Stark is a startup that wants to help designers make software and websites more accessible to people with disabilities, and they’ve created a set of tools that connect to popular design tools and browsers to help them.
Cat Noone, co-founder and CEO of Stark, says she and her co-founder and CTO Michael Fouquet started the company out of a desire to make accessible design simple. “Stark has a very big mission to make the world’s software accessible to everyone. And we help companies increase accessibility from months to minutes with a very simple end-to-end workflow,” Noone told TechCrunch.
Today, the company announced an initial investment of $6 million along with the release of a suite of tools to make it easier for individuals and teams to create accessible designs.
She says they do this through automated smart analysis and by providing seamless design and code fixes as part of the process. The Stark suite of tools attempts to enable designers to easily integrate accessibility into their designs by connecting directly to popular design tools including Figma, Sketch and Adobe XD, and popular browsers including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge , Opera and Brave.
Designers can check things like font size, color choices, contrast, and alt text, among others, and find the most accessible choices, making accessibility an integral part of the design process. No one is saying that at least 1.5 billion people in the world report having at least one disability. She sees making software and websites accessible is not just a matter of fairness, but also one that increasingly involves compliance, with an increasing number of accessibility regulations, much like security or privacy.
“Accessibility is not a small problem. It’s part of what we call a company’s internal PSA – privacy, security, accessibility – and accessibility [stands] alongside privacy and security, one of those three major issues in software development that has been overlooked,” she said.
Benedikt Lehnert, Stark’s design director, who previously held design roles at SAP and Microsoft, says the company is trying to make design accessible to designers wherever they work, which he sees as a major difference. between his company’s offering and other similar products. , which tend to only cover website accessibility.
“Stark empowers software teams to design, build and test accessible products of all kinds, whether marketing websites, SaaS products, mobile apps or any other software,” he said. declared.
He added, “It’s a suite of tools, and when you buy into the Stark ecosystem, the whole philosophy is that we connect to the tools that your product team is already using, whether you’re the designer, the developer, the project manager or the quality assurance expert. , and assemble them into an accessibility workflow,” he said.
Today, the company offers four pricing tiers, starting with a free tier along with paid tiers for professionals, teams, and enterprises.
The founders originally conceived the idea in 2017 and officially formed the company in 2020. They raised a pre-seed round the same year and closed the $6 million seed round earlier this year.
The startup currently has 18 employees in a distributed team and plans to be conservative when it comes to hiring, letting the market guide them. Noone says that from a diversity perspective, a company that aims to make software and websites more accessible should be open to hiring people with disabilities.
“Here at Stark, the majority of the team is disabled. I’m a founder, but I’m also a disabled CEO, and the majority of the team members have some form of at least one disability, and we’re all very open about it. It’s something we’re not shy about doing. We’re leaning into it,” she said. And that helps them create a better product.
The $6 million seed investment was led by Uncork Capital with assistance from Darling Ventures, Indicator Ventures and various industry angel investors.