Meet Dan Cohen of Silicon Valley. Dan has been an essential part of several start-ups. Today, he is Vice President of Product Management at Mojo Vision, a tech enterprise developing augmented reality (AR) contact lenses. Someday soon people may rely on contact lenses to accomplish some of the information gathering and monitoring tasks that their smartphone or smart watch now perform.
“My KC journey started in the Baltimore. Pollen allergies during humid summers were particularly irritating, so I was an aggressive ‘eye rubber’. By the time I reached 7th grade, my vision was noticeably poor, and I was prescribed thick “coke bottle” glasses. I did well in school, so the thick glasses secured my image as a nerd, right at the most awkward time in my – and any kid’s – life.
“As I entered high school, I hoped to change that image, so I got my first pair of contacts. Switching from glasses was the first game changer for my vision, helping me emerge from my ‘ugly duckling’ phase, enabling me to participate in sports and music – and date girls.
“I went on to study electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, starting my first company while still a student. After graduation, I sold my company and started another. I noticed that when wearing my glasses, I couldn’t see clearly. My optometrist told me I was developing astigmatism. Prescribing toric contact lenses with glasses enabled me to see but made me dizzy.
“Soon I sold my second company to a company in Silicon Valley, so my wife and I moved there. I was excited to immerse myself in the technology capital of the world, meet brilliant people and start several new companies.
“At every eye exam, my optometrist told me my astigmatism was progressing and prescribed increasingly powerful and expensive soft lenses. My vision with spectacles became worse, to the point where I couldn’t do much more than use them to fumble my way to the coffee maker in the morning. My days of reading in bed were over.
“About twelve years ago, my optometrist informed me she was out of options and theorized I may have keratoconus, something I had never heard of. She recommended I see her professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry.
“During my first visit, I was diagnosed with keratoconus. I remember the professor beckoning to his students, ‘Everyone gather ’round! We have a KC patient to look at!’ I was prescribed my first set of scleral lenses. It took five visits to get my fit right, but I could see perfectly. After wearing soft lenses, I was shocked at the large, rigid lenses yet they were the most comfortable lenses I’d ever worn.
“Over the years I experienced major progress in scleral lenses, with more available lens designs, fewer visits to get a fit, vision care coverage for medically necessary lenses, and easier care options. Inserting and removing scleral lenses is something I can easily do in seconds; in the dark if I needed to.
“In 2018, my worlds of being a KC patient and a technology entrepreneur serendipitously collided. A lifelong friend founded Mojo Vision, a start-up developing an augmented reality (AR) contact lens for consumers with an embedded computer processor, batteries, and the world’s smallest display. As it turned out, the type of contact lens being used for by Mojo Vision was a scleral lens. He asked me to join him in this ambitious venture with dozens of top engineers, scientists, and clinicians and backed by over $200M in venture capital. I jumped at the chance, and I can honestly say the last five years has been one of the most rewarding and intellectually stimulating projects I’ve ever worked on.
“I’m the kid from Baltimore who rubbed his eyes too much, developed KC, and couldn’t see well who grew up to be at the forefront of driving amazing innovation in smart scleral lenses. How cool is that?”