Meet GES Delegate: Oded Ben Dov

Name: Oded Ben Dov

Twitter handle: @sesameenable

Country of Origin: Israel

Organization Name: Sesame Enable

Organization Website: https://sesame-enable.com/

Description of Organization: Sesame Enable developed the first completely touch-free smartphone, created for people with disabilities by people with disabilities. Powered by voice control and cutting-edge head-tracking technology, the Sesame Phone opens a new world of communication and independence to a population that needs it most: quadriplegics, people suffering from ALS, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, Multiple Sclerosis, severe arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and others who have limited to no use of their hands. Sesame Enable’s co-founders are Giora Livne, a quadriplegic veteran and former engineer, and Oded Ben Dov, a young app developer who left the gaming world to create the Sesame Phone.

What inspired you to start this organization? If the Star Wars world of Good vs. Evil was our reality, I’d say I was born on the good side. When a hands-free, head gesture controlled game I had created as a developer led a quadriplegic man to call me and ask if I could help him make hands-free smartphones accessible for people like him — I knew that was my calling. This was my chance to apply my technological skills and experience to achieve a greater good. If I hand’t picked up that phone and agreed to partner with Giora on this project, I’m not sure many of my colleagues in hi-tech would have rushed to serve such a niche market. But I believed in this cause, and I have faith that if you can generate real value — especially the kind of life-changing value Sesame Enable delivers — success will follow.

What is the next big step you hope to help your organization reach?With several hundred Sesame Phones shipped, and countless enthusiastic responses from users, we aspire to deliver our unique solution to everyone who needs it. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. alone — and millions around the world — who stand to benefit from our technology, and we hope to reach all of them.

What has been your biggest obstacle as an entrepreneur? As one of the first serious startups in the Social Impact space, securing funding was a major challenge for us. They say that Impact or For-Benefit companies have a double bottom line: profit and impact/benefit. However, most traditional investors were only concerned with one of those bottom lines (I’ll let you guess which one). What this meant was that we received rejection after rejection after rejection from investors, always accompanied by something to the effect of, “Kudos on what you do, it’s very commendable, but out of our focus.” Despite this initial reaction, we kept our heads up and kept on working, not allowing our vision to fade. And while this hesitation among investors to fund high-impact solutions still exists, we believe that our success could help to turn that attitude around.

What advice would you give other emerging entrepreneurs? The best advice I received early on from a valued mentor was “Don’t listen to anyone.” That stuck with me, and helped give me the confidence to trust my choices and my decisions. Of course it should be taken with a grain of salt, and feedback is always welcome, but people will constantly be telling you to do something differently, or that you’re going about things the wrong way, and sometimes they may be right, but most of the time they’re speaking to you without the background or the knowledge to really have the authority to tell you what to do.