John Serri, PhD of EyeQue

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with John Serri, PhD, the co-founder and president of EyeQue, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of EyeQue – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

We started EyeQue with the specific goal of creating an inexpensive device that works with a smartphone and can be used by anyone to measure their vision and order eyeglasses. In 2015, we developed a solution based on a technology we licensed from MIT: a smartphone-powered refraction error test that brings accurate testing directly to the consumer. Since then, EyeQue has developed a suite of smartphone vision tests empowering people to test their own vision at home and take an active role in their vision wellness.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

When we first began, we knew we were about to expand a market that had not yet been realized – self-administered, at-home vision tests. While it was nerve-wracking, it was also very exciting for us to forge our own path. A swelling of self-care and personalized health offerings were forming, but none were addressing eyes and vision.

The biggest hurdle for us was avoiding the pitfalls of many young startups. I made sure that we were never persuaded by outside investors, naysayers, or unrealistic time pressures to introduce our first product, the Personal Vision Tracker. The only time pressure came from within. I wanted to get this to market quickly to see the response, but I wanted to do it right. Many times, you are driven by expectations from others who can offer you money, but their lack of vision can drive you off course. My co-founder and I were focused on making a great device and getting it out to the world. We didn’t listen to what people were telling us to do or how they thought we should be approaching our business. We were diligent in hiring talented employees and sourcing great professional resources.

What does the future hold for EyeQue?

Since our launch in 2015, we’ve seen a lot of interest from consumers, the medical community, and investors. The growth of telemedicine has also led to more interest and opportunity with optometrists and other eye care professionals who were previously reluctant to try our technology. The recent impact of COVID-19 and sheltering in place orders have accelerated a focus on telehealth and at-home solutions, giving EyeQue new-found relevance. Eyecare professionals have a new appreciation for the opportunities EyeQue technology can provide their practice. We see tremendous growth for us in this field. As far as our next steps, we look forward to expanding into enterprise and medical applications, and growing internationally.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Newark?

What surprises most people who aren’t familiar with the city is its impressive growth over the past few years into a hub of biotech and health innovation. There are a number of industrial buildings offering parcels of well-priced rental space to very early stage companies operating as think tanks, and mid-size companies headquartered elsewhere and looking to expand into Silicon Valley through Newark. Being easily accessible to Silicon Valley and San Francisco makes Newark a convenient option without the burden of a larger metropolitan city. These positives have attracted an impressive number of companies and talent, particularly young entrepreneurs looking to get their start in tech. As the city continues to grow, I think more and more people will continue to embrace Newark and help make it one of the leading tech sectors in the country.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

For anyone looking to build their first startup, it’s important to get practical work experience early on in your career. Find a company you admire and intern or work there for a few years and in various roles to learn the ins and outs of business. The next important thing is to have a practical, scalable idea that you have passion for.

From my many years in the industry, I have found it is critical to be open, transparent, and to have honest conversations with my team. Including everyone in the decision making process and actively asking for input motivates my team because they know they are just as responsible for the company’s success and future.

Finally, network with others in your industry to learn what works well and what you can learn from their experience. Most importantly, though, find what you’re passionate about and use that as a starting point for building a company you are proud of.


For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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