British entrepreneur seeks to win over America with translation software
Creating technology that makes websites useful to people with visual disorders and other learning impairments once won Ross Linnett an in-person attaboy from Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
Now the English tech entrepreneur seeks a crowning achievement stateside, starting with growing his business, Recite Me, through the Naples Accelerator. A public-private partnership formed by the Collier County Office of Business & Economic Development and Economic Incubators, the accelerator assists startup businesses and ideas.
“We created almost a new industry,” Linnett says of his early-stage company’s technology that opens websites to people with dozens of impairments, including disorders such as dyslexia or even blindness. The technology, for example, puts type into order for dyslexics. “It transforms websites into readable content.”
The 38-year-old Linnett, who learned as a young adult he was a highly functioning dyslexic, has more to pitch. This includes software options that allow a website to speak and create font and background changes, while providing an interactive dictionary and a translation tool with more than 100 languages.
'We created almost a new industry.’ Ross Linnett, founder & CEO, Recite Me
Educated as an electrical engineer, Linnett went into software development after college. In 2010, he and a small crew of website developers launched Recite Me. Four years later, he began to market the software across England, with an eye toward the United States, Ireland and Australia.
He followed Recite Me a year and a half later with Include Me, a cloud-based reader that reads out web content and documents in a natural voice. Significantly, Include Me also has a homophone checker that identifies words within a document that sound the same but can have different meanings.
Both software platforms can be modified for individual users, Linnett says, and Recite Me can assign one of its 11 staffers to work with a client on customization. The costs of the software vary, mostly depending on the size, complexity and volume of traffic a website receives. In general, costs can run a few thousand dollars a year.
U.K. clients include Reuters news service, the Financial Conduct Authority (similar to the U.S. Treasury), Gatwick Airport and Gatwick Express rail service.
Recite Me, with a U.K. home in Newcastle, got an assist in October from Newcastle neighbor and technology giant Sage, an international manager of business accounts, financials, personnel and payrolls. Sage has a North American headquarters in Atlanta.
The U.K. headquarters selected Recite Me to spend a week in Atlanta, where Linnett met with leaders in city business and government. Linnett departed with serious interest in his software from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “They are interested in the whole thing,” he says.
When Linnett is off the road for a few days and between trips back to the U.K., he works from the Naples Accelerator. He recently raised about $500,000, which he hopes to use to aid the transition from product development to marketing. He also seeks patents for his products in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Ross Linnett recently raised about $500,000 for ReciteMe. He also seeks patents for his products in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Linnett plans to operate from Naples for the rest of 2018, and possibly beyond. One reason is help from Marshall Goodman, Naples Accelerator’s CEO.
Goodman acknowledges the promise Linnett’s software holds, but notes a large obstacle in the company’s path: to reverse some of the thinking of decision makers in the web world. Apple, Microsoft and others design to the mass market “and are leaving behind people with disabilities,” Goodman says.
“When you talk about the disabled,” he adds, “investors would say it’s not a big enough market.”
On the other hand, Goodman says, Linnett has “been lucky enough to have found a group of investors to put some money up to do this sophisticated software. I can tell you that is very hard.”
Adds Goodman, “He has my admiration because I know how difficult it is to raise money in technology when you are talking about the 80% and his target is the 20%.”