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Optus boosts innovation in social services with 2018 Optus Future Makers awards

Optus has announced seven finalists in its 2018 Future Makers program, which offers entrepreneurs access to some of Australia’s best technology minds and a share of up to A$300,000 in funding to help bring their social service innovation to fruition.

Among this year’s shortlist are new ideas around programs supporting employability, education, health, disability support, inclusion and diversity and domestic violence.

The Future Makers program supports social entrepreneurs seeking to develop innovative tech solutions that help solve social issues for disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

In addition to a share of A$300,000 in available grant funding, finalists will take part in a four-month Accelerator program to fine tune their skills through workshops and mentoring. This part of the program sees finalists focusing on technology, customer experience, marketing strategies, project planning, financial modelling and, importantly, how to create a sustainable and successful social enterprise.

Each finalist will be individually coached and mentored by key Optus talent as well as learn from technology experts and leaders in the industry.

“It’s exciting to see this year’s finalists leverage technology advancements to help those who are most needy in our communities,” said Optus Business MD John Paitaridis. “I am proud of our 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 added.

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.

The finalists will have the opportunity to pitch for funding to a panel of expert judges in October. The judging panel will be made up of some of Australia’s most prominent names across technology, innovation, and social change.

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