The annual Skoll Venture Awards are run by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.
A mobile app which aims to empower greater social inclusion through better access information for social venues has been named the winner of the 2019 Skoll Venture Awards, winning £25,000.
The SociAbility App is the brainchild of Oxford alumnus, Matt Pierri. It aims to make going out and socialising easier for people with access needs. The App crowdsources detailed information from users on the accessibility of shops and social venues, such as restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs. Initially focused on Oxford, it aims to expand across the UK and, ultimately, internationally.
Matt came to Oxford from his native Australia in 2016 and completed a Master of Public Policy at the Blavatnik School and an MsC in Social Science of the Internet at the Oxford Internet Institute. An advocate for the disabled community, he is one of the Founder members of the Oxford Accessibility Project, which has created an access guide to Oxford Colleges.
He founded SociAbility in 2018, and has received support from OXFO L.E.V8, the accelerator at the Oxford Foundry, where he has had access to a network of investors, mentors and entrepreneurial experts. The SociAbility App is now available to download on Apple and Android.
Matt says: ‘We’re on a mission to empower social inclusion for everyone. For people with access needs, the difficulty of finding an accessible venue can create stress and anxiety and become a tangible barrier to exploring one’s community and spending quality time with family and friends.'
‘There are more than 1.5 billion people worldwide with an access need of some kind – whether disabled, elderly or pushing a pram. Yet, in the UK, they only find enough accessibility information around 14 per cent of the time. Similarly, UK social venues and shops miss out on some £12 billion a year in potential revenue because of poor accessibility.'
‘By making it quick, easy and free to find detailed access information, we are empowering people with access needs to socialise with greater confidence, purpose and ease.’
SociAbility was among five student-led social enterprises that pitched their venture ideas to a panel of judges at the Skoll Venture Awards on 17 June 2019.
Run by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, the annual awards give financial support to fledgling social enterprises that have been started by University of Oxford students and alumni. The largest social-impact awards at the University, since 2012 they have granted over £100,000 to 11 social enterprises.
This year’s ventures were chosen from among 48 applications from around the University. They were judged on how well they articulated their proposed social or environment impact, the strength of their business model, their use of funding, and the strength of their team.
As well as the overall winner, an audience award of £5,000 was awarded on the night to Devie, a trusted digital companion that guides parents on their journey from pregnancy to parenthood, equipping them to become their child’s best first teacher.
The other finalists included:
- Lantana - bridges the gap in representation in children’s publishing. Working with authors and illustrators of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) heritage to publish award-winning books where children of colour are the stars, Lantana was founded by Alice Curry, Bachelor of Arts (English Language and Literature), 2002 – 2005.
- Kai Pacha Foods – purchases climate-smart native Andean foods from conservationist farmers at fair prices and uses these to make plant-based milks that are high in protein, environmentally friendly, and great-tasting. The product, sold under the brand MilQ, is made with native quinoa and tarwi. Founded by Alexander Wankel, current (2018-2019) MBA student.
- Intellicharge - uses software to help electric vehicle owners to charge their cars with the cheapest and the greenest electricity when possible, while helping the electricity grids balance. Founded by Pam Liu, Bachelor of Arts (Mathematics and Statistics), 2004 – 2007.
The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship is a leading academic centre for social entrepreneurship education. The Centre aims to foster innovative social change through world-class education, pioneering research and collaboration among business, policy, academic and social leaders.
Dr Peter Drobac, Director of the Skoll Centre, comments: ‘Social entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful forces for good in the world today. These awards seek to support and celebrate students and alumni that are seeking to tackle vital social problems.
'As ever, I am extremely humbled by the talent pool that we have here in Oxford. And I have been inspired by the passion and optimism of all the finalists who want to make a deep and lasting social impact.’