Founder Feature: Hemal Dias, Founder of stablspoon

Hemal Dias founded stablspoon whilst studying Engineering at Warwick University. The company produces an affordable self-stabilising spoon for people with hand tremors. The idea was inspired by a family friend whose shaky hands made eating difficult. The existing specialised spoons on the market cost upwards of £200, which was unaffordable to the people who needed it most. Hemal took part in the Young Enterprise scheme whilst at school, designing, developing and selling a USB flash drive and power bank, teaching him essential entrepreneurial skills.

Top Business Tech has partnered with Young Enterprise, who work with educators, volunteers and supporters to provide meaningful opportunities for young people to develop an enterprising mindset in which to apply critical skills to navigate successful future pathways.

Read on to find out more about Hemal’s founder journey.

Could you tell us about your company and what you’re striving to achieve?

stablspoon is an affordable self-stabilising spoon for people with hand tremors. Up to 4% of the world population have a tremor, which has the potential to make day to day tasks virtually impossible, with eating being anecdotally frustrating. Existing specialised spoons cost over £150, unaffordable to the people who need it most, hence stablspoon was born.

When the handle of our spoon is shaken, the innovative mechanism keeps the bowl steady, not letting food fall out. Unlike our competitors who use complex and costly electronic systems, stablspoon relies purely on mechanical components such as springs, delivering comparable performance at a fraction of the price. Existing products have been described as big and bulky, while automatically branding the user as having a disability. We are focused on making an aesthetically pleasing product that people want, not just need. We hope to release stablspoon in 2021 for under £50, allowing it to be viable in markets worldwide, truly removing the frustration from eating with a hand tremor.

What made you decide to take on the challenge of founding your business?

I am a mechanical engineer who always dreamt about inventing something to help people. This became a reality during an annual visit to Sri Lanka where I met Ben, a family friend and retired author with a bad hand tremor. I noticed his condition had worsened every year I visited him so I asked how I could help. He told me he struggled most with eating, so I investigated solutions and was shocked to see that existing products cost over £150. I was in the second year of my degree at the time and decided to pursue this as my third-year project. By the end of that year, I had developed an effective, yet low-cost mechanism so decided to form a startup to bring it to market. 

Describe the impact Young Enterprise had on deciding to found and run your company?

I participated in a Young Enterprise company back in 2014 as the technology director where I developed all the prototypes for our idea – a USB flash drive and portable phone charger in one. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in running a real business, with real money, products, and advisors. It helped me develop the mindset that running a company was within my reach, I just had to find an idea worth developing a company around!

What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

Following the end of my third-year project at university, I applied to the Design Council Spark Accelerator who were looking for innovative ideas to aid with independent living. When applying, I did not expect much, but ended up winning a £60,000 investment along with invaluable mentorship in design and business. 

More recently, we were finalists in the Engineering Talent Award’s ‘Best Innovation of the year 2020’ and also received an honorable mention in our first international competition – The Design Intelligence Awards.

How far are you willing to go to see your idea become a success?

The critical reception to the idea of stablspoon is positive, with many relevant individuals and organisations showing interest, but the next challenge is bringing it to market. I am willing to go as far as required to see this happen. During research and development, I have spoken to countless people with tremors who are in desperate need of an affordable eating aid. If stablspoon does not reach the market, I would be letting them down.

What are the future implications of the technology you are developing?

Fortunately, there are no major ethical issues with the development of stablspoon, but we are trying our best to reduce environmental impact. Tremors last a lifetime, so that is how long we want our product to last. stablspoon is designed to be durable, yet the components are easily dismantlable allowing easy separation for repair or recycling at the end of life. 

We may even consider a system of trading in old units to be refurbished and resold to minimize waste as much as possible.

Can you tell us who your mentors and heroes are, and what impact they’ve had on you?

My heroes will first and foremost be my parents, who have always had faith in my ideas. I am in a privileged position to receive their ongoing support and am constantly inspired by their work ethic. 

Following closely after is my design lecturer from university, Chloe Agg, who was one of the first people to hear about stablspoon when it was simply just a weekend project in 2017. She noticed potential in it and recommended I do it as my third-year project, which she supervised. After I submit my dissertation, Chloe advised that I should sign up to the Design Council Spark Award where the idea transitioned into a company. So, on two occasions she has been the one to push stablspoon to the next level which I am extremely grateful for! 

Do you see this as UK centric or will you conquer the world by going global?

Going global. The entire intention of stablspoon is to develop an accessible solution allowing anyone with a tremor to eat comfortably. This is one of the motives behind keeping the price as low as possible, rendering stablspoon a viable option in any market around the world. I hope stablspoon can also lead a revolution in exciting medical aids which keep people independent for longer, reducing the strain on global health services. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to budding innovators taking the same journey?

Do not fear reaching out, talk to people. When I was growing up, media culture gave the impression that the business world was scary and deceiving. A place where people would always be hostile and unwilling to help unless there is a financial gain to be made. 

My actual experience so far has been quite the opposite. I could not have got this far without the kind support and guidance from people who I have met on my journey. 

Learn more about Hemal Dias and stablspoon here:

Bekki Barnes

With 5 years’ experience in marketing, Bekki has knowledge in both B2B and B2C marketing. Bekki has worked with a wide range of brands, including local and national organisations.