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THE INVESTOR
December 10, 2019
Big Reunion

Startups & Investors

[INTERVIEW] Smart hearing aid startup Olive Union aims for W10b sales with new device

  • PUBLISHED :October 02, 2019 - 18:03
  • UPDATED :October 04, 2019 - 14:39
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Seoul-based Olive Union hopes to step up its game with an upgraded hearing aid product, which is set to be launched in November.

“We expect to post around 2 billion won ($1.6 million) to 3 billion won in sales this year. And we hope to reach 10 billion won in sales with our new smart ear device by 2020,” CEO Owen Song said during an interview with The Investor.

Established in 2016, the startup’s hearing aid is designed for people with a moderate hearing loss. The company’s thumb-sized device costs around $100, which is much cheaper than conventional hearing aids that cost around $2,000. The Olive hearing aid also allows users to do a hearing test on their own by simply connecting the device with its smartphone app. Based on the results of the test, the app automatically sets the best audio frequencies for users while canceling noise. 




“We will be launching the new product as a hearing amplifier,” Song said. The first version of the company’s product was launched under the hearing aid category in both Korea and the US.

“This change will not only make a difference to how our product is labeled but also how we can advertise it,” said Song. He explained that the company will be able to more actively and freely advertise its products as hearing amplifiers do not fall under the category of a medical device.

Olive Union added that it understands the challenges of making this change and is ready to overcome it. “Many consumers might assume, from using existing hearing amplifiers, that they are cheaper and less effective compared to a hearing aid. Our product is not like that, so that is why we created a new term ‘smart ear’ to describe our product.”

Song noted that along with the change to its category, Olive Union has also worked hard to upgrade the device by reflecting user feedback.

“Our first product’s weak point was short battery time. It only lasted for 3-4 hours per charge,” Song said. “We upgraded this to 7-8 hours for our new model.”

Olive Union also highlighted that it has upgraded its software and application to make it easier for users to conduct a hearing test and adjust their audio frequencies. With the new device, users can also enjoy extra functions, such as answering phone calls and listening to music.

The CEO noted that the company also improved the new version’s design. “We have replaced the interface with a touch screen to improve the design,” he said.

In November, the company will be launching its new product in three countries – South Korea, Japan and the US. The company further emphasized that it will spend most of the investment for setting grounds to successfully launch its second-generation product.

The Korean company recently secured an additional 11 billion won funding from Japan-based social enterprise LitaLico, following its first investment of 500 million won. So far, Olive Union has received funding of 11.75 billion won in total.

Song explained that selling the product in both Korean and overseas markets simultaneously was planned from the very beginning, as he believes that a bigger market is crucial for startups.

“So to become a global firm, I held a lot of meetings outside of Korea,” he said. “We also have four to five developers from overseas.”

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)

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