US business magazine Forbes has included Technical University of Munich (TUM) graduate Jakob Schillinger in its 30 Under 30 Europe list for social entrepreneurs. The 26-year-old is one of the founders of OneDollarGlasses - an organization whose goal is to train opticians in developing countries to make and sell highly affordable glasses. Four entrepreneurs from TUM start-ups had already made it into the science and healthcare category of the Forbes list.
The idea behind OneDollarGlasses is to develop glasses that are affordable for everyone and can be easily produced - anywhere in the world. According to the WHO, around 150 million people with weak vision are unable to afford glasses and are therefore often excluded from education and certain jobs. In a bid to rectify this, the teacher Martin Aufmuth developed a low-cost design in 2012, consisting of a spring steel frame and prefabricated polycarbonate lenses. In order to make the glasses, he also designed a portable bending machine which does not require electricity to function.
When the students of the Enactus Munich team found out about the invention, they offered to help bring the project to the next level. Enactus is a global non-profit organization run on a voluntary basis by students who want to help people to help themselves through entrepreneurship.
Roll-out in Burkina Faso
They decided to set up OneDollarGlasses to show people in developing countries how to produce glasses, perform eye tests and manage sales. One of the organization’s founders was Jakob Schillinger, a Management and Technology student at TUM. In 2013, he traveled to Rwanda, and after that to Bolivia and Burkina Faso.
The 26-year-old is now employed by the organization, and as country for Burkina Faso, he travels to this West African country several times a year. His aim is to provide glasses to everyone in Burkina Faso who needs them, which means that two to three million pairs will need to be produced. He is due to head there again soon, first to the capital Ouagadougou and then to rural villages. On the ground, he will be working with the locals to build interest in the profession of optician, supply information and provide technical and business management training.
A pair of glasses for three days’ wages
The opticians actually produce the frames of the "one-dollar glasses" for just under a dollar. The glasses are then sold for the local equivalent of between two and three days’ wages, which would come to around six dollars. Around 23 people are working for the organization at present. The sale of the glasses provides a livelihood for them and their families.
Jakob Schillinger has also benefitted from his involvement: "I have learned that communication always comes first. And that you should not expect to see added value from the outset; that will eventually come if you just get on with your work without any preconceptions. I learned to take a leadership role very early on, which means taking responsibility for my decisions and the people affected by them."
Schillinger completed his Bachelor degree at TUM in April 2014 and is set to graduate with a Master’s in psychology from Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich later this year. He is delighted to be included in the Forbes list: "I am sure it will open a lot of doors."
TUM supports Top 30 Under 30 start-ups
Years ago, Forbes decided to make a feature of finding outstanding young people under the age of 30 with the achievements and potential to shape the future. Having previously focused on the USA, the magazine has now published its first "30 Under 30" lists for Europe in a number of categories.
The science and healthcare list has already recognized four entrepreneurs whose start-ups have received or are currently receiving support from TUM : Sinan Denemec (26), David Fehrenbach (27) and Moritz Knoblauch (27) are working on getting their healthcare company "iuvas" off the ground at the TUM Entrepreneurship Center, while TUM graduate Alexander Rinke (26) is a manager at IT company Celonis.