For the first time ever, each of the five investors in the Irish production of Dragons’ Den have backed a planned new product.
The ‘image2talk’ app has the potential to revolutionise the quality of life of people with special needs who have speech difficulties and impressed each of the Dragons on last night’s show.
It was created by special needs teacher Fiona Wilson, 37, who, from her experience working with children and teenagers, saw a need for a “simple” app suitable for teenagers and adults as well as children.
Discussing apps on the market, Ms Wilson says: “I felt they were at too high a level for many people. Either that or they were complicated to use. Mine is really simple and is user-friendly.”
“One of the important differences is that it uses real pictures rather than cartoon images.”
This makes it adaptable to be used by adults who may have lost their speech after a stroke or other life-changing event.
“I knew my app needed to be quick and simple for the user and it has to meet their unique needs,” Ms Wilson says.
Although she only went into the Den with a prototype prepared by a friend, the potential of the app meant that for the first time in the Irish series of the programme, all five Dragons wanted to invest.
“I was looking for €16,000 and I got it, with each Dragon investing €3,200 each,” Ms Wilson says. “I hope this will be a tool to improve the quality of life of people with special needs and also reduce challenging behaviour.”
During the pitch, the Wicklow-based teacher learned that Dragon Sean O’Sullivan has a son with autism.
Fellow Dragon Norah Casey said: “I would have done it alone but I think we could all bring something to it.”
Once Fiona makes enough money to cover the investment she will pay the Dragons back and go back to owning 100% of the business.
The app will be launched in the coming weeks.
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