Don McPherson, Chief Scientist in EnChroma. He received his Ph.D. in Glass Science from Alfred University in 1988. He is the author of 14 scientific published papers, holder of six patents, and has been awarded five NEI, NIH and National Cancer Institute research grants. Dr. McPherson has also served as President of Bay Glass Research, Vice President of R&D for Vetrazzo, and is the Founder and CEO of Counter Production.
Leaders League. From where did your research into color deficiency stem?
Don McPherson. I didn’t choose to study color deficiency, it chose me! As a matter of fact, when I started this subject, I knew nothing about it and had no clue where it was going on. As a research scientist, I had my doctorate in glass science and designed eye-protection glasses for laser surgeons. One day a friend of mine happened to wear these glasses and discovered colors that were previously muddled and muted to him. I was very intrigued by this discovery, and since I don’t like not understanding something, I wanted to figure out why. Together with Andy, current CEO of the company, we got funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and started over ten years of research.
Leaders League. For you, what is the greatest significance in tackling color deficiency?
D. M. I think it is a new frontier where people realize that this is central to our interest, and not only economically. For example, currently in the USA, only 11 states test children’s color blindness. While many boys and girls are identified as having learning disabilities, studies show that it’s just not this simple. Students with undiagnosed color deficiency could be mislabeled as slower learners, but when teachers don’t know about this problem, they start treating children differently: they stop calling them, and instead of helping them, ignore them. When I heard about this, I decided that EnChroma could be part of the solutions and help treat these kids more fairly.
Personally, every time I heard people say things like “Wow, every brick looks so differently red,” I was reminded about how wonderful our world is. Many people tend to forget to appreciate our colorful planet, and these glasses can open our eyes to this.
Leaders League. Apart from pediatrics, what are your other current focuses of work?
D. M. We are working on contact lenses, which are more discreet to wear, and its research is going quite well. However, since this concerns biotech and involves contact with body issues, we need to go through the FTA approval, which takes time. We are also considering the possibility of collaborating with major manufacturers of contact lenses through patent application.
In addition, we are bringing production back under our own roof in California, in order to better monitor and control our manufacturing process, which is very unique and tricky. And we are also thinking about raising an additional two to three million dollars so as to expand into other countries and recruit more retailers and distributors.
Leaders League. What have you done well so far, and what would you have done differently if you could go back?
D. M. On the positive side, we have been very careful about managing our PR and super honest with people from the very beginning about what they can truly expect from our glasses.
On the other hand, we should have waited a little bit to raise more money and fully develop the product, but we didn’t expect the complexity of the situation and launched too soon. We encountered manufacturing difficulties, the glasses’ cost was very high, the frames were horrible, people couldn’t use them in the sports, and it wasn’t possible to do prescription lenses or ones for kids because our coating technology wasn’t mature enough. In a word, it was very stressful for us to fix all the details at that time. But people liked our glasses and therefore we carried on!
Leaders League. Where do you see EnChroma in ten years?
D. M. A lot of amazing things could happen over such a long time. For example, I hope a rich organization could purchase 1 million glasses to send to developing countries. Or it would be great if we could find a business partner who has a well-developed global distribution system and knows how to sell to every corner of the world. We are currently selling around 30,000 pairs per year, compared to a market of 300 million people, so there is huge potential to do much more.
Jeanne Yizhen Yin