Techstarter names good winners

Written by Julian Blake, Editor, DigitalAgenda

The winners of the first Vodafone Techstarter awards – recognising outstanding purpose-driven tech innovations – have been named. The £300,000 awards are the product of a forward-thinking partnership between the mobile corporate and for-good funder Social Tech Trust.

Eight tech-for-good ventures – both for-profit and non-profit – are to receive £35,000 each to help them scale, as a result of winning the first Vodafone Techstarter awards, created by Vodafone UK in partnership with Social Tech Trust.

The eight winners – listed below – were whittled down from 270 entries, a top 50 and then 12 finalists. They include four non-profits, backed by the Vodafone Foundation, and four for-profits, backed by the Vodafone UK business.

Two of the eight winners – LettUs Grow and The Children’s Society – pick up a further £10,000 after winning ‘champions’ awards as voted by Vodafone staff.

As well as the cash, winners have access to Vodafone’s expert teams and partners in internet of things, 5G, digital services and infrastructure, as well as commercial development, as part of a 12-month programme of support.

“Together, we can help tech with social purpose to flourish,” said Vodafone Business UK director Anne Sheehan at Thursday’s awards reception on London’s south bank.

Techstarter Awards 2019 – winners

Not-for-profit awards

Children’s Society – immersive tech for young mental health


Code 4000 – code skills training for prisoners


Full Fact – automating independent fact checking


Wayfindr – open standards for visually impaired


For-profit awards – blockchain transparency for charitable giving


Blakbear – IoT for farmers


LettUs Grow – farming tech for sustainable growing


Walk With Path – vibrating insole to help balance


Champions award winners

Children’s Society

LettUs Grow.

Also nominated: Alexandra Rose Charity, Padlock, BfB Lab, Good.Loop.

The Techstarter awards and partnership with Vodafone come at a good time for Social Tech Trust, which in its first 10 years invested over £30m in north of 750 ventures. Last year’s break with founding parent Nominet has led it to seek new and independent backing to support its investment in tech for good.

Last week culture secretary Jeremy Wright confirmed government support for the trust in helping it to build a new £30m social tech venture fund, as part of a wider tech for good package. The new fund will provide equity investment over grant support.

The government has not currently invested in the fund, but will instead support STT in establish it. STT is also supported in its efforts to raise the £30m fund by Social Investment Business, which became a strategic partner last year. Timing for the new fund going on stream is unconfirmed.

Commenting on the awards and wider plans, Social Tech Trust chief executive Ed Evans called the Vodafone partnership “a brilliant example of how industry can support early-stage innovation in social tech.

“The programme not only provides funding support to winners of its awards but access to technology and business expertise and mentoring, which is invaluable.”

Evans said the new social tech venture fund would “address the gap in the availability of equity investment required to scale transformative purpose-driven tech ventures.”

Vodafone backs social tech with £300K


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