Friday, 05 October 2018 11:18

‘Social entrepreneurs’ share $280,000 in funding from Optus Featured

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2018 Optus Future Makers (L-R): Rory Darkin, Michael Metcalfe, Chris Boyle, Chris Smeed, Rick Martin, Michael Tozer and Dr Stefan Schutt. 2018 Optus Future Makers (L-R): Rory Darkin, Michael Metcalfe, Chris Boyle, Chris Smeed, Rick Martin, Michael Tozer and Dr Stefan Schutt.

Seven “social entrepreneurs” from the 2018 Optus Future Makers program have each secured a share of $280,000 in grant funding to help with the development of their digital innovations.

The seven finalists were selected after successfully pitching innovative technology solutions that address social challenges like employment, education, health and well-being and empowering women and girls, to an expert panel at the third annual Optus Future Makers event.

After completing a four-month accelerator program to develop their skills through workshops and mentoring, each finalist pitched their technology solution to judges comprising World Vision Australia’s Pam Rebecca, Thankyou Group’s Daniel Flynn, IAG’s Julie Batch and Optus’ Helen Maisano and Andrew Buay.

Maisano, Optus’ director for Corporate Social Responsibility, said, “This year’s finalists have developed some wonderful digital innovations that will all go on to make a positive difference in their community through the power of technology.”

“As a leading technology organisation, it’s important for us to make a real and tangible contribution when it comes to driving technology innovation for social good,” said John Paitaridis, managing director of Optus Business.

“We’re providing $280,000 of grant funding along with access to Optus’ resources, mentors and expertise, to help these great social entrepreneurs make a difference for those most in need. To become the innovation nation, it’s crucial for established businesses to support Australia’s innovators and start-ups, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

The Optus Future Makers program provides finalists the opportunity to build on their skills through mentoring, capability development workshops and networking opportunities to help reach their goals.

“This year’s finalists have demonstrated is the wide range of social issues that technology can address — from domestic violence and immunisation to discrimination and employability — and it’s truly inspirational,” said Paitaridis.

Maisano said each finalist delivered an “outstanding pitch and we were thrilled by the quality of their presentations and creative solutions, it has been pleasing to see each finalists professional and personal growth during their time in the Optus Future Makers program".

The Optus 2018 Future Makers Funding Recipients are:

Rory Darkins (NSW) – $25,000

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) $30,000

Commsync harnesses the power of technology to eliminate domestic violence connecting vulnerable community members to their safety network, through the push of a button. Commsync create safety plans tailored to each individual based on their extensive knowledge of the risks inherent in the community services sector and use wearable technology (watches and pendants) and non-wearable (IOT devices) to "activate" these plans. It provides real-time support at the touch of a button or using voice command.

Dr Stefan Schutt (VIC) $10,000

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) $25,000

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) $85,000

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 often overlooked, helping them closely align with IT-related roles.

Rick Martin (NSW) – $30,000

Equal Reality uses virtual reality to allow users to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand what it’s like to be discriminated against or harassed’. Equal Reality provides computer generated, interactive scenarios to help people understand and help deliver diversity and inclusion training.

Michael Metcalfe (QLD) – $75,000

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


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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