Unite with like-minded people and create a community of such people from the first day. Remember, it is a long-term journey, so you will need to help each other. The community can give a company the benefits of an open-source project.
In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dmytro Gazda founder and CEO of Esper Bionics, medical doctor, serial entrepreneur, embedded engineer, scientist.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
I`ve grown up in Kyiv, Ukraine. It is a wonderful, green city. I was raised in a family of doctors, surrounded with a lot of medical books. In school, I always liked physics and math. I was not a chatty person, just a quiet guy who liked scientific stuff.
Sounds weird but I always wanted to be with people, to take part in activities, to see people but mainly didn’t like to talk to them, especially to strangers. That is like two opposites. I still feel like that.
I chose the medical university because that was much more interesting for me than any other field. That looked like a combo of fascinating scientific fields. Much more interesting than economic/lawyers and all the popular stuff 20 years ago.
Except for scientific delight, medical university for me was a bomb of people, their lives, stories and problems, real world’s problems, without marketing and politics. That’s like the deepest school of human life, magic moments, ruined fates, true values, challenges, and everything worth living. From birth and full potential of a person to regrets, non-completed ambitions, or deep satisfaction and tears of happiness. Human life is sometimes a happy adventure, sometimes a very sad drama, but it is always a wonder, very deep, fulfilled, and precious.
One of the crucial events for me was the photo exhibition which I visited about 15 years ago by chance. There were press photos from all over the world and I remember how being overfilled with all those thoughts I shared with you before, I saw so many other sides. I was crying for several days, how stupid and nonsense were the reasons of some problems we have as humans. Some people don’t listen to music (as Bob Dylan said) and haven’t gone through medical university.
At the end of the study, I haven’t become nor practical doctor, nor scientist, mainly because I didn’t like how the medical system worked. But periodically I assist in surgical operations, as a hobby. I was lucky to try entrepreneurship and engineering, and have founded several international companies.
And now with the understanding of how big an impact entrepreneurship and engineering can be, I run Esper.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Hmm, 15 years ago, when I was assisting in surgical operations in Finland, we’ve got a very urgent case: the girl after a bad car accident, where she lost her hand. After the operation, I found out she was from Ukraine. We became friends, but when I came back to Ukraine I haven’t found her, even with the help of the police.
Years passed. While thinking about the future not only for myself, but for all humankind, I believe that the biggest impact on humanity will have electronics inside a human body, and when I was trying to find out the fastest ways how humanity will gain the necessary expertise for the development of such devices, FB all of a sudden showed to me that girl as “it can be your friend”.
I’ve started to study her case, available devices, state of art in prosthetics, and suddenly the puzzle assembled itself.
By that accident, by the case of that girl, I understood that the birthplace of most of the implanted electronic devices will be the prosthetic industry, the only niche where will be millions of users of big external devices worn daily by life changing need, which are Ideal for charging, data receiving and processing from implanted electronics.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
For me, the success of Esper is based on the support of my family — my wife and daughter, and the devoted teamwork of our Esper crew.
My daughter is 5 y.o. but she teaches me many things, looking at her I’ve learned a lot, for example, such important things like to listen to my inner voice, or to be myself.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I like words of one song (Andrey Makarevich, the original is in Russian), I’ll translate it as: “I drink full glass for people who are in the sea, who are beloved by waves and will be lucky, and the one who has the same goal in moments of happiness and sadness, who will not be afraid and won’t throw the oars off, that one will find the Earth he is looking for”.
That is exactly how I feel in our long-term journey at Esper.
Also, we have the Latin proverb on the office wall: “If the wind does not serve, take to the oars”. It is about being proactive in our long-term journey. We usually don’t rely on circumstances.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
My inner voice would call me a successful business leader when I manage to help at least 1 million people with what I do as an entrepreneur.
I think #1 is understanding what you do, sincere belief, and devotion. So people around can share that belief and you are able to go together long-term. I think without that there would be no Esper team. We have a too desperate idea and a very indefinite journey.
#2 is seeing more steps forward, it helps not to lose opportunities and go faster with fewer mistakes.
#3 is empathy to teammates, knowing people, caring. I’m often emotionless and critical, but I care about each of my teammates, really value each one, I guess, or at least hope that they feel it somehow (smiling).
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?
We are starting from the prosthetic market, from people with limb differences, including those, who don’t have limbs, as congenital cases, or after amputation. The next step in developing technology will be to work on paralyzes. And after we’ll come to treating a number of chronic diseases and preventing urgent critical conditions.
People with limb differences have common and different needs: between functionality and socialization, between to be like others and to be unique.
They want to have fewer limitations in life, to be self-confident, self-sufficient, do more, to get rid of phrases “or you are disabled let me help you”, to be cool, and to have functions no one else has.
How do you think your technology can address this?
Dexterous robotic prosthetic hand and leg makes difference.
That totally changes interactions with other people, and gives extra functions to one’s daily life, giving an opportunity to live a more fulfilled life, and even do some things better and faster than people with biological limbs.
Now the hand recognizes situations and helps to choose the right grip in advance due to connection to our platform, and it detects muscle activity up to 10 times better than other players. That makes control dexterous.
Also, we think the Esper hand itself looks much cooler than other prosthetics.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
My passion lays in understanding that the way that our company is going now will create billions of life years for other people.
And I literally feel that huge impact and amount of a lifetime we can create.
That is the best inspiration.
I think the goal itself is based on empathy. But the process of finding the right way how to get there was rational, with a lot of thinking, analytical work, and consultations with the best experts. And, no doubt with lucky accidents like FB hint on my old friend.
How do you think this might change the world?
I think that the technology stack of implanted electronics will have one of the biggest impacts on humanity. Those technologies will prolong life for 10–20 years, fulfilling the lives of billions, give extra abilities, eliminate many diseases. And Esper can play a significant role here.
I guess you ask about BCIs.
First of all, I guess BCIs will make less than 20% of implanted electronics that will be available for humanity, and we will work with. But yes, there are scenarios every company leader should take into consideration.
Some BCI developers will go through the brain directly like Neuralink, and some through the peripheral neural system, as Esper will. And data-security, accessibility worldwide, conscious control from users, health safety will be much better in BCIs of the peripheral neural system, therefore we are going that way.
Again “when the wind doesn’t serve take to the oars” — we as pioneers should make rules, security protocols, predict all issues that can happen, and share with others our vision on what we think is better for humanity and why.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”?
- To know the real problem. There are companies that are trying to solve a non-existing problem or a very small problem.
- To understand that your journey is long-term. There are a lot of one hour/day/week/month/year activities, but to change the situation for the better you should be persistent systematical for at least several years.
- To understand that your way of solving will be effective long-term and will change the situation. For example, although we are fans of open-source, we don’t believe in open-source prosthetics, or other open-source impact projects, with very complex products and narrow niches. Much more effective to go as a commercial company, be paid for your activity, and step by step come to an affordable mass-manufactured product that changes the situation.
- When comparing different problems, try to measure the impact you can make. That is the way to know what you spend your life on. I guess humanity needs some kind of impact-points, for example in Esper Bionics that is years of life we create for other people. Humanity needs rates of companies and people by gained impact points like now we have Forbes list or Fortune 2000 list by wealth.
- Unite with like-minded people and create a community of such people from the first day. Remember, it is a long-term journey, so you will need to help each other. The community can give a company the benefits of an open-source project.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
You shouldn’t do that, you are free to make your children live in a dump by your decision.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
1. Peter Diamandis. I would appreciate his advice on my life, I feel we have a similar mindset, and I have engineering ideas on longevity that need his support.
2. Vinod Khosla. I want to pitch him, he is my favorite investor by mindset.
3. Elon Musk. I want to convince him to switch to peripheral implants from the central neural system implants. I think he is wrong. Neuralink now goes more like BlueOrigin in space.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
As to my work, accounts os Esper Bionics will show everything Website | Youtube |LinkedIn | Instagram | Facebook And it is easy to reach me personally on my own profiles for any kind of cooperation LinkedIn | Twitter
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.