Tech has transformed how we communicate, work, buy and sell. So why can’t it also change lives and communities for the better?
Social tech is about making that happen – focusing on how technology can be used and developed to make a positive social impact. And right now, the UK’s social tech sector is full to the brim with ambitious start-ups wanting to do good.
That’s why we at Vodafone – together with the Vodafone Foundation and the Social Tech Trust – launched Vodafone Techstarter.
Bringing the most promising ideas into reality
Vodafone Techstarter is an awards programme devised to help the best and most promising social tech ideas get to market through coaching, mentorship and funding – with a shared fund of £300,000 available for winners.
This search began back in September 2018, when we put a call out for UK-based inventors, charities, social enterprises and businesses to put forward any awesome idea that harnessed the power of connectivity, the Internet of Things and AI to do good.
The response we received beat all our expectations. Over 270 socially motivated ventures came forward to tell us why their solution could transform lives and build a more sustainable future. In November, we selected the ideas that would make our Top 50 Techstarters longlist. Then, in January, the 12 finalists were announced and our panel of expert judges decided who would be part of our first Techstarter cohort of winners.
Supporting every form of venture
So, who are our lucky winners? From Vodafone Techstarter’s very beginnings, we knew we had to help represent and encourage every type of social tech venture – supporting both for-profit (by Vodafone Business) and not-for-profit (by Vodafone Foundation). That’s why the programme was split right down the middle into those two separate categories.
For not-for-profits, the award winners are Code 4000, Full Fact, The Children’s Society and Wayfindr; while LettUs Grow, BlakBear, Walk With Path and Alice SI took top spots in the for-profit category.
Want to see what makes each one a worthy award winner? Let’s take a closer look at why these ventures are the ones chosen to take their ideas from start-up to scale-up – each receiving a £35,000 prize fund and a 12-month support programme.
Code 4000 is on a mission to teach coding – one of the modern world’s most sought after skills – to offenders held in the UK’s prisons through a network of workshops. By providing training in a skillset that has a high demand in both the UK and global jobs market, Code 4000’s aim is to give people a tech-fuelled second chance.
Full Fact provides free tools, information and advice so that anyone can check the wild claims they hear online, preventing the spread of fake news. And, as well as highlighting misinformation, Full Fact also pushes for corrections where they can, by working with government departments and research institutions to improve the information at source.
In their Reality Check game, The Children’s Society has applied virtual reality technology to treat mental health issues in children. The charity has worked to design a series of immersive environments, helping those suffering from anxiety to manage and ¬– hopefully – overcome the condition.
Wayfindr has taken a tech product category already at our fingertips – smartphones – and developed them to give visually-impaired people the power to navigate complex indoor environments independently. Its mission is to bring this technology to the world’s 285 million blind people.
LettUs Grow designs irrigation and crop management technology for indoor farming. Addressing the pressure and environmental impact of traditional farming methods, LettUs Grow’s technology delivers higher crop yields in vertical and glasshouse farms.
BlakBear has also set out to feed the world more sustainably. The start-up combines electrochemical sensing innovations with statistical algorithms to determine soil nitrogen levels, and calculate the fertiliser needed with pinpoint accuracy.
Healthcare company Walk With Path wants to improve the mobility of the elderly and people with walking difficulties. The start-up has done this with its clever shoe attachment, Path Feel, an insole that vibrates in real-time in response to pressure – helping the user to feel the floor better and stay balanced.
Alice SI is a platform that uses blockchain technology to bring transparency to the funding of social and environmental projects. Alice allows donors and investors to track exactly what impact their money makes, while also reducing reporting costs for the charity.
The Vodafone Techstarter Champion’s Award
As well as the £35,000 prize for each winner of the Vodafone Techstarter for and not-for-profit awards, a third and final award was also introduced to close off this year’s programme.
The Vodafone Techstarter Champion’s Award – and its additional £10,000 prize fund – was given to the leading entry in each category, as voted for by Vodafone UK employees.
This year’s big winners? The Children’s Society and LettUs Grow. Huge congrats to both!
This year’s programme demonstrated how some of the biggest challenges society faces can be addressed with pioneering spirit, innovation and the right platform for both to take place. We’re excited to see where our first cohort of winners will go with their game-changing ventures. Watch this space!
Want to learn more about Vodafone Techstarter? Head over to our homepage now and take a look.