Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Otsimo

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One-line solution summary:

Otsimo is democratizing access to special education & speech therapy through its leading game-based learning apps.

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Pitch your solution.

Problem

In the US alone, the CDC identifies 1 in 54 children as diagnosed on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). What’s more, in 2010, the US Department of Education found that as many as 20% of Americans are affected by other learning disabilities or disorders. With such alarming rates and the fact that the cost of treatment for early age intervention and development can be as high $60,000 per year to support someone diagnosed with ASD, accessibility for treatment for all is a pipe dream. 

Solution

Otsimo is a special education platform for children with special needs. It has two apps: the Special Education and Speech Therapy. Special Education teaches core skills vital for cognitive and behavioral development. Speech Therapy teaches early speech skills via a voice-controlled, video modeling-based language and speech therapy app. Otsimo apps apply scientific therapy methods to develop and sharpen core competencies at an early age. 

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Special needs children don't have enough access to education as they need. In the US, the CDC identifies 1 in 54 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Also in 2010, the US Department of Education found that as many as 20% of Americans are affected by other learning disabilities or disorders. With such alarming rates and the fact that the cost of treatment for early age intervention and development can be as high $60,000 per year to support someone diagnosed with ASD, accessibility for treatment for all is a pipe dream. National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) states that there are over 6m children who need special education and around 7.4m kids have a speech delay in one period of their life. According to AutismSociety, families with special needs spend three times more on education, which is $8,600 extra per child per year, on average. Families annually pay $52 billion for special education. Nearly the same amount goes to speech therapy. In addition, the State cost of caring for Americans with autism had reached $268 billion in 2015. Otsimo believes early and intensive education is the best available solution and strives to meet the special needs of all children. 

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What is your solution?

Otsimo is a special education platform for children with special needs. It contains two apps, namely the Special Education and Speech Therapy. Special Education teaches core skills vital for cognitive and behavioral development. Speech Therapy teaches early speech skills via a voice-controlled, video modeling-based language, and speech therapy app. Otsimo’s educational apps incorporate scientific therapy methods to develop and sharpen core competencies at an early age.

Our Apps:

 


Otsimo Special Education is democratizing access to special education internationally with a direct-to-family approach that is affordable, accessible, efficient, and best of all, simple. Designed to empower and engage children with developmental disabilities—such as autism, down syndrome, and other cognitive learning disorders—Otsimo enables any mobile device to become a platform for learning. The app allows children with special needs to develop core cognitive, social, and speech skills through gamification.

Download for iOS | Download for Android

 


Otsimo Speech Therapy is a voice-controlled and video modeling-based language and speech therapy app. Individuals with speech delays, stuttering, apraxia, non-verbal autism, articulation problems, aphasia, and late talkers can easily use the app for their language and speech development.

Download for iOS | Download for Android

for more information: https://otsimo.com/en


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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Otsimo's story started with two friends who had a huge dream to democratize special education. One of the co-founders, Zafer Elcik, wanted to help his younger brother after he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. 

That initial app that Elcik created for his brother to learn and develop core competencies has since expanded into what Otsimo is today so that children across the world can have an easy and simple access to forms of therapy. 

Read Zafer's story:

Zafer's Brother Alper
Meeting With Autism
My brother was diagnosed with severe autism when he was 2 years old. I was 10 back then. He had been non-verbal and unable to read for a long time. I remember those days when we wanted him to speak even just one word.

Alper & Zafer
Discovering the potential
He was having a hard time focusing and learning. But when I bought my first smartphone, I realized my brother had a special interest in smart devices. He was able to focus on a task for about 10 times longer than he usually could on his surroundings. After noticing that, I bought him his own iPad as a gift.


Lack of a proper solution
Right around then, I noticed a problem. There weren’t suitably designed applications for children with neurodiversity like him. Some apps were too expensive, and the games were very difficult for him. Because of that, he could play only a few apps, some of which included ads that I thought could be harmful to him.

Zafer & Sercan(cofounder)
...and taking the initiative
So with my close friend, we decided to build a basic color matching game to teach colors to my brother. In a relatively short period of time, he became able to distinguish the colors. His interest and success inspired us to build games for every child who can benefit from them, and we created Otsimo, a mobile education platform for children with special needs.

We believe that education is a basic human right, and are determined to improve our work until proper special education is available and accessible to each and every household in need.

Here is a video from our users explaining what their problem was and how Otsimo was able to help them.

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Increase the engagement of learners in remote, hybrid, and physical environments, including strategies and tools for parental support, peer interaction, and guided independent work.
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Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Because of COVID, many autistic children were not able to attend school and had to be homeschooled. But remote or homeschooling for kids with special needs requires more attention and a lot of content specifically designed for them.

Otsimo is democratizing access to special education and speech therapy by creating a gamified, motivational, and personalized experience for learners.  Otsimo engages learners to maintain their focus for longer periods of time and drastically increases the effectiveness of sessions. 

The apps can be used anywhere, anytime. They make special education accessible to families with special needs across the world.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Ankara, Türkiye
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth.
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Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

We have been working on Otsimo for over five years now, and have tested our products within special education communities. Otsimo now serves its products to its community and is looking for growth. Currently, Otsimo serves 350,000+ people across the world (United States -> 48>%, Turkey -> 15%, United Kingdom -> 11%, Canada -> 4%, Australia -> 4%). Otsimo serves its products to its community and looking for growth. We are looking to do partnerships with government agents and healthcare insurance companies to make Otsimo products accessible to all, more than ever.

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Zafer Elcik

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology
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What makes your solution innovative?

Otsimo’s educational apps incorporate scientific therapy methods to develop and sharpen core competencies at an early age. 

Otsimo is a special education and speech therapy platform that can be used to increase the engagement of learners by providing students with a variety of learning activities. Otsimo's apps provide students with a variety of learning activities and tools, such as games, puzzles, and videos.

The app uses a game-based learning system that has been proven by previous research to increase the engagement of learners. Otsimo has also a speech and language AI solution that helps kids with speech or language delays overcome the challenges of communication. Thanks to video modeling technique and speech AI, kids can improve speech and communication skills, such as language development, articulation and fluency, and expressive and receptive language.

The apps are interactive, educational, and they're organized by skill level, allowing users to progress at their own pace. They're also available on all devices and can be used on the go!


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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Behavioral Technology
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Children & Adolescents
  • Persons with Disabilities
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 4. Quality Education
  • 10. Reduced Inequality
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

In the last five years, we have reached over 350,000 users across the world. We think this number will be 500,000 in a year, and in the next five years, our goal is to exceed 2 million users. We aim to reach as many households in need as possible to democratize special education.

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Steadily, we have been achieving our goal of reaching more households across the world. We started building products for severe autism, then we added AAC, and since then we have been expanding our reach to provide quality education to all special needs families. We have localized our apps in different languages to provide access to overseas communities. To fit the needs of all special needs children, we made our apps in a way to be more personalized and adjustable any time using advanced technology. We add new content every month. Our blog is full of reliable information. If a solution cannot be transformed into a form where it can be helpful for a special needs group, we develop new and specific solutions to fit their need. In Turkey, we have licensed our app to one of Turkey’s largest telecommunication companies and it is used under the roof of the Ministry of National Education to be used in special education classes, free of charge, which was one of our driving goals to make special education accessible to masses. Our resource library is updated with new content and solutions every month for all special needs. Our aim is to eventually meet the special needs gap and just like we did in Turkey, build partnerships for underserved communities to reach everyone.

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

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How many people work on your solution team?

Currently, our team consists of 25 people. We have a design, developer, and marketing team working together on our solutions. 

CTO and Co-founder, Sercan Degirmenci

CEO and Co-founder, Zafer Elcik


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How long have you been working on your solution?

5 years

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Our company has the best team working on autism and special education to develop products for neurodevelopmental disorders and children like autism. We have our own designers, data people, and specialists all experts in their respective fields with great know-how. We started with a small team of very eager and excited people and grew over the years with everyone that has come and participated and contributed to the product. They shaped our company through the five years we have been together, and every new member of our team comes into a great knowledge on teamwork. Another chance we had is that our story began when Zafer, our CEO, initially built all of this to help his brother in his education efforts and it grew into a community where we get most of our inspiration from the parents and caregivers. We are also working with professionals, child psychologists and speech therapists to better position our apps and solution. Over the years we have received many awards for our products like Education Alliance, HundrED, Mom's Choice Award, University of Edinburgh ASDTech, all vouching for the quality and attention to detail necessary to create the best product possible in the special education sphere.

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What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?

We believe everyone has unique qualities they can offer, and thrive under suitable conditions. We select and choose people that are eager to learn and give them space and resources to thrive. We use talent wherever they are most suitable, while also checking in regularly to see if they have what they need or even how they are doing in general. We do everything together, everybody’s idea counts anywhere across the company. Inclusivity and diversity are at the heart of our office. Half of our team consists of female employees and in key roles. We fully support different ethnicities and orientations and are firmly against discrimination of any kind. We have a cat friend, Kürşat, as a chief cat officer, hanging out with us, and are an animal-friendly company. Give-back culture plays a key role in our efforts.

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Your Business Model & Partnerships

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Solve?

We would like to benefit from the extensive network of MIT as well as the partnership opportunities this application offers. In addition, funding opportunities with this venture would drive us further toward our goals.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Financial (e.g. improving accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
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Please explain in more detail here.

Acquiring financial and public relations partners or support would help us scale up our reach efforts, getting us closer to our overall goals. We would be able to create grassroot. Our current and overall aim coincides with the goal of the contest. Data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are tools and technologies we use to be beneficial to a community that is very much in need of equitable education. Through public relations and financial gain, we would be able to attain exposure and network while also be sustainable in our works to keep working on our solutions and grow further. The know-how we would achieve through invaluable partnerships would boost us closer to our goal of closing the gap between atypical people special needs people and quality education as well as, in the long run, becoming an all-in-one platform for education for all.

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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

Education companies within MIT's network, telecommunication companies, insurance companies, community funds, etc. As mentioned, these valuable partnerships would help us achieve our ultimate goal: eliminating inequality in terms of access to quality special education. For instance, in the US, healthcare insurance companies co-pay special education and speech therapy and cover health-related services. Research suggests that lifelong healthcare costs can be reduced by two-thirds with early and intensive education in terms of special needs education. Otsimo is a great partner for healthcare insurance companies to reduce ongoing and increasing costs, while also being a great vessel to reach and offer access to underserved special needs communities, closing the gap betweeen atypical and typical development.

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The ASA Prize for Equitable Education? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The GM Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The GM Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion to advance your solution?

Our aim is to change the future through democratizing education and providing early and intensive education to those in need who don’t have enough resources. Our solution is already in use in Turkey in mainstream schools for special education classes and we believe this would be beneficial in raising STEM students with special needs backgrounds, having them realize their potentials.

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The AI for Humanity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes. 

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The AI for Humanity Prize to advance your solution?

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The AI for Humanity Prize to advance your solution?

This is precisely what we are trying to do. Our solutions utilize data science, AI, and machine learning to close the gap in special education. We also use these technologies to increase our impact in the world's education sphere, to create a more solid foundation, and to meet all special needs in one platform. Special needs people and people with developmental differences/atypical development need different solutions at different times in their lives. Traditional methods that are designed based on neurotypical individuals cannot be expected to meet these needs, and we aim to change that. We use AI and machine learning and data leveraging to offer the right solution at the right time and rate. These technologies enable us to be more flexible in offering the best possible solution to children with special needs to democratize education from its foundation, starting early on. 

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Solution Team

 
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