Actionable Insights from Successful Men

Enlightenment Capitalism: When You Can’t “Turn Away”

Mick Ebeling asks, "What if your whole business started by accident? What if the results of that accident literally made the mute speak? The deaf hear? The hungry to be fed?"

Mick Ebeling was at a fundraising event and met a graffiti artist called Tempt One who was paralyzed by MLS. Ebeling and his wife learned his family had a foundation and they asked, “We’d like to donate; what would you use it for?” His parents said, “We just want to talk to our son again.” “Stephen Hawking can communicate,” he asked. “Why can’t your son?” Their reason was simple. “We can’t afford it.”

Now, it just so happens that Ebeling, a veteran of special effects and animation, likes to make things. “IMick Ebeling went into producer mode.” He moved a team of people into his house. “They pushed the tables and chairs against the wall. They played with my kids, taught them bad words in five different languages. But in two weeks we created the Eyewriter. Other devices to help paralyzed folks communicate cost about $15,000 back then. We combined a cheap pair of sunglasses from the Venice Beach boardwalk, a coat hanger, some duct tape, and a few other things and built a working voice recognition device for a hundred bucks.”

Screen Shot 2024-02-18 at 9.51.42 PMThe Eyewriter was swiftly named one of Time Magazine's top 50 inventions of the year.

More importantly, says Ebeling, Tempt One wrote to him and said, “This is the first time I've drawn anything for 7 years. I feel like I've been held underwater till now – and someone reached down and pulled my head up so I could take a breath.” 

That was the moment that Ebeling says he started Not Impossible Labs.

Watch Mick Ebeling at METAL

“What we have grown to be is an incubator for low-cost technology that helps people. We spot a social absurdity, usually around access, and see how we can create a solution. Then we figure out how to scale it. Profit, non-profit, whatever works best. My producer mindset is simple: ‘Commit first – then figure it out.’”

Screen Shot 2024-02-18 at 9.48.45 PM

Not Impossible Labs has innovated artificial arms under $100 for wounded survivors of the violence in Sudan, leaving the world’s first 3-D printing prosthetic lab there and training locals to run it. They’ve developed a wearable vibrotactile suit that allows deaf people to “feel” music through 29 points of contact. “Your entire body essentially becomes a speaker!” Eberling bubbles with enthusiasm. “Your skin acts as the eardrum. It makes the experience incredible!” 

The enterprise funds itself by stumbling upon ways to monetize its inventions. Turns out that hearing people ALSO find the experience incredible, and the company is working with applying this tech with The Sphere in Las Vegas, motorsports, and other clients. The invention won Ebeling and his team their third Top Invention of the Year nod.

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During Covid, people were losing their free and reduced meals. Ebeling’s group “hacked the system” and got people fed. They have since pivoted their simple text-based app solution into a thriving for-profit company, now helping Medicaid recipients with food curated around their unique health challenges.

“I think it's impossible to turn away if you see something that has to be done. From there, resilience comes naturally. This,” says Eberling, “is what I call ‘Enlightenment Capitalism.’”

This issue of METAL Men Daily was written by Adam Gilad.

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