Hireup founders named NSW Pearcey Entrepreneurs of the Year for bringing change to the disability sector

Hireup

Laura O’Reilly, Steve Ralph, Murray Bunton and Jordan O’Reilly of Hireup. Source: Supplied.

The brother and sister team behind online disability services platform Hireup have been recognised for their contributions to the tech industry, jointly winning the 2021 NSW Pearcey Entrepreneur of the Year Award on Thursday. 

Jordan O’Reilly and Laura O’Reilly founded Hireup in 2015, alongside Murray Bunton, as a platform for connecting Australians with disabilities with suitable support workers, after seeing firsthand how difficult it can be to adequate support for people with disabilities. 

Since then, the ‘profit-for-purpose’ business has helped 10,000 Australians with disabilities, employed about 10,000 support workers and has a 250-strong team of office support workers at its Sydney headquarters. In August, it raised $40 million in growth capital from SEEK Investments. 

Prior to launching Hireup, Jordan and Laura also founded not-for-profit Fighting Chance, which operates a number of social enterprises designed to support Australians with disabilities. 

Each year the Pearcey Foundation presents awards to leading tech entrepreneurs in each state and territory, as well as a national prize, in honour of the work of ICT industry pioneer Dr Trevor Pearcey. 

By winning this year’s NSW award, the Hireup founders join a group of previous winners that includes the founders of Canva, Afterpay and Atlassian, a feat which Jordan O’Reilly tells SmartCompany is “just extraordinary for us and our community in the disability sector”. 

“For Hireup and the work that we do to be recognised alongside these organisations is more than we ever expected,” says O’Reilly, who says he and Laura were both “surprised and humbled” to win the award. 

The win is also “very powerful” for the disability sector as a whole, he adds. 

“It sparks the interest of more investors to look at getting involved in businesses across the disability sector; it inspires other innovators and creative thinkers to join for-profit business, and amplifies the example of using technology to make meaningful, social change.”

The industry recognition comes in the same week that Hireup was also named among the winners in the 2021 Good Design Awards for the design of its employment platform, which was done in collaboration with We Design. 

Discussing the win on LinkedIn, Jordan said that the platform is built on a desire to offer its employees “the security of traditional employment with the autonomy of technology-enabled work”, in contrast to other, less-regulated platforms that are built on contractor-based workforces. 

Hireup’s “incredible impact”

The NSW Pearcey Award was presented during a virtual ceremony by David Thodey, chair of Jobs for NSW and the CSIRO, on Thursday. 

Each year the award goes to a ‘mid-career’ technology entrepreneur in NSW who has the potential for future success. Also in the running for this year’s award were Employment Hero co-founders Ben Thompson and Dave Tong; HealthMatch founder Manuri Gunawardena; and Prospection founders Eric Chung, Peter Cronin and Rich Chen. 

The judging committee for this year’s NSW award was chaired by 2020 winner, Lumachain founder Jamila Gordan. In a statement, she said Jordan and Laura were selected because of the “incredible impact” of Hireup on the disability sector. 

“Hireup has fundamentally changed the way that people with disabilities access support in the community. Through their inspirational leadership, Laura and Jordan are using technology to help create a new future for disability and a good life for all.”

The Hireup founders will now go into the running for the Pearcey Foundation’s national award which will be announced at the end of November. 

They will be up against ANDHealth CEO Bronwyn Le Grice, who won the Victorian award in September, and Liquid Instruments CEO Daniel Shaddock, who is this year’s ACT recipient. The Queensland award was presented to STEM Punks co-founder Michael Holmstrom and the WA award went to writer and advisor Charlie Gunningham, with winners still to be announced in Tasmania and South Australia. 

More information about the Pearcey Awards is available here

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