Meet the young entrepreneur who looks set to make the phrase ‘Lost in Translation’ obselete with the launch of his latest wireless technology.
His name is Danny Manu, he is a British-Ghanaian engineer and music producer, and is only 29 years old. He is also the founder/director of Manchester-based start-up company Mymanu and the brains behind Mymanu Clik – the Bluetooth earbuds which allow users speaking in one language to converse with someone else speaking another.
Can you ear me?
The concept sounds fantastical and futuristic – I know – but as I speak, this technology is undergoing final tests. Customers that have pre-ordered the Mymanu Clik will be able to pick it up in early summer. By late August, the product, which is expected to retail at $300 (£240) will be available to the general public, London-born Manu told MisBeee.
Mymanu Clik is the second major offering from this innovative start-up manufacturer. The first is the Mymanu Waterproof Bluetooth Shower Speaker which allows users to remotely control phone calls and music. So you can be in the shower with the speaker, while your phone is in another room and still take calls or listen to songs.
The inspiration came from his little daughter Gabby who ‘bathed’ his phone some years back. Instead of having an understandable freak out, Manu had a ‘light bulb’ moment.
“I’ve always wanted to develop products that would change people’s lives and empower them,” the Edmonton-born entrepreneur said. “Being able to listen to music in the shower is always a problem because of the risk of it getting wet, so I developed the speakers to deal with that.” Manu ended up securing a global distribution deal with DIY and home improvement retailer B&Q and proceeds from this invention were then reinvested in 2014 to develop Mymanu Clik.
Manu’s passion to understand the mechanics behind how objects function can be traced back to his childhood. “I liked taking things apart and putting them back together and it is something that I still do,” he said. “The other day, I bought a drone and took it apart just to see.”
He is also pretty self-sufficient and extremely focussed and from an early age exhibited the hallmarks of being an entrepreneur. His mother died when he was just seven years old and the young Manu was sent to live and be schooled in Accra, Ghana until his late teens. He returned to London and by 16 years old, he had left home, was studying in college and was earning his own money. By age 17, he was creating music for recording companies and artists. He had his own company called XWave Productions by 2007, and along with a friend, recorded music that was selected for a Channel 4 Evo Music Rooms competition in 2010.
Manu and music
The north Londoner is also friends with and produced music with fellow British-Ghanaian Fleur East before she made it big on X Factor. “I actually got to know her through a church performance,” he said. “I was the keyboardist and she was performing. We ended up practising, and rehearsing in my studio, and produced a record. We were working together before X Factor but it was through that that she decided to go for the show.”
Keen to focus on his profession, Manu trained first in mechanical engineering and went on to learn about aeronautics, product development, new innovation and technology, “I then decided to focus on what I really wanted to do, which was finding out the problems we are facing and creating products that would make life easier for us.”
The Mymanu Clik looks likely to do that because it taps into two challenges the public have communicated to Manu. These were improving the microphones so that people don’t have to shout and tackling the language barrier.
Mymanu Clik is the first technology of its kind in the world that can translate up to 37 languages in real time, said Manu. The small nature of the earbuds and the need to pack lots of functionality into a tiny surface area forced Manu and his small engineering team to invent the technology. “We kept asking engineers to help us but they said this could not be done,” said Manu, whose company is nestled in MediaCityUK – Manchester’s answer to Silicon Valley. “As a result, we ended up inventing different technology to actually make it possible. We managed to compress all of that technology in a really tiny space which allows users to control the product with a flick of their fingers. We also developed something called two-way driver technology to deliver high sound quality. No one has got two-way technology in any true wireless earbud because it is too much work and it is not cheap.”
Funding the project has not been easy. Manu used his own savings, and garnered public support through crowdfunding KickStarter and Indiegogo campaigns and touring global technology exhibitions. At the time of writing this article, Mymanu Clik pre-order sales totalled over $1.1 million on the Mymanu website and exceeded $419,000 on Indiegogo.
According to Manu, the military and healthcare are among the sectors interested in the product. Mymanu Clik has added appeal because there is a desktop app version that transcribes Clik conversations automatically. Manu also faced competition from tech giant Apple which rolled out its earbud technology AirPods (it doesn’t translate conversations) after he first launched the Clik in 2014. But Manu is unfazed.
For Manu, the possibilities for his technologies are endless. He plans to roll out a second Mymanu Speaker in September that has smart home integration. This means that users will be able to use their voice to control household devices. He is also working on a Mymanu Clik2, which would allow users to programme their slang into the device. The idea behind this is to allow people speaking slang to be understood by a person unfamiliar with their slang. So, for example the software would understand that “wassup” means “how are you?” and would communicate that back to the listener.
Looking forward, Manu wants to take his technology to the African continent and develop incubator programmes aimed at equipping people keen to create new technology with the training and knowledge to do so. But of course, the obvious question for now is if we can expect Ghanaian languages to feature on Mymanu Clik. Manu, who is fluent in Twi, assures MisBeee that he has not ruled that out.