Eleven emerging digital and social influencers stepped into the spotlight recently at the Optus Future Makers event to pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of experts.
The innovators had just 180 seconds each to secure their share of the $300,000 funding pot and seven walked away with enough financial backing to bring their bold ideas to life. Prominent names across tech, innovation and social change including global social entrepreneur, Geoff Gourley, and Group Founder of Thankyou, Daniel Flynn joined forces to form the experienced judging panel.
What’s the goal of such a program?
The inaugural Optus Future Makers program, launched earlier this year, is designed to foster digital innovation that has the ability to change the social landscape. The program aims to bring to life bold ideas that have the ability to change the social landscape.
It supports entrepreneurs, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations with innovative technological ideas that help address the challenges faced by vulnerable young Australians across employability, education, cyber education & safety and wellbeing.
Paul O’Sullivan, Future Makers Judge and Optus Chairman, said, “This program is about helping Australia’s innovators to make a positive social impact through tech.
“We know how important technology is in people’s daily lives, and with Future Makers we are specifically targeting projects that will benefit marginalised and vulnerable youth.”
How did the competition pan out?
After a tense pitching process in front of an audience at the Optus Campus in Sydney, just seven of the 11 finalists were crowned this year’s Future Makers, and awarded $50,000 grants.
The winners included;
Colin Jowell, Parramatta, Sydney: ‘Guide Dots’ enables young people with vision impairment to independently discover the world around them and to engage with their social environment just like their sighted friends and peers.
Penny Harnett, Newcastle, NSW: ‘iWareness’ app will provide information to young people of both genders to help them recognise, respond to and change attitudes towards domestic violence.
Marita Cheng, Richmond, Melbourne: ‘Teleport’ an affordable and beautiful telepresence robot which allows young people with a spinal cord injury or debilitating disease to attend school or participate in the workforce by working remotely.
Marina Paronetto, Middle Park, Melbourne: ‘Biz’ is a peer-to-peer mobile app designed to give teenage girls of all backgrounds an equal opportunity to learn about business and
enhance their confidence, skill set and employability.
Dr Rowan Tulloch, Rozelle, Sydney: ‘The Game Change’ software helps university and school teachers gamify their classrooms to better engage and motivate students. It also assists students who are marginalised by traditional teaching practices.
Following a unanimous decision by the judging panel, two finalists who pitched separately were offered $50,000 funding to share if they agreed to collaborate and bring their ideas to life as a single innovation:
Brian Collyer, Milton, Brisbane: `The Wellbeing Coach’ app/web portal gives young people’s access to information and resources and uses technology to enhance communication in the counsellor/client relationship.
Rhianon Vichta, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane: ‘New Futures for Young People’ is an accessible and integrated online platform that promotes and measures beneficial wellbeing outcomes for vulnerable young people.