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VocalEyes Founders Nominated for Forbes 30 Under 30

By Gary Long

October 26, 2017

This article by Gary Long first appeared in The Brownsville Herald.

A summer entrepreneurship bootcamp has turned into a nomination to the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Mahmood Alfayoumi and two fellow students at MIT Launch.

Mahmood Alfayoumi, along with Neil Deshmukh from Pennsylvania and Marwan Refaat from Cairo, Egypt, found out earlier this month that they had been nominated to the list.

“We were nominated by an anonymous person,” Mahmood said last week “We’re excited but we don’t want to jump to any conclusions.”

Mahmood, a senior at the South Texas Independent School District’s Science Academy in Mercedes, said he was paired with Deshmukh and Refaat at MIT Launch, a four-week internship and business incubator that took place during June.

The nomination is for VocalEyes, a smart phone app the three are developing to assist blind and vision impaired people. The app uses the phone’s camera to take a picture of things that sighted people see — and then say what they are.

The app and the nomination resulted from several factors coming together in a beneficial way, Mahmood said. For one, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is near the Perkins School for the Blind.

“After talking to the children and adults at the school, we realized that the clients have the most problems identifying objects and navigating the world on their own,” Mahmood said. “I do 3-D printing, Marwan is good with design, and Neil is good with coding. We saw that we could combine our skills and make an app and a hardware device to help blind people.”

All three speak Arabic.

The VocalEyes app is available on the Apple app store and already has had 6,000 downloads. The hardware device essentially would do what the smart phone app does only at a cost of about $30 so that blind people across the world would have access to the technology, Mahmood said.

“Right now we’ve just finished the software. Now we’re working on the hardware,” he said. The three are realizing that having people actually using the app will help in the software development process.

Being nominated to the Forbes 30 by 30 list is one thing. Actually being named to the list is another. Here’s what the 2017 list has to say about itself:

The 2017 FORBES 30 Under 30 is the most definitive gathering of today’s leading young change-makers and innovators in the U.S. Now in its sixth year, the 30 Under 30 offers an annual opportunity to embrace the optimism, inventiveness and boldness of youth. We bring you 30 game changers in 20 industries all under 30 years old — 600 in total — who are challenging the conventional wisdom and rewriting the rules for the next generation of entrepreneurs, entertainers, educators and more. They are passionate and formidable bunch, and for good reason. Their goal is nothing short of breaking the status quo and transforming the world.

The 600 who were named to the list were gleaned more than 15,000 nominees. There are 20 categories with 30 honorees. The categories are Art & Style, Consumer Tech, Education, Energy, Enterprise Tech, Finance, Food & Drink, Games, Healthcare, Hollywood & Entertainment, Law & Policy, Manufacturing & Industry, Marketing & Advertising, Media, Music, Retail & E-commerce, Science, Social Entrepreneurs, Sports and Venture Capital.

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