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Michael Korn is the Founder and Inventor of KwickScreen, a company specializing in healthcare furniture and interiors. KwickScreen has revolutionized the concept of hospital dividers by introducing a hygienic, portable, and sustainable alternative to disposable curtains to create private and safe spaces for patients in various healthcare settings.

Under Michael’s leadership, KwickScreen has emerged as a pioneering solution, supplying over 250 hospitals across 15 countries. In addition to his role at KwickScreen, Michael is the Founder of Neurodiverse Works, a consultancy and technology firm dedicated to supporting neurodivergent individuals in the workplace.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [03:57] Michael Korn shares how raising two autistic children affects his viewpoint on business and life
  • [05:54] The story behind KwickScreen and how Michael invented its products
  • [14:45] The challenges of manufacturing and charging for printed products
  • [18:50] Where Michael got the idea for his KwickSwitch product
  • [21:28] Bootstrapping a medical device company without raising money
  • [27:26] What was the first significant sales milestone for Michael?
  • [29:16] Michael talks about his previous products that didn’t pan out
  • [34:43] The idea behind Michael’s other company, Neurodiverse Works
  • [39:34] How Michael’s grandfathers inspired his products and companies

In this episode…

How does one entrepreneur’s journey in healthcare innovation intersect with a deep commitment to neurodiversity? Can the challenges of designing hospital spaces inspire a broader conversation about inclusive workplaces?

Michael Korn, an accomplished inventor and entrepreneur, emphasizes that the key to success lies in understanding and addressing specific needs. In healthcare, this means creating solutions that enhance patient privacy, contribute to infection control, and improve overall hospital efficiency. For neurodiversity, it involves recognizing the unique strengths and requirements of neurodivergent individuals and creating environments that celebrate and leverage these differences. His approach underlines the importance of empathy, tailored design, and inclusive thinking in driving meaningful change and innovation.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz speaks with Michael Korn, Founder and Inventor of KwickScreen, about his trailblazing journey in healthcare innovation and his advocacy for neurodiversity. They delve into the development and impact of KwickScreen and its growth during the pandemic, as well as the inception of Neurodiverse Works, highlighting the importance of inclusivity and innovation in today’s entrepreneurial landscape.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “You should always engage with customers and hear their feedback.”
  • “Aim for a high-value product that needs less labor to produce.“
  • “Give people the space to be themselves and to lean into their strengths.”
  • “Ask the candidate what they need, but also you need to show the candidate what you can do.”

Sponsor for this episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:15 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz 0:22 

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I’ve Michael Korn of KwickScreen that’s And Michael before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes people should check out on the podcast. Okay. Since this is Michael is a fellow EO member in London, we had Robert Hartline, from EO, Nashville, he talked about how he built up a chain of wireless stores, sold it and is working on and he’s got a software company, he’s working in a number of other objectives as well. We have Matt Zalk of Keyrenter Property management, EO Tulsa, and we had Winnie Hart, who has the book Standing Out and runs the company, TwinEngine, check out those episodes and many more And this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships. And how do we do that? Well, we actually do that by helping you run your podcasts run easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast. So we do the strategy, the accountability, the full execution. You know, Michael, we call ourselves the magic elves that run in the background and make it look easy for the host of the company so they can create great content and great relationships. You know, for me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way over the past decade to profile the people and companies I most admire on this planet and share with the world what they’re working on. So you thought about podcasting you should you have questions that I have lots of actually free episodes of Mike where people can check out any topic they can get their hands on for free about a podcast. So check those out. And I’m excited to introduce Michael Korn, is founder and inventor of KwickScreen, which is supplying healthcare globally with products that transform their spaces. And we’ll see some of that. In 2020, sales of his retractable screens climbed from 1.9 million. This is pounds by the way, which is more than dollars to 7.4 million if you remember and he remembers there was a pandemic. Okay. That’s incredible. So he’s also founder of Neurodiverse Works, which is a consultancy and tech business that breaks down barriers for Neuro divergent people at work. And he is describes himself as creative dyslexic, a chaotic ADHD or manufacturing engineer and a product designer turned serial entrepreneur, and most importantly, Michael, father of three. So thanks for joining me.

Michael Korn 3:09 

Thank you very much.

Jeremy Weisz 3:11 

You said something, before we hit record, which is, speaking to the Neurodiverse Works, okay, and I’ll have you explain a little about quick string is and neurodiverse works. But you said, you have two children who are autistic. Okay, so how does that affect? When I think of raising kids, it’s difficult enough. I see my kids having whatever struggles are to them. Not to compare, but it’s not even close to someone who has something going on with them, like someone who’s autistic. There’s other challenges that are there. So talk about how that affects your viewpoint on business in life.

Michael Korn 3:57 

Sure, I don’t see it as, this like, terrible challenge necessarily, although it is different. I think it is the normally universally harder we live in a world that is designed for the neurotypical. So when you have a child that doesn’t fit that world, as a parent, you have to, you know, maybe have one of two choices, you can try and change the child or you can try and change the world. And I’m mostly about trying to change the world because I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with my children. And if I was to try and change my children, I think they’d been classed as the most stubborn rigidly, formed brains of what their special education needs teachers has ever come across. I think I’d fail if I tried to change them as well. And not only I also think that was the wrong thing to do. It’s absolutely massively changed my you artist as a as a entrepreneur, business owner, having a autistic child who’s now 12 and it was at the age of one, two We could see he was very different. Like he’s changed the way that I parent and my other two children, I think I parent differently thanks to having had him as my first child, I don’t project onto them what I want them to be. And I try and put myself in their shoes and see the world from their perspective. And that learning, I think the learning that a parent gets from their child is a very deep learning because it’s relentless. It never ends, you cannot wake up in the middle the night to remind you that learning has stuck with me, I think for the way that I approach business as well. I’m less controlling, and I think helps me as an entrepreneur, because I’m now more able to let people do things their way and, and may be more empathetic and how they might be perceiving a situation differently to me.

Jeremy Weisz 5:43 

Yeah, I mean, it bleeds into leadership. Right? So just talk about KwickScreen first. And what you do there.

Michael Korn 5:54 

So KwickScreen, well, I invented the products 16 years ago, when I was a student. Oh, here we go. Look at that. I was about to say, the pop-up banner behind you on its side, but bigger. And there it is.

Jeremy Weisz 6:10 

If you’re watching the video, you’re listening the audio, there is a video version. And you can see what’s cool about all of you talk about the company how you started it, because it’s really interesting because you invented this. But it says world leaders and privacy screen innovation, as you can see, there’s it’s not just a plain screen, but you can actually print on it. So it makes it, obviously hygienic. And there’s actually a video out there that I saw where they kind of sprinkled, what looks like what would be germs on what the typical curtains are. And those don’t get washed, obviously. And so, I don’t call myself germaphobe. But I’m germ-aware, personally, and those don’t get cleaned when they’re the normal curtains you see in the hospitals. And with these, there’s a singular point of cleaning, because you’re really just touching the edge and moving it forward. And they did. And obviously, it’s easily to clean this screen that is if one of these the normal curtains that you see. And they did an experiment under UV light, where they kind of compare the two, which is kind of cool. But you can print on them too, which is interesting. And I’ll show some examples of there’s some they have in like a pediatric area, which, kids can feel more comfortable with these type of things, you can kind of see, you can print stuff on there, and there’s animals and if kids are going to be like it’s just more of an inviting environment from a sterile environment.

Michael Korn 7:43 

Wow, Jeremy, you can join our sales team. So yeah, I’ve been a champion of promoting germ awareness for the past 15 years, often has been a hard fight as you as you highlighted, during the pandemic, everybody became germ aware. And so that was one of the things that caused our business to have a big period of growth. And yes, as you’ve highlighted this product is the premise was the curtains between hospital beds for privacy are really ineffective or giving privacy. They trap germs that touch all over the place, and they can’t be washed in America, they’re laundered, they get put in the washing machine in Europe, they tend to be disposable, so they’re thrown away. And they’re not washed enough. And they’re not thrown away enough. But actually when they’re washed or thrown away, it’s terrible for the environment. The washing uses lots of energy, and chemicals and getting thrown away they go into landfill. So it’s a really dirty, ineffective and unsustainable way of providing privacy to patients and hospitals. And this was the invention 17 years ago, 16 years ago and now the product is we’ve got a whole range of products all around the same concept of a big rollout screen, like you’ve said for lots of different applications in healthcare. And the business is going really well.

Jeremy Weisz 9:03 

I want to hear about how you came up with the idea but before we do, what are some of the other products so we could see here the screen what else is there?

Michael Korn 9:03 

So we’ve got the focus on the screen that rolls out then we’ve made different versions of that screen that rolls out some hospitals bases are smaller so you might have that air you might have the I think if you click on quick screen underneath that it will show the other versions of the KwickScreen so pro edge duo kid shield odd these all different versions of a roll up screen then and this is the main like core product of the business. But we’ve also developed the quick switch so if you go to the top you can click on that the KwickScreen this is really exciting film product. You can stick this on any window works really well on interior windows in offices and hospitals and schools. If you press a button, and at the flick of the switch, it goes from see-through to not see-through. And we’ve developed that in a way that is easy to install, super easy to install, anyone can do it, it’s fire safe meets all of the requirements for use in offices, and hospitals. And also it comes as a complete product. So the electrics and the wiring is all done. So you don’t need to have an electrical installer. So that product, we’ve only just launched with Steelcase, one of the biggest furniture manufacturers in the world. And we’ve launched that across North America. That’s really exciting. So it’s similar to the KwickScreening concepts, because you can have privacy that’s hygienic, instead of having curtains on the windows, technologically, it’s something completely new. We’ve been developing it over the past two years, we have a massive government grant. And this is the result of it. So that’s exciting. And then we have some other products we can do any interior printing in, in hospitals. So if you go to interior features that shows all of the things we’ve got for printing wallpaper and printing signage, and if you go to the Kwicksketch, well, that’s quite a, it’s quite a cool product. It’s the world’s only portable retractable whiteboard, we basically turned a KwickScreen into a whiteboard. So you can write on it, roll it up, move it around the office, open it up again, and continue with what you had written.

Jeremy Weisz 11:23 

There’s a lot of stuff I want to talk about how did you come up with the idea for KwickScreen? And then I want to talk about quick switch? Because it’s interesting. Obviously, you’re applying applications in hospitals. I’m wondering if you got any other people demanding this when they see it outside of hospitals? Because there could be other use cases like obviously offices, right? So how did you come up with the idea for KwickScreen?

Michael Korn 11:52 

I’ve got to say, from my perspective, but coming up with ideas and finding applications is the easy bit I can tell you about that. And I can take a lot of credit for that the hard part of the business was actually manufacturing it and getting it into the market and having the sales and building relationship with the distributors and turning into a real business. That’s been the hard work. But the fun bit of the story is that conception, as is often the case, that was a crude reference there. So I was a student, I wanted to do something in hospitals. As far as I was concerned hospital, we couldn’t really design something in hospital or not do good. I wanted to do something good with my talents and my energies. Also, hospitals, especially the ones in Britain are not that great. So there was a lot of room for improvement. The way you have patients with care with these disgusting curtains between them university, they were hated. And it’s sort of like curtains, the only thing that haven’t changed in the hospital environment for hundreds of years, everything else has changed, the beds, the equipment, everything is different. But you still have these same curtains that you have in like the Victorian times, it’s crazy. So I thought I’d take it upon myself to redesign the curtain. And like one of the things that stuck with me was a nurse, I spent a lot of time by the way, hanging out in hospital wards, not as a patient, like I wasn’t ill. But in order to really understand the problem, as a student, I would go and sit in the local hospital and you know, talk to the nurses and just watch what was going on. And what I saw. And what I was told is, if you could make something that works like a curtain that looks and feels like a wall, then you’ve got it. And it was on that that I, that was the focus that I had. And the real clever part of our product is the technology, the material technology can’t really see because it’s sort of hidden. But the top and bottom of all of our KwickScreen products has a roll-up tube composite. So in there, it’s the white bit on the horizontal bottom and the white bit on the top. That’s our secret we make that ourselves, it means the product can be pulled out a whole 10 feet and not sag and not need breaks and hold itself and also be really easy to clean. And then that allows it to roll in as well. So it was really a combination of understanding the users and what they needed, understanding and developing this new material technology and putting it together in a product that solves everything.

Jeremy Weisz 14:17 

At what point do you say we should print stuff on us? Because it’s hard enough alone to solve these components. Like it seems easy, like it rolls, but you said there’s a lot of moving pieces that go into make it work. And again, in hospitals there may be using it a lot. It’s not like it’d be behind me. And it just would sit there and I want to touch it. Right. So what point do you say, wow, we should print stuff on this. Let’s make the process even more complicated.

Michael Korn 14:45 

Yeah, I mean, in a way it’s the opposite. The easy thing is the printing that is just so easy. The hard thing was making the product and making it work. So it annoys me when we Sell. I mean, we charge a bit, we do charge for the printing, there’s a whole manufacturing process and there’s a cost and the artwork confirmation that we go back and forth, it is more laborious for us to make the printed ones. But when we sell the ones that aren’t printed, I feel like we’re selling picture frames with a picture in them. Once we’ve done the hard work to make this product work, it’s a shame not to print inside it and the impact that it has, in a hospital of having these prints that when you’ve got there is a beautiful beach scene says patients that say I, you know, I don’t need to go on holiday. Now I’ve been lying there looking at the beach and thinking about that rather than what people are currently looking at and thinking about when they’re in hospital, supposedly in an environment conducive to recovery. But that, you know, it’s all for what they are currently looking at. And there is a lot of evidence to show that views of nature, ideally looking out of a window on a beach, but that’s often not practical and not far off from that is looking at a view of nature actually does trigger the body to recover better. And so we do that. And it’s one of the really rewarding and impactful things that the product does. Because you see it straight away. When you go into a hospital environment with KwickScreens, it’s like the first thing that you notice is all these beautiful prints everywhere.

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