10 min 21 sec

Marriage Inspires Theatre Captioning App & Service

After marrying a woman who was born deaf, an actor and musician starts a side hustle captioning theater performances.
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What It's About

Husband and wife duo develop delightful, dubbed displays for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Business Model
Skills Required
Transcribing & Communication
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

It's important to ask yourself how you're going to make money from a side hustle idea right out of the gate. Otherwise, you get into the all-too-common situation of pursuing something that might create an improvement somewhere but isn’t really going to help you achieve your goal of a new source of income.

Fun Fact

In addition to being a developer and side hustler, Matthew is also in a band called Jump, Little Children—which is also how he met his wife. They took a 10-year hiatus, but they simply couldn’t stay away forever. They're actually about to release a brand new album and go on tour this year!

Notes from Chris

Episode 543

When he’s not working as a developer, Matthew Bivins has been an actor and musician all his life. While on tour with his band one night in Chicago, his bassist came backstage and couldn’t stop raving about the “hot deaf girl” he had met at the merch booth.

This woman had been deaf since birth and was just beginning to learn American Sign Language in college. One of her assignments for class was to “sign sing,” and she had picked one of Matthew’s band’s songs to perform in front of her classmates. When she discovered that they were going to be playing a gig in Chicago, she figured she’d go.

Looking back, it seems almost like fate that Matthew met his wife for the first time that night, and the two were married a few years later.

As you might imagine, a performer and a deaf woman being married presented some problems when it came to recreational activities. Matthew loved watching theater, but his wife had never really experienced it—mainly because most theaters didn’t offer any sort of accessibility services.

Around mid-2015, Matthew came up with an idea that could revolutionize entertainment experiences for deaf and hard of hearing people: an app that can deliver captions to a person’s phone or tablet in real-time during shows.

Matthew calls this idea “closed captioning,” which is different from “open captioning”—where the captions are available on a big screen for everyone in the audience to see. His closed captioning idea would function a lot like the current caption tablets, but it would be far less expensive for the theater since the captions would go to phones owned by the patrons, rather than tablets that had to be purchased by the theater.

Matthew soon found himself booking 1-2 shows per month through his new side hustle, CaptionPoint, and he’s kept that momentum for a couple years. At first, he just charged $100 per show, but he quickly realized it wasn't worth his time. Now he has a sliding scale from $350 to $600, depending on the theater size.

So by late 2017, CaptionPoint had become two distinct things. The first is CaptionPoint "The Service," where Matthew or a contractor goes to shows and provides open captioning to audiences. The second is CaptionPoint "The Product," which is the closed captioning app Matthew’s been working on this whole time.

In his own words, Matthew’s finally “cracked closed captioning” for theaters and is thrilled to start offering the service this Fall. He sees this app, not the service, as the long-term, scalable solution to captioning. He’s used that same website-based slides application he built a couple years ago to make viewing captions on personal screens a reality. He’s earning up to $1,000/month, but he wants to do more.

With that in mind, Matthew recently brought someone on-board who’s going to help him do real fundraising—this time with some real focus and strategy. With that extra money, he’s going to find more help to refine the app and start promoting the product to theaters nationwide.

Matthew’s excited about the monetary rewards of creating a much-needed product, but he’s very clear that the biggest reward is being able to enable people who are deaf or hard of hearing (and especially his wife) to enjoy theater the way he always has. In reading between the lines, he’s found a project that pays multiple dividends.


  • CaptionPoint: We don't mind spelling it out for you—learn more about Matthew's caption creating app over on his website!


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"For my first show, I used the tools that were already out there—tools most DIY captioners would use. And it was a nightmare copying an entire script into PowerPoint slides. I knew that with my nerd know-how I could totally streamline the process."
—Matthew Bivins #SideHustleSchool

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