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“The fastest and most efficient way to improve the state of our planet is to promote the worldwide empowerment of women” With David Schick and Fotis Georgiadis

It is stunning to see the transformation communities undergo when they provide education to girls, and allow women to participate in businesses and government. In my personal philanthropy, I prioritize causes promoting the safety and education of girls in the developing world, and support the empowerment of women across the world.



I believe the fastest and most efficient way to improve the state of our planet is to promote the worldwide empowerment of women. It is stunning to see the transformation communities undergo when they provide education to girls, and allow women to participate in businesses and government. In my personal philanthropy, I prioritize causes promoting the safety and education of girls in the developing world, and support the empowerment of women across the world.


As a part of my series about “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that seem copied from science fiction, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Schick, the Founder and CEO of Tap Systems, Inc, and inventor of the a very cool device called the Tap Wearable Keyboard which allows you to input text and control devices, just by tapping your fingers on anything. David is a veteran inventor and entrepreneur and, among his achievements, is responsible for modernizing the field of dental x-ray imaging. He took his last company, Schick Technologies, public on the NASDAQ, and it was subsequently acquired by Sirona dental.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Sure! It’s great to speak with you!

I’ve been fascinated by technology since I was very young. It’s family lore that I had a habit of taking apart all sorts of gadgets when I was a kid, and then being only partly successful putting them back together. I always wanted to figure out how things worked and I loved to tinker and think up new things.

When I started college at Penn, I was like a kid in a candy store. I enrolled in Electrical Engineering, but I also took courses in Economics, Psychology, History and Literature — all fields that I loved and was fascinated with. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I have dyslexia, and had a string of professors who nearly failed me due to spelling errors on my tests and papers (this was before electronic spell checking was available). Some refused to read my work at all because they felt I wasn’t taking the assignments seriously. Still, I was having a great time learning about electronic design and programming. The truth is, I overloaded myself with coursework, so in my junior year, I decided to focus on engineering.

I think that it is partly because of my dyslexia that I tend to think out of the box, and don’t always accept the conventional wisdom about things. I also have a true love for engineering, and an absolute passion for product design. So in many ways, I’m just following my dream.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’m a vociferous reader of technical literature, and when I was about a year into developing the first real-time x-ray sensors for dentists, I read an article about some researchers at the Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena who were developing a new type of image sensor called CMOS Active Pixel Sensors. I realized that, if it worked, this technology would revolutionize digital imaging. At that time, I was working 16 hour days trying to bring my product to market, so I pinned the article to the wall of my office where it stayed for about six months — until I had time to look into it.

CMOS imaging technology was in its infancy, but I ended up licensing it from JPL and working with them to adapt it for radiology applications. The imaging industry fought tooth and nail against CMOS, because they made existing imaging devices obsolete, and disrupted a billion dollar industry. But quality won out, and CMOS sensors eventually became the gold standard for electronic imaging. It’s what powers all modern imaging devices — from cell phone cameras, to tomographic mammography. CMOS gave my company a ten year lead over our competitors and made our technology economically compelling to customers.

As a rather spectacular bonus, I met my wife, Sabrina Kemeny, through JPL. Sabrina was one of the co-inventors of CMOS image sensors, and she founded Photobit — the company that commercialized the technology. Sabrina is my co-founder at Tap, where she is President, and an amazing collaborator, and life partner.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

The ‘Bleeding edge’ isn’t really where we entrepreneurs want to be!

The technology is called Tap. It is a wearable device which senses finger taps. Using it, you can type text and send commands to any bluetooth enabled devices, such as smartphones, tablets or computers. Since you can tap your fingers on anything, you don’t need a specialized surface (like a keyboard). It’s a great solution for mobile and wearable input. Plus, since Tap is tactile, you don’t need to look your hand, which is great for any situation where you can’t (or don’t want to) look at your hands while writing — such as while using AR and VR headsets.

Another unique thing about Tap is how easy it is to learn. You can learn the Tap Alphabet in just an hour or two through our learning app TapGenius, and you can become proficient by spending just 10 minutes a day for 30 days using our TapAcademy app. To put that in perspective, you can master tapping in a fraction of the time it takes to master touch-typing on a QWERTY keyboard.

Tap also has a very precise built-in mouse, so the device replaces all input peripherals you would need to operate your devices.

How do you think this might change the world?

The modern QWERTY keyboard was developed in 1872, and 146 years later, we’re still slaves to its peculiar design. As technology evolves, keyboards have gone from mechanical to electronic, to digital to touch screens. But new devices are emerging — smartwatches, Augmented and Virtual Reality headsets and other wearables which don’t allow the use of conventional keyboards.

Tap is the missing link between this new generation of computing technology, and precise, easy input. Without Tap, these are just cool gadgets. With Tap, they are productive necessities.

Additionally, Tap frees us from the widespread posture and repetitive motion problems in the modern world. Unlike using a keyboard, you can work in a comfortable, natural position.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Unlike a lot of developments in our digital world, Tap is an extremely human-friendly technology. Most devices, including the venerable QWERTY Keyboard, force us to adapt, and limit, our natural behavior in order to utilize the technology. And, that always has unexpected consequences. But Tap adapts to what we naturally do with our hands, and has the potential to restore a great deal of health to the world, once we stop hunching over our keys, and thumb-keyboards.

Of course, Tap does enable some technologies which can be quite socially disruptive, such as augmented reality. One of the reassuring things about the adoption trends of AR and these ‘always on’ wearables, is that developers are discovering that ‘less is more’. The less such devices distract us from engaging in the real world, the more we tend to adopt them. So I don’t think we’ll be entering the Matrix any time soon.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I started to think about Tap — or really, just the overall problem of how to interact with the new generation of digital devices — in late 2013, when the first smartwatches and VR and AR headsets were emerging.

Daydreaming has always been one of my strengths, so I designed a thought experiment: If a keyboardless device suddenly replaced the functions of my smartphone (and, at least partly, of my computer), how would I want to control it and how would I enter text. I played out this scenario in many different settings — sitting at my desk, attending a meeting, standing in an elevator, etc..

Voice technology was already very advanced, but I couldn’t see myself using voice for tasks like screen navigation, or complex composition — and I certainly wouldn’t want to use voice in public. There was a lot of work being done in recognizing air gestures, but it was clear to me they would be too awkward and slow to solve the problem.

So I imagined a long list of possible solutions, and finally came up with the idea of just tapping my fingers — like playing chords of a piano — to create text and send commands. The more I worked out the details of how a tap-based solution would work, the more convinced I became that this was going to be a transformative technology. It was so easy and natural — and, once you thought it through — so obvious a solution. I have no doubts that, ultimately, humans will be tapping.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

One simple thing that would accelerate adoption is for the companies that make smartwatches and VR headsets to allow input for external devices. For example, the Apple Watch and the Oculus Go both have the native ability to connect with Tap, but their operating systems prevent them from accepting external inputs.

Perhaps the thing which would have the largest single impact for adoption is the adoption of wearable augmented reality glasses. The underlying technology for AR has progressed dramatically over the past few years, while consumer adoption has been almost non-existent. Now, developers are taking a fresh look at the human factors which are critical for the practical use by consumers. They are focusing more on the clean and inobtrusive introduction of information, rather than wiz-bang holographic experiences. New products are about to enter the market which have far more promise for appealing to consumers. Consumer adoption of AR is one of the ‘killer applications’ for Tap, and we have a huge opportunity as that market grows.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’re leveraging two types of publicity. Firstly, we use the technical media to provide product reviews and unboxing segments. This has been critical for establishing the credibility of such a radically new technology. Secondly, because Tap is such a socially transformative story, we’re working with major media outlets to extend the message and build awareness.

Tap is so much more than a typing machine — you can play games, perform music, video edit, or do virtually anything that requires digital input. We have leveraged this versatility to create content focused on specific uses and audiences — gamers, musicians, performers etc. This has helped generate excitement for the technology.

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?

That is absolutely right. I owe my success to the many, many people who have contributed their hard work, their intelligence and their capital to my projects. I am a strong believer in hiring people who are smarter than I am and empowering them to do amazing things.

I owe a special, unpayable debt to my father. As I mentioned, I have dyslexia, which was not a well understood condition when I was young. There were some school tasks that I couldn’t do at all. I couldn’t spell (still can’t), my handwriting was illegible, my writing was horribly slow, and my reading — especially reading aloud — was awkward and halting. Most teachers decided I was either stupid or lazy (or both), and my grades were terrible. Many children in this situation develop an impression about themselves — that they lack intelligence and are limited in their capabilities — this dogs them across their lives and careers.

My father, who is a brilliant scholar and teacher, always treated me like I was gifted. He showed real pleasure in engaging me in all sorts of conversations, and asked my opinions about ideas that were well beyond what most kids of my age could appreciate. He was downright boastful about my intelligence, and instilled in me a certainty that I was smart and capable. Wherever I am in life, I never lose the feeling of my fathers’ love and support.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Inclusivity is one of Tap’s core missions, and we strive to address the needs of the disabled population. Because Tap is a tactile system, it allows blind and low-vision users to enter text quickly and easily on devices without tactile keyboards, such as smartphones. We’re also exploring the use of Tap for individuals with severe motor limitations. Each device can be customized, so that any tap can trigger any digital function, giving motion-limited users much better control of their devices. Finally, we are working on applying Tap to assist the non-verbal population in having faster, more versatile use of AAC (Augmented or Alternative Communication) systems.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Well, there are a lot of things I’m glad that I didn’t know before I started — sometimes it’s better not to know how difficult the journey will be, but here goes:

1. If your company grows, you will eventually outgrow your smartest and most trusted advisors.

My first company, Schick Technologies, grew exponentially, quarter over quarter from the time we put our first product on the market. We went public just four years after our launch.

It’s always important to have people with experience and judgement you trust, to help you make decisions. But it is equally important to periodically ask yourself whether your situation has outgrown their ability to advise you. When things are very dynamic — either in a good way or bad way — you may have to seek new advisors. The people who helped me get Schick Technologies to the point of becoming a public company did not have the experience to guide me through the turbulence of the public exchanges. It is very hard to know when you must seek new advisors, but it can make the difference between life and death.

2. If you don’t have time to recruit, you should be recruiting.

A CEO of a startup will always have a shortage of time — will always have some fires to put out. Looking through resumes and setting interviews doesn’t seem like the most urgent thing on your agenda, but when you have the least time and energy to do it, that’s the time that you should be making aggressive recruitment efforts.

At my first company, I was lucky to have friends who joined me early on to help fight the initial battles. But, as we grew, all of us were constantly underwater, spending our time solving one problem after another.. But we finally realized that by recruiting great talent, we were gaining problem-solvers, not just solving problems.

3. Do the most difficult and intimidating thing on your to-do list first.

I am a natural introvert and hate confrontations — making cold calls. or just bugging people for things that need to happen. When I started raising money for my first venture, my dad said, ‘successful people make calls, unsuccessful people make lists.’

Everyone has something they hate to do. Don’t let that thing languish on your to-do list. Do it — do it now. The difference can be the difference between success and failure.

4. If your business is facing a challenge don’t hide it — share it with your team.

It’s a natural instinct to protect your employees and co-workers from business threats which they will find uncomfortable and frightening. You may be worried about the effect on morale and on retaining key people, so you tend to keep a stiff upper lip and shelter employees from these worries.

I made this mistake in spades. Just eighteen months after going public, my first company missed it’s earnings projections and we went into a death spiral. Our stock plummeted, shaking the faith of our customers. They delayed purchases, which further hurt our performance and therefore our stock price. I consider the turn around I and my team achieved in the following years to be the greatest — and most difficult — accomplishment of my career.

Among the many things I learned during this difficult period was to openly share the problem with your team. It’s far more reassuring for them to understand the problem and work as a team to solve it, than be kept in the dark and prevented from helping. Sharing the problem and inviting help will make things easier for you and for your staff, and will give you a much better shot at surviving the threat.

5. Identify and create visibility into the key operational metrics of your business.

It wasn’t until my company was fighting for it’s life that I truly got religious about having operational visibility. If you started from a non-business background like me, start with the basics. Watch your cash flow — that is the easiest to see and most unambiguous number in your company — but it is also an after-the-fact metric. Work your way upstream through all of the revenue and expense systems in your company until you are confident that you have control over your business.

This is not limited to financial metrics. Perhaps your key metrics involve product reliability, or manufacturing yields, or customer engagement. But whatever it is, you are not doing your job unless you know what these numbers are and can track them as obsessively as you need to.

If possible, make these metrics public to everyone in the company. Make your team understand their importance. This will work wonders in getting everyone marching in the same direction.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I believe the fastest and most efficient way to improve the state of our planet is to promote the worldwide empowerment of women. It is stunning to see the transformation communities undergo when they provide education to girls, and allow women to participate in businesses and government. In my personal philanthropy, I prioritize causes promoting the safety and education of girls in the developing world, and support the empowerment of women across the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“And if you go, no one may follow. That path is for your steps alone.”

Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter, ‘Ripple’

When you become the CEO of a startup, you are reminded on every minute of every day that it is you and you alone, who must make the decisions, and accept the consequences.

When I started Tap, my job was to take something that existed in my mind — an experience no one on earth had ever had — and deliver it fully formed to the world. Every day, there were practical decisions and trade offs between what could be done, and at what cost in time and resources. You can, and should, solicit advice and consider the opinions of others. But, in the end, you must make the final decision.

It’s no different in our daily lives. We make choices every moment — even not choosing is choosing. Try as we might, we can not abrogate our responsibility for our own decisions. In life as in business this responsibility should be embraced with enthusiasm, optimism, and joy.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

We are the category creator and catagory leader of a technology which has the potential to address a vast market opportunity. We have already successfully demonstrated that Tap is a fast, comfortable, easy to learn modality, among a very wide population.

Although currently consumer facing, as we perfect and prove out the technology, our longer term plan is to sell IP modules, which will integrate into a wide variety of consumer devices. As AR and VR technology becomes more widely adopted in the consumer segment, Tap is the enabling technology to provide fast, discrete input.

Sabrina and I both have vast experience in the full cycle of founding, developing, commercializing and exiting from transformative technology ventures and we have built a team of incredibly talented and dedicated individuals.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me at:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-schick-2bba661b/

And follow Tap at:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/tap-with-us/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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