boost accessibility for readers at all levels
By Jenny Huang, Oct 19, 2021
The pandemic, in a big way, has accelerated the pace of long-form content consumption for workers, professionals and students alike, due to remote-working arrangements and online distance learning.
However, reading long-form content can cause fatigue that could affect a person’s academic or work performance. And imagine how long-form content could impact those with a learning disability or visual impairment.
Until recently, there wasn’t a tool designed to improve the cognitive efficiency of reading on screen — or to make the process easier, faster and more enjoyable for readers at all levels.
BeeLine Reader, a young startup based in Menlo Park, is out to change that.
Founder and CEO Nick Lum is a former Mountain View resident who worked as a corporate lawyer before embarking on his entrepreneurial journey as the creator of BeeLine.
Due to his own experience with reading fatigue — he routinely read legal and business documents on screen for many hours each day — Lum said he saw an opportunity to develop a solution that would make reading easier.
His solution? Display text using eye-guiding color gradients. He teamed with his cousin Andrew Cantino, a software developer, and launched a web browser plugin that applies BeeLine’s reading technology to website text. The technology also benefits users reading downloaded PDFs or on mobile devices.
Lum said primary functions of BeeLine include helping maintain focus while reading, decreasing visual fatigue and improving the accessibility of text for people with learning differences or visual impairment.
“BeeLine Reader takes the visual tracking aspect of your eye movement while reading and automates it, so your brain spends less effort in keeping track of where your eyes should be,” he said. “Instead, it allows you to allocate more cognitive resources to other reading-related sub-tasks, such as comprehending and analyzing what you’re reading.”
He added that readers can customize the way BeeLine operates, from choosing the color gradient they like best to deciding which websites it should run on.
“For many people, BeeLine Reader fundamentally changes their ability to read,” Lum said. “After they’ve experienced this new, easier way of reading, they don’t want to go back to reading plain black text again.”
In addition to functioning as a browser plugin and an app, BeeLine licenses its patented technology to companies. Lum said licensees have found that their users taking advantage of the BeeLine app read more on their platforms than those who don’t use it.
Creating Social and Human Impact
BeeLine’s technology goes beyond the accessibility benefits for readers who get fatigued due to heavy-reading loads. The company has received feedback from users with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD. Lum said these users have found BeeLine extremely helpful in making reading easier and more enjoyable.
Along with social impact, the technology can indirectly help those who might feel they haven’t been able to reach their potential when it comes to being an efficient reader. This type of encouragement may boost a person’s self-esteem and help him or her achieve better work or academic performance.
Lum said an example of BeeLine Reader’s impact is echoed through its successful pilot program with Blackboard Ally, which strives to provide a more inclusive learning for all types of learners.
“The feedback from the pilot was so successful that Blackboard Ally ended the pilot early in order to expedite a full release of BeeLine’s feature to all users,” he said. “Feedback like this is what keeps me energized — nothing is more satisfying than getting an email from a BeeLine user whose life has been changed by our simple tool.”
BeeLine has won several awards for social impact, including a recent honor from the MIT Solve Global Competition. The company’s technology was among a handful selected — from hundreds of applicants worldwide — for the Digital Inclusion Global Challenge.
Previously, BeeLine won awards from the UN Solutions Summit and The Tech Museum of Innovation (now The Tech Interactive) in San Jose.
For more information on the company and its product, visit beelinereader.com.
Jenny Huang is founder and CEO of Jenny Huang Marketing LLC, a Silicon Valley strategic marketing and business consulting firm. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in the Los Altos Town Crier