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Remote work robot and teen entrepreneur app among winning ideas at Future Makers event


Dynamic Business congratulates the social entrepreneurs who successfully pitched their digital innovations at the inaugural Optus Future Makers Pitch Day, this week, entitling them to share $300,000 in funding.

Future Makers was launched by Optus earlier this year to help Australia’s innovators make a positive social impact through the use of technology, with a particular focus on benefitting marginalized and vulnerable youth.  As part of the program, almost 200 Australians submitted their innovations to Optus, from which an industry panel selected eleven finalists to participate in the Future Makers Accelerator Program and the Pitch Day on Tuesday, 19 July

Vying for one of six $50,000 grants to progress their work, the finalists had just three minutes to pitch their innovations to a judging panel, which included Geoff Gourley (Founder, One10), Daniel Flynn (Group Founder, Thankyou), Jan Owen (CEO, Foundation for Young Australians) and Paul O’Sullivan (Optus Chairman).

The following five winners were each awarded a $50,000 grant:

  • 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): The ‘ 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’ is an affordable telepresence robot which allows young people with a spinal cord injury or debilitating disease to attend school or participate in the workforce 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.

A special mention goes to the four finalist who failed to secure a grant but whose ideas and passion also impressed the judges and audience:

  • Vidya Nallamad (Murrumba Downs, Brisbane): ‘NetHealthData’ uses tele-monitoring software so young people – especially those with chronic conditions – can manage their health in remote areas where access to medical care is limited.
  • Nishan David (Strathfield, Sydney): ‘Mobilise’ is a platform that connects young refugees in Western Sydney with volunteer mentors. It helps non-profit teams recruit mentors, organise pop-up education workshops, conduct hackathons and host camps.
  • Kags Garrard (Meadowbank, Sydney): ‘Working Wheels’ is an outline training program to provide education and employment for young people with a physically limiting neuromuscular condition.
  • Dr Magenta Simmons (Parkville, Melbourne): ‘Right Choice, Right Time’ is developing a number of online tools to support young people to make decisions about their treatment for mental health.

For more information, visit the Future Makers website.