Journeys: Season 3, Episode 9 - Harout Markarian

Journeys: Season 3, Episode 9 - Harout Markarian

Show Video

Hi everyone. Welcome to M4G Advocacy Media. This is the Journeys Series video podcast. My name's Mark. Unfortunately, Krystal isn't here because of technical difficulties. Today we're talking with Harout Markarian who helps people in the disability community and we're going to talk to him more about that and about his journey. Hi Harout. Hi, Mark, it's nice to be here. Thank you for having me.

Glad you could join us. Umm, so wanted to just start out with the tell us bit of your background, your journey and. And what that's all about.

Sure. So my background is all sorts of crazy. I was actually a professional basketball player in my earlier, younger years than when my parents decided to immigrate to the United States. I kind of left that career behind and came here.

He still was desperate to play basketball, so I kind of joined the Community College team. At the time, I was already late in joining any college. You know, I should preface that that preface it the story with I had a year to go to graduate with my engineering capital engineering bachelor's degree when we immigrated, and so I I wasn't able to continue my education and get a degree prior to me coming here, which was a blessing in disguise. But when I got here, I was there. It was already late July, almost early August. I couldn't, you know, all all the

registrations were already closed. So I was only able to go to Community College and, you know, kind of and and if you think about from an academic perspective, I kind of lost a year that way. But, you know, I played basketball and it's what kept me in the United States. So after that, you know, at that point my my really basketball career was over, but. You know, if you're if you're passionate about something, it's really hard to give it up. That's kind of like our deadly

traits as human beings, you know. Anyway, after that that was gone, I kind of focused on my academic career and mechanical engineering, kind of restarted it from zero at age 24. You know, completed it within two years, completed my bachelor's degree within two years. And I was only doing it for the purposes of. You know, getting that certificate saying, you know, showing it to my parents and telling them, hey, you wanted me to get a degree, here it is. I got it right until.

The last year of my undergrad where I participated in in the robotics competition where we had to build a fully autonomous robot from scratch. We participated in the autonomous unmanned Vehicle System International competition, a BSI and we won first place and I really enjoyed working in that project and I decided after that point to continue with my Masters degree in robotics. And as I was you know pursuing my at this point I was already working full time in the aerospace and defense industry. So I was doing full time work, full time college. But I was fascinated with, I was always the type of person that always gave a lot of value to continuous learning. So that's

till today that's the person I am. The more I know about things the the less I think. I actually, I said. The more I learn. The less I know about that about things, that's how I feel, right? So during my Masters program, I got the opportunity to work with a severely paralyzed person and we were the technology that we were using was BCCI brain computer interface. So what that did, it allowed the individual to propel his wheelchair through his thoughts. And when I witnessed that, of course the technology was really cool, but when I witnessed the impact that it had on the individual.

Was very impactful on me in terms of how it made me feel. You know, I, I, I experienced. The feeling of independence, right, that that that technology gave the individual and it was. It was something like I've never seen before. You know, maybe I didn't even before that time I didn't even heard about. Independent living and what it meant, right? Or independence for people with mobility challenges. I didn't know what

it meant, but at that moment I wanted to know more about this. At that moment was the first time I said to myself that one day I'll start a company, you know, a robotics company. Delivering similar products to increase independent living and accessibility for, you know, for the community of people with disabilities and whoever else needs it, right? Because at one point in our life, we're all. Tend to come permanently or temporarily disabled. And of course, at that time I was like it was a thought in my mind. Nothing happened until later. Few years later, when my grandparents became completely dependent on caregivers due to stroke, their mobility was very limited to to, not say non-existent, and I saw what kind of emotional.

Impact it had on them and on everyone around them, really. Forget about the physical challenges. But the emotional? The the suffering of the emotional well-being. It was took a toll on everyone including my grandparents right that was more damaging to their health than the physical limitation and you know we went through kind of both my grandfather and my grandmother they kind of you know they were both at that situation you know together. Unfortunately my grandfather passed away a couple of years ago and now you know my grandmother is still in the in that situation so.

At that time we, you know, tried to find adequate. Care whether it was in the assistive technology, assistive devices side of things or even or caregiver or or efficient and Affordable Care for them. And of course the family is like non paid or unpaid caregivers, right that. You know that a lot of family members do in these situations.

And at that point I say, OK, this is this is the point where I start my company and I tried to. Look into the various assistive technology system devices that are out there. How impactful are they? Are they and the you know, because we couldn't find anything that helped.

My grandparents to. To live a better life and in so many words with her situation or or his situation. And you know, in the case of my grandfather. So at that point, you know, I said I have all this. Education, knowledge, experience and all this passion in me, I have to put it to good use and that good use is hopefully be able to. Help individuals with mobility challenges live better in many ways, right? But I didn't know what what that meant, so I I don't know how I can. Possibly accomplish that? And I wasn't.

A person that understood the community of people with disabilities well, because the only exposure I had. At least in my mind, that that point was was where my grandparents right? And I don't want to be one of those individuals where. Sits behind the computer. These few articles and claims that he understands the the the people, right? So what I did I went. I went on visited many people with various disabilities. To ask them about what can someone like me? Do.

To assist you and and and and living better, right? And that approach actually was very welcomed, especially amongst the community of people with disabilities. The more people I talked to, the, the more welcoming I felt and. People were eager to talk to me. Because I was partnering with them to to to find a solution together rather than forcing a technology down their throats. In many ways you know, and they expressed their dissatisfaction.

On, on on the current situation of of whether it's disability, elderly, the, the caregiving side so it's it's kind of very. It was very sad in many ways to hear all the challenges and all the opportunities at the same time that existed in bettering people's lives. With, you know fairly. Simple ways, right? So we don't have to reinvent the wheel, but we can do small stuff that can really make an impact on somebody's life. So that's that. That became my mission, you

know, to figure out what to do to make people live better. And, you know, the company's name is Mark Bottex through that effort. I was able to find a product that by partnering with people with with various disabilities, elderly and we were talking about primarily people with mobility challenges and and people with mobility challenges you know kind of like is a vague term in many ways because. Everybody. Every group, yeah, it's a very big group. So it's it's difficult sometimes to explain.

Who are these people with mobility challenges, especially that today, for example I'm looking for investors to help me bring this product forward and when they asked me about who are your target customers or who are you serving as an audience, I can't tell them. It's people with mobility challenges, right? It's it's that's a that's so vague. So I have to come up with the with the. Other ways of expressing that, although that people with mobility challenges is very true. But I had to count, I had to kind of like.

Focus it a little bit more, so I'll stop here and see if you have any questions because I feel like I talked a lot. Well, I was going to say the first fall, that's very admirable that you took that sense of, you know, wanting to understand what people are going through because umm, you know, it's a. Very very big problem for. People like us, like Krystal and myself in the disability community.

Um. Because of our experience is oftentimes if we go to the doctor or we go to a physiotherapist or whatever. I'm the expert. I've read this book. This book have this certificate. I know more than you. Therefore this is what we should do and.

And they're not really keen to listen to. To what we have to say, or if they do listen, it's like dismissed as not that can be possibly true because I know the facts. Yeah, OK. Yeah, I mean, unfortunately.

You're maybe the? You know thousand person that told me this right and and and you know to be fair to the conversation. I was probably one of those before I got engaged with the community. I was probably one of those who thought that, yeah, the doctor might know best, right? Or or or the tech or this person who's creating the technology might know best, but after my efforts. And trying to understand. People, especially people within within the, you know. Mobility challenged individuals and community and people with disabilities.

I came to realize that this is a lot bigger problem than I thought it would be, right? A lot of people. Such as yourself right now when I talk to them. The reason it's not, it's not because of the technology that they got attracted to me. It's actually because I was listening

to them and I was hearing their, their, their opportunities, their challenges, right. And that's what I think my biggest success was just that to this point. Of course I have. And you know, I don't want to give the false sense of perception that I'm successful today. Far from it, right? But I'm on, I'm on that path. I'm walking that path. Right now, of course there are a lot of challenges, but I also see a lot of opportunity to help a lot of people like in the 10s of 1,000,000 if not, if not billions, right? And we're not only talking about.

People with disabilities, right? People with disabilities. I'm as I'm as I'm sure you know, they're the largest minority group in the world. But. What? What about the aging population that are in great numbers that are going to need at least one assistive device? Right to to help them throughout their day. So we're talking about a massive. Population and need of of of support.

And there aren't. At least I don't see. Any direct Support. Adequate support, affordable support, whatever you want to call it today. And that's what we're trying to do with Markbotix ********. Yeah, and the.

Things there are like, especially in Canada, in the US, there are. Something's in place, but. Where the this there's a simple thing that is not being done like you talked about is just listening to people and. And understanding where they're coming from, like and that's the only barrier. Well, I mean, there are other more tangible

things that have to be done, but it all starts with being able to listen and understand. Um, like? I'll give you a personal example, which is an experience loss that people share. Is OK. I apply to get a wheelchair because someone with their progressive disability I need 1, right? But the nature of my issue and other people have. And disease like mine at our condition like mine ataxia is that we don't always need a wheelchair 24/7.

We may get more tired as the day goes on or whatever, right? So. And I apply. Where I find the application for getting wheelchair because great, the government will pay for that. But do you know what the stipulation they make is? You have to need a wheelchair all the time and.

I'm to make sure we get you the right thing, instead of me telling them what I need in them listening to me, they're gonna say OK, you need to go see a physiotherapist, which is know you who's not going to see you 24 hours a day. And they're going to be the judge by what you need. Yeah. Right. And then it just leaves you feeling defeated because it's like, what's the point? And then? It's it's a coupled with a bunch of different problems. The

government doesn't pay enough, give you enough money to live, and then now, because you're not going through the application process, you're left to pay for with chair yourself, which is taking money away from. Money you need to live. And again you know as you said earlier it's it's an experience that is shared pretty much by anyone and in your situation and again I didn't know that right. My efforts and and energy that I

put in to go out there and understand the people that I'm, I'm, I, I want, I want to serve. Kind of educated me along the way. People such as yourself, people like Vince and and and Eileen and and Eric who became dear friends of mine. Educated me along the process. On different challenges that people with disabilities have to go through just to get like something as simple as as a wheelchair, right? And I understand the other side of the thing because ultimately everything is a business, right? It's sad, but it's true. Everybody will.

You know. The reason they're sending you to the physical therapist. Is because.

The system is is set up in such a way that, OK, along that process the physical therapist is getting paid and the assistant is getting paid, and then the wheelchair company is getting paid and then I don't know who else in that process is also getting paid, right? So there's a track. That you know you have to follow. So everybody that you know touches hand in that process gets paid and unfortunately that leaves you last. And it's definitely no means any.

An efficient process. We all know it that the government knows it. So it's it's a big battle that you know, we're really fighting here. And that's why, I guess that's why I decided to. Tackle this problem in many ways. Kind of take that. No, I don't want to say it. Well, I don't want to say it the

way I was thinking about it, but my might be understood wrong by other people. But I wanted to give the power to the individual right and you know. When I heard the challenges with. The pay right that you know most people with disabilities are living at or below the poverty line.

So I was like, OK, if I'm going to do a robotic. You know device. What would be a price point that people can afford without going through their insurance right without going through the government? You know and that these all are considerations they're they're big challenges for us of course because ultimately we're a company that we want to make money, right. If we don't want we if we don't make money we can't really support and add value to our target customers. So all these things are considerations and challenges for us to tackle and and solve which which I am willing to do right because I see the gap, I see the benefits and I see the. Huge potential that.

We can have on a big population that can live much better. You know and. And I I I think I believe that I'm able to do that. And that's

why I'm on this. I'm on this journey. And so. Like one of your passions or it's robotics, right? How do you? Umm. Like how how is the pursuit of robotics related to tackling this big problem? Like how how is it complementary, do you think? So I think my biggest passion is is just.

Being a good, good person these days. I don't think robotics is my biggest passion. Robotics is something that I love. It was a passion after I lost the basketball. It's something that kind of grounded me again in terms of like, OK, I have something that I enjoy doing now, which is, which is robotics, but then when I got into this, this work. Umm.

The. The relationship that I had with the people. That was the passion. I've been working on this for two years.

Haven't made a single dollar from it. But every. Person I met. Along that journey, which were a lot of people. Just impacted my life and in ways that I could have never imagined, you know, and that that really became my passion.

My passion is no longer robotics. My passion is. You know, being an ally to these people, impacting people's lives through robotics that I happen to know and in many shape or form. That's how I categorize my passion. So it's not the robotics that is being adapted. To the people. Or actually, it's not the people who are being adapted to the robot, it's the robot that is being adapted to adapt to the people's need. So I look at the person and I see what I can do

to help them with my with my robotics knowledge. That's how I approach this. And how do you how do you think that your journey so far leading up to this point has prepared you to help? Help the disabled community through. The work you do.

So as as I said earlier, I, you know, the people that I met throughout. I partner with them to. Find the solution together rather than you know. Offering, you know, technologies from an outside perspective, right? And.

Today I know I have something very valuable. That you know, that can be of great. Support to people with various disabilities including the elderly, right, even including people who have non visible disabilities. Including people with. Chronic diseases.

And again, I just stumble upon this because I took the time to talk to the people to understand what their needs are. And through that effort we found. Grace and Grace stands for ground robotic assistant for Karen Enablements. And we believe. You know, when I say we, I mean myself and the people who supported me.

From the disability community to come up with this technology. We believe that we have a winner in terms of. Umm. In terms of a device that can assist people. You know, performing, you know, routine, daily tasks safely, independently reduce caregiver burnout, right? I can't say much today because there are few.

A patent issues that we're working through unfortunately that is also a consideration because ultimately it's a it's a business right there are there are companies out there that are much better funded than we are. So we're trying to take our precautions and and when in going into this endeavor because. We are trusted by the community of people with disabilities, at least the people that I've been in contact with. So I want to be in the position that. I can impact people's lives directly and. And we kind of move away from that.

So come see me and I tell you what you need. No, I heard the people and we designed the solution together. And which fits? The needs of of many people with mobility challenges, regardless of their ability or disability which revolves the design revolves around universal design right? Universal design principles. Which is critical in our line of work.

As you may know, universal design principles not every one thinks about when offering a solution, especially to people with disabilities. And again, these are things that I didn't know before, right? I was educated along the way and I feel very. Humbled and and lucky to have had that education which happened outside of the classroom.

Right. So where we are today? Today we have. Uh, a product? That can serve many people with various abilities and disabilities.

Umm. We are looking for investors. And we can't wait to release that product to the market.

Yeah, it sounds like, well I hope, I mean obviously if you if you get the right investment like by some miracle you get you get that tomorrow or something. How how far is, how far is the product along in development. So the product is fully designed and digitally right. So it's just a matter of. Just transferring those designs, which we call CAD files. I'm not, I don't know if you're, you know, you know what CAD files are, right? Yeah. So for those who don't know, it's just, you know, like there are tools like SolidWorks, Creo, CATIA, things that you design environments that you design.

Any electromechanical devices and robots. And so we have the, we have that design fully completed. It's just a matter of transferring these files to our contract manufacturers to build it. So if we get an investment, let's say this month or next month, we can release the product by early next year. That's cool. So what are the next steps for Markbotix? Where do you go from here? So our immediate focus is getting that investment as you mentioned. Well it's it's important to understand that we

are looking for a strategic investor who on who really understands what we're working on right and who are who we're impacting and how big the opportunity is here because I've I've read through a lot of research papers, yeah they say. They say there's a like an untapped market and and you know that that is the people with disabilities. Which, you know, other other companies have tried to address. They say that people with disabilities have a disposable income of $490 billion, right? Of course, all these are metrics, right? These are metrics that have been put in in the research papers and.

I believe they're there because people have wrote these papers. Through their frustrations of not receiving that adequate care to to to live, to live the life that they deserve to live, right like everyone else. When we talk about accessibility, we talk about kind of leveling the playing field for everyone. We're not. We're not asking for favoritism on one side of the aisle versus the other, right? We're just bringing everyone to the same level. We're just giving everyone the same opportunity to live the life that they they want to live.

So for Markbotix our immediate... Our immediate goal is to find that right investor. Which I believe. Uh, I have a feeling that it's going to happen within the next month or so. And after that we have. Other projects in mind.

That also came from me, you know, engaging with, with, with the, with people from the community, which is the air travel situation and you know, how big of a... Challenge Air travel is for people with disabilities, people with mobility challenges. So we have a project in mind for that as well, although that's further down the line. So that's kind of what what the next steps are for us. So, Harout, tell me or tell us where people can reach you if they want to know more about what Markbotix is working on.

So they can go to our website that's kind of the the home base for everything we're working on and the website is. and Markbotix is spelled MAR KB OT and you'll find everything that we're working on there. You'll

find the my background, my cofounders background and really we have a great team of people working on this project including the the advisors such as Vince and Eric and Eileen right and and then I'll just I forgot to mention that. I even talked to blind people. So these the, the, the technology that we're were developing, the G.R.A.C.E., the ground robotic system for care enablement and will also serve. Blind people. So we're really, we're really happy about it. So if you go to my website, you'll find everything. You'll you'll

find my social links, you know, there's a LinkedIn page, there's a Facebook page, there's an Instagram page. And you'll be able to follow us there from there. And great. Thank you, Harout, for taking the time to speak with us today. It's really a pleasure, so I have yourself a great day. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure to

be on and you know, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. OK. Bye.

2023-03-12 04:26

Show Video

Other news