Aira.IO is a remote assistive technology platform that combines wearable smart device technology with personalized service to help the blind and visually impaired. It connects users with remote agents, who have been trained by Aira.IO to interpret the data stream from smart glasses (like Google Glass) and assist users in navigating their worlds. “The sensor information is critical,” said Aira.IO Founder and CEO Suman Kanuganti (MBA ’14). “It enables us to identify the number of steps for the user to take the next way-point and we use a magnetometer for orientation to detect where the user is looking.” The device also uses an intelligent routing algorithm based on user and agent preference. The product allows blind and low-vision individuals to gain back their independence and to enhance their mobility and self-confidence, while simplifying complexities of their daily life such as shopping, travel, transportation and facial recognition of individuals in groups or crowds.
Incepted at the Rady School and Advanced Through StartR
Kanuganti started Aira.IO during the last quarter of his MBA at the Rady School. “I was in a Technology Commercialization class taught by Professor Zhu, and that’s around the time I and my colleague, Yuja Chang were brainstorming the idea for Aira.IO with one of my blind friends. I wrote my business plan for the company as part of the class,” said Kanuganti.
With hopes to join an incubator to develop Aira.IO, Kanuganti applied for and was accepted into the Rady School’s six-month accelerator program for students and alumni, StartR. “StartR helped not just in terms of mentoring but in creating the corporation and connecting us with other startups and people in the startup community,” said Kanuganti. Those connections led to help with marketing and patenting, refining Kanuganti’s business model, and gathering feedback for Aira.IO. StartR also helped bring the Aira.IO team together. “Most of Aira.IO’s team members are from UC San Diego so StartR provided us a meeting space to come together and really make progress towards developing our product, which was essential because you need to have your team together to make rapid progress.” As part of the conclusion of StartR’s program, Kanuganti presented Aira.IO to investors, industry leaders and local Rady School community at the Rady School’s StartR Demo Day.
Upon graduating from StartR, Aira.IO was selected for incubation at one of Southern California’s most prominent technology incubators, EvoNexus. Aira.IO also welcomed local San Diego entrepreneur Larry Bock as an Investor and Executive Chairman, and built up its board of advisors of experts in the industry including Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, and Andrew Filler, prominent intellectual property attorney.
What’s Next for Aira.IO?
In the coming months Aira.IO intends to finalize the go-to-market strategy, determine pricing, and identify key final features. Aira.IO will also be launching their beta trial this summer, with 100+ users in San Diego. “That’s real, real big for us. It will take us to the next level and help us understand what it means to push our service live and serve our actual customers,” said Kanuganti. “I want to thank the Rady School for all they have done to help develop me as an individual. I now have the business expertise to pair with my engineering background and without my Rady School MBA, I would not be where I am today.”
More on the Rady School’s StartR Accelerator
StartR is a six-month, nonprofit accelerator designed to help Rady School of Management students and alumni to create profitable companies based on their innovative ideas. The program focuses on hands-on company development and teams are mentored by experienced entrepreneurs. In the last three years, 80% of StartR’s teams have been incorporated.
Want to learn more about the Rady School of Management’s innovative and entrepreneurship-focused MBA program? Download our MBA insights eBook, featuring where alumni work, support available for student entrepreneurs at Rady and more.
Lauren Herr is the Social Media Manager for the Rady School. In her free time she can be found snapping landscape pictures and taking advantage of San Diego’s amazing beaches and coffee shops.