SignUp is a free Google Chrome extension that provides a pop-up window with a sign language interpreter for films and TV shows for Disney+ and Netflix. This has never been done before and has revolutionised access to mainstream media for the Deaf community. My name is Mariella Satow and I am the Founder and CEO of SignUp.
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
When we all went into lockdown I was 16 and I, like many people, decided to learn something new that I had never had time to do before. I signed up for online American Sign Language (ASL) lessons and, after class, I wanted to be able to practise by watching my favourite films and television programmes.
I was also learning Spanish and my classmates and I improved by watching Spanish soap operas with the subtitles on! When I started my ASL lessons I thought I would do the same with sign language captions and discovered there were none offered on any of the streaming platforms!
I polled Deaf Facebook groups focused on sign language education and initially thought that I was going to create an education tool for sign language students.
What I discovered through these groups however, was that young Deaf children often can’t read subtitles, or read them fast enough, and that many users might prefer to watch captions in their first language – sign language – rather than reading.
SignUp is unique because no one has ever provided this access to streaming before.
When a new movie or show comes out the movie industry and streaming platforms have them translated into dozens of languages but not sign language. We are offering a free service that big media is not providing but that is very needed.
More from Interviews
- A Chat with Andrey Suzdaltsev, CEO & Co-Founder at Brightside AI
- A Chat with David O’Hearns, Founder and MD at Creative Agency: Dawn
- Meet Rachel Hartley, Co-Founder of Nutracheck
- Meet Matteo Penzo, CEO and Co-founder of Social E-Learning Platform: zick learn
- Meet Jordan Bucknell, CEO of eCommerce Agency: Upbeat Marketing
- Meet Natasha Morrison, Chief Operating Officer at WeFlex
- Meet Dan Awais-Dean CEO of Property Platform: EverKnock
- Meet Emma Davey, Founder of MyNARA.
How has the company evolved over the last couple of years?
I launched in September, 2021 and SignUp immediately went viral. Initially, I launched with American Sign Language on just three Disney+ movies but we now have over 100 hours of content. We have also added Netflix and have also had television series, like ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Emily in Paris’ interpreted.
Ultimately, we would like to be providing sign language captions for all programming. SignUp is being used widely in schools for the Deaf and we are supporting their curriculum by interpreting movies of books they are studying with their students.
I work with an extensive remote team. We have a tech team based in Seattle, and a team of about 200 interpreters working throughout America, the UK, India and Australia. I often receive messages from all over the world asking if individuals or groups can help launch SignUp in their country. We are building networks – with over 300 sign languages worldwide this is a project with a lot of opportunity for scale!
In October we launched SignUp UK, with British Sign Language (BSL) for Disney+. We partnered with Deafness Support Network (DSN) who contacted me after reading about SignUp’s success in America. DSN is a charity that provides support and services for Deaf, Deafblind, and people with a Visual Impairment in Cheshire and the surrounding area. Their team has helped find and screen our first BSL interpreters and been very supportive.
This is a company I launched with money I made dogwalking! The tech at the start was a bit rudimentary – the extension crashed when it first launched as so many people downloaded it – a good problem to have! I have started a seed round to find investors to fund our expansion. I am currently on a gap year before I start at Stanford University in September, 2023.
What can we hope to see from the brand in the future?
We are about to re-launch with a much slicker product. xforwhy has just done some amazing work for us. A ‘graphic design agency specialising in ideas-led branding for change makers,’ they approached us and offered to work on SignUp probono. We are so grateful to them and cannot wait to share the new look with our users. Alongside this, our tech team is upgrading the user experience too.
We will also be working on more platforms, more sign languages for different countries (India and Australia next), more devices (we are working on tablets and iPhones), more movies and TV shows, – and crucially more employment for the Deaf community.