Syracuse Surge Accelerator-Meet the Teams: Sign-Speak

Posted on January 10, 2024

Image
Syracuse Surge Accelerator Sign-Speak

After graduating college with degrees in math and economics, Yamillet Payano was working for Fannie Mae and looking to get a master's degree in computer science. But as she was exploring master's programs, she had a chance meeting that changed her trajectory. A friend introduced her to two people in school at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Nicholas Wilkins and Nikolas Kelly. Their first meeting quickly turned into days of conversation and an opportunity to start a business together. 

“I had a full ride to go get my master's and didn't go. I mean, masters are always going to be there. I can always go get my masters. I don’t always find two amazing people to build a business with,” Payano said. 

They created Sign-Speak, a real time American Sign Language recognition and transcription solution that enables businesses to better communicate with Deaf and Hard of Hearing clients and employees. Sign-Speak is one of five teams participating in the Syracuse Surge Accelerator.  

To Payano, language is everything. As a first-generation American, she often translated for her parents for everything from medical appointments to immigration paperwork. So, creating a technology solution that makes situations, from employment to social events to housing, more accessible for a historically disadvantaged community is something she’s truly passionate about. Payano said some of the most affirming feedback on the technology comes from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.  

“There was a person who cried when they tried it. She's in her 60s, and she was like, ‘I wish I'd had that when I was younger,’” Payano said. “When you have so many things like that accumulate, it gives you a drive to continue going that I think very few people can understand.” 

Payano and the rest of the Sign-Speak team have big plans for the company. They’re hoping to one day make the technology as ubiquitous as voice recognition in cell phones, smart TVs and computers. To get there, Payano is making the most of her time in the Syracuse Surge Accelerator. Since joining the accelerator this summer, Sign-Speak has increased datasets by more than 10x, resulting in a significant competitive advantage by creating the largest dataset of sign language. They also continue to fundraise and create new partnerships with businesses to incorporate Sign-Speak into their workplace technology. 

“We want the Deaf community to have equal experiences because they pay the exact same thing that we pay for those tools. They pay thousands of dollars for the iPhone, but they don't get to use it like you and I.” 

To learn more about Sign-Speak, visit their website. If you have a startup that you think would be right for the Syracuse Surge Accelerator, please click here to fill out our interest form and receive information about when applications open for the next cohort. 

​Get to know the five Syracuse Surge Accelerator inaugural cohort teams in our weekly profiles. This is the final profile of the five-part series.

Photo by Shanay Bradley-Light to the Darkness Photography

Other
CEO News

Image
Greater Oswego Fulton Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting 2024
CEO News | 02/29/2024

Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce Hosts 2024 Annual Meeting

Event highlights the incredible opportunities that are to come in the year ahead for chamber members.

Image
Surge Accelerator Teams Innovation Night
CEO News | 02/15/2024

A Reflection on the Past Year, from Syracuse Surge Accelerator Program Manager, Emad Rahim

It is hard to believe it has been a full year since we launched the Syracuse Surge Accelerator. In reflecting on this inaugural year, I am incredibly proud of what we have created through this program, and excited to witness its continued…

Image
GNY Round 8 Applications Graphic
CEO News | 02/08/2024

Empire State Development Announces Application Window for GENIUS NY Round 8 Now Open

Empire State Development (ESD) announced that GENIUS NY – the world’s largest business accelerator focused on uncrewed aerial systems – is now accepting applications for the eighth round of the year-long program.

Image
KeyBank CenterState CEO Check Presentation
CEO News | 02/06/2024

KeyBank Awards CenterState CEO With $500,000 Investment

Funding will support the launch and growth of underrepresented firms through training, coaching, and technical assistance and provide direct lending to and investment in undercapitalized firms.

Image
Rob Simpson at the 2024 Economic Forecast Breakfast
CEO News | 01/31/2024

CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson's 2024 Economic Forecast Remarks

CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson delivered the following remarks at the 2024 Economic Forecast Breakfast event on Jan. 31, 2024.

Image
Crowd at the 2024 Economic Forecast Breakfast
CEO News | 01/30/2024

Economic Forecasters Share Continued Optimism

CenterState CEO hosted its popular Economic Forecast event to share insights into the region’s economic climate from the perspective of regional business leaders and economic experts.

Image
Nominate Business of the Year 2024
CEO News | 01/25/2024

Business of the Year Award Nominations are Now Open!

CenterState CEO is now accepting nominations from members for its 2024 Business of the Year Awards. Deadline is Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.

Image
10th-Annual-Clothing-Drive 2024 Updated
CEO News | 01/12/2024

10th Annual Mark J. Palumbo Memorial Clothing Drive, honoring Nancy Premo

CenterState CEO is hosting the 10th annual Mark J. Palumbo Memorial Clothing Drive in honor of Nancy Premo. Bring gently used items, such as winter coats, hats, sweatshirts, gloves, scarfs, sweaters and warm socks to CenterState CEO's…

Image
Rob Simpson statement of State of the State 2024
CEO News | 01/09/2024

CenterState CEO President Robert Simpson Comments on Governor Kathy Hochul’s State of the State Address

Robert M. Simpson, president of CenterState CEO, in Syracuse, issued the following statement following Governor Kathy Hochul’s State of the State Address.