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Cliff WeitzmanA few weeks ago I had the pleasure of getting to talk to Cliff Weitzman, the creator of Speechify. You may recall first learning of Cliff a few months ago when Erika featured him in one of her blogs. I was so happy that Cliff agreed to take a phone call from me and answer a couple more questions about himself and the revolutionizing technology he had created.

What you’ve created is so remarkable! How does it feel to be one of Forbes 30 under 30?

Feels great. [The] main benefit is giving me a larger opportunity to talk about dyslexia more publicly and introduce people to our solution.

You’ve reached so many people who’ve personally benefited from this amazing technology you’ve given life to. Is there a particular interaction with a Speechify user that stands out in your mind? What resonated with you?

Yes, when I meet kids who are 10 yrs old and are clearly so smart and precocious but are sitting in the back of the class and are just trying to cope, and I can tell feel ashamed for being the slowest reader in the class. That kid is me. Then, the best feeling in the world is when I come back 3 weeks later and I see a glint of unwavering confidence in their eyes. Average reading speed in the US is 200 words per minute. A child with dyslexia will often read at 100 - 180 words per minute. With Speechify, kids will often start listening at 300 words per minute and build up to listening at 500 - 600 words per minute over the first few weeks.

At 23, you have already had the success that most can only hope to find after several years in the workforce, possibly even after several career changes! In the years to come, what are you hoping to accomplish?

My goal is to work on Speechify for many many years to come. In the short to mid term my goal is to make it so that every person with dyslexia knows about Speechify, has access to it, and uses it if it creates value for them. We want to make sure that reading is never a barrier to learning.

What do you see for the future of Speechify?

After removing reading as a barrier for our dyslexic users, the goal is to do the same thing for people who have ADD/ADHD, low vision, non native speakers etc. and to build Speechify into a product that allows anyone, even people who don't have learning differences to consume information faster and fall in love with learning.

Is there any advice or wisdom you’d like to impart on our Punch-In members?

The number one tool I've had for self-improvement is the ability to listen to audiobooks - listen instead of reading. Use recorded audiobooks when you can and Speechify when there is not recorded book for the text. You can learn so much from books. Here is a list of some of my favorites:

https://medium.com/the-mission/books-that-made-me-20-times-more-cap...

For entrepreneurship and general life advice here is my most useful advice distilled:

https://youtu.be/YZs2Q08o9LI

https://youtu.be/oDZRaHAwaD4

https://medium.com/the-mission/my-top-productivity-tools-fea7d25572fa

https://medium.com/the-mission/entrepreneurship-resources-i-wish-i-...

There is a way of getting around every obstacle in life. All human systems for example, have been erected by and are governed by people. As a result, there is a way of getting around any rule within a human ran system by contacting the person at the top of the governance structure and convincing them to help you or give you a special exception.

Thank you so much to Cliff for his many wise words! We are so fortunate to be in connection with him. I hope that all of you are able to take away some of his sage advice as food for thought.

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Comment by Janet Strole on August 30, 2018 at 1:48pm

awesome read. Thank you for opening doors for others.

Comment by Craig Dunn on January 9, 2018 at 12:22pm

It is so great to learn about a person who has experienced an obstacle and found a way to overcome that obstacle.  Even greater is to see how that person not only solves the problem for themselves but also expands upon the solution so that it can help others facing similar obstacles.

Assistive technology, whether it be mobile phones, hearing aides, open captioning, electric wheelchairs, power door openers or Speechify, makes it easier for all of us - whether we experience a disability or not - to successfully do this thing we call life.

Thanks for sharing the interview Adrienne!

Craig Dunn

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