From high school prom-goer to founding CEO who’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, Mateusz Mach lives an exciting life. The 18-year-old designed and released an app last year—called Five—intended as a silly way to message friends with slang hand signals. That alone may not seem so astounding. However, Mach—who lives in Poland—is raising money now to transform Five into a useful tool for people with hearing loss.
He started this more serious project when app users in the deaf community told him his app allows them to communicate faster and in a language more natural to them than typing. They asked him to produce a version containing the entire symbol collection for both International and American Sign Language. Building out such extensive symbol libraries would take additional resources and expertise and, according to a recent article in Business Insider, soliciting venture funds in Poland poses big challenges even for seasoned entrepreneurs.
Pitching investors in Poland is also a lot different than it is in Silicon Valley, but despite his youth and inexperience, Mach raised the needed funding—all while attending school and that prom. Mach has raised more than $150,000 so far, enough to begin enhancing the app. He and his new investor/designer, Piotr Polański, plan to use some of that cash to hire experts to help build the sign-language libraries.
Mach also “secured a partnership with the United Nations, including the employment of a New York-based ASL interpreter, to help with the development and distribution of Five in the United States,” reports journalist Matt Weinberger in the article.
The Leader’s upcoming May issue will discuss language options for children with hearing loss. Until then, enjoy these related stories: