We’re looking for early stage technology startups who are tackling a social or environmental problem. That could be anything from fixing healthcare to reducing carbon emissions or improving education to reducing crime – the key is that your idea must have the potential to help millions of people somewhere along the line.
We want you to tell us why the problem you’re solving is important but here are a few themes to give you some idea of the kind of problems we think are interesting:
- The health and wellbeing of an ageing population
- The educational attainment and employability of children and young people
- The social and environmental sustainability of communities
The health and wellbeing of an ageing population
Over the coming decades Britain’s rapidly ageing population will have increasing health care demands at the same time as constraints on public spending are becoming tighter. We believe that technology is one route to saving money while improving health outcomes, particularly for older people. Some examples of themes we’d like to invest in are:
Radical efficiency of healthcare: The NHS was developed at the height of the bureaucratic age and although it has suffered from almost constant restructuring, it has rarely become less expensive. With smart use of technology we think there is great potential for better services that cost less.
Prevention engines: We all know prevention is better than cure, yet almost all of us wait until it’s too late before we do anything about it. The problem is that public services (in particular healthcare) generally only know about people when it’s too late. We’re looking for services that help get to people before they know they need help.
Tackling loneliness: Changes in the way our towns and cities are organised, family structures and work have led to a rise in mental health problems – often linked to the number and quality of social relationships people have. Technology is just as good at helping people meet people in the real world as it is at helping them meet online. We’re looking for technology that can help build real world communities.
Companies we’ve backed: Good Gym, DrDoctor, Mastodon C
Other examples: Patients Know Best, Fitbit, Lumoback
The educational attainment and employability of children and young people
Education has barely changed in structure since the 19th Century but the learning needs of the world have moved on. There’s massive frustration with the system and a crying need for new approaches. We’re looking for startups trying to build new ways to organise, finance and expand education and not just tools that recreate existing resources for a digital age. Some examples of themes we’d like to invest in are:
Hacking education: Technology offers new ways of addressing the challenges faced by young people by enabling new forms of collaboration, new communities of support and challenge, and new ways of accessing information and resources. We’re interested in how these technologies can turn some of the existing ways of organising education on their head, reimagining ideas like ‘teacher’, ‘classroom’ or ‘qualification’.
New forms of employment: As traditional sources of employment have been squeezed, young people have suffered most with the highest rates of unemployment of any age group. New technology-enabled marketplaces like Etsy and Task Rabbit might point the way to new, more flexible types of employment that are more suited to the 21st century.
Reinventing the career: As young people live their lives increasingly online, the CV seems like a relic of a bygone age. We’re interested in giving young people new ways to show their skills and new opportunities to genuinely learn throughout their lives rather than just while they’re at school.
The social and environmental sustainability of communities
After two centuries of industrialisation, sustainability will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century. How we live within the limits of our environment without increasing social inequality or tension is a key issue for everyone. Some examples of themes we’d like to invest in are:
Keeping the lights on: If we’re going to tackle climate change, we need new products and services that will help people reduce their energy use by a factor of 10 not just by a few per cent. And we need new ways of getting zero-carbon energy generation to be adopted.
Unleashing underused assets: One of the main problems of twentieth century consumerism was that we all had to have one of everything. It made sense for companies to try and sell us new things all the time. In a resource constrained century, that no longer makes sense. We’re looking for tools that help co-ordinate sharing, lending and swapping of real world durable goods and property.
Radically better democracy: Public levels of trust in democratic institutions such as political parties and parliament are at their lowest ebb. We’re interested in technology that helps people reconnect with decision makers, calling them out on their mistakes and builds much greater levels of trust within and between communities.