Optus has named seven social entrepreneurs who will compete for a share of $300,000 in funding to create innovative new tech solutions to help solve social issues, as part of its 2018 Optus Future Makers program.
Now in its third iteration, the annual program’s finalists are working on technology projects to support socially disadvantaged people through improved employability, education, health, disability support, social inclusion and domestic violence prevention.
The finalists will make their case for funding to a panel of expert judges at a Shark Tank-style pitching session in October, after completing an accelerator program that will help them to develop their idea into a sustainable social enterprise.
The four-month accelerator includes a range of workshops, webinars and mentoring sessions covering technology, customer experience, marketing strategies, project planning and finance, as well as access to tech experts.
In addition, the finalists get the opportunity to apply for the Singtel Group Regional Future Makers Program, which will help up to two finalists to scale their innovation across one or more countries.
Applications for the current round closed on 18 May, with the program open to social entrepreneurs (including Optus employees), social enterprise start-ups, not-for-profits, charities and NGOs.
In exchange for the support, grant recipients agree to purchase any network services from Optus, are not allowed to promote or accept funding from one of the telco’s competitors (such as Telstra or Vodafone), and provide updates every six months for the next two years.
In a statement, Optus Business managing director John Paitaridis said he is proud of his company’s commitment to supporting innovation and social entrepreneurship, both through funding and access to our expert resources.
“Collaboration between established organisations and start-ups is critical to us harnessing innovation in Australia, and using innovation for social good is even more important,” Paitaridis said.
“The entire team at Optus is looking forward to working with this year’s finalists and to support the development of each solution as well as the development of these finalists as both professionals and individuals.”
The Future Makers finalists:
Rory Darkins, (NSW) – ‘What’s Right – Thrive’ is a life coach-in-your pocket. The app empowers users to become the best version of themselves and helps removes barriers that prevent disadvantaged people from accessing the support they need to thrive. What’s Right’s AI technology aims to remove this affordability barrier by delivering world-class coaching through a fully automated yet personalised ‘virtual coach’.
Chris Boyle, (QLD) – ‘Commsync’ harnesses the power of technology to eliminate domestic violence connecting vulnerable community members to their safety network, through the push of a button.
Dr Stefan Schutt, (Vic) – ‘vPlay’ is an online program that helps people with Autism who have trouble mastering social interaction and have difficulty finding jobs. vPlay provides people with Autism the necessary tools to practise both ‘people’ and ‘technical’ skills through simulated role plays with virtual characters, that can be accessed and edited via any web browser.
Chris Smeed, (QLD) – ‘ImmCalc’ is an application that automates complex immunisation schedules for refugees, migrants and others needing catch-up vaccines, making it easier to ensure that vulnerable patients are protected against preventable diseases.
Michael Tozer, (NSW) – ‘Xceptional’ is a technology services firm which recognises the unique strengths of people with Autism such as pattern recognition, sustained concentration and precision that are closely aligned with IT roles.
Rick Martin, (NSW) – ‘Equal Reality’ allows users to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand what it’s like to be discriminated or harassed through Virtual Reality. Equal Reality provides a 360-degree video to help people understand and help deliver diversity and inclusion training that will available online and through our smart phones on VR headsets.
Michael Metcalfe (QLD) – ‘Kynd’ is a mobile app based solution that matches disadvantaged locals with professional needs based support. As individuals have specific requirements or preferences when being cared for, Kynd helps users find a perfect professional match based on personality, location, budget, interests, skills, training and experience.