Australia’s first disability-focused startup accelerator has welcomed its fourth-ever cohort of startups, taking on board seven new ventures innovating in spaces such as speech therapy, job matching and rehabilitation.
The Remarkable accelerator is a division of the Australian Cerebral Palsy Alliance, and launched in 2016 to support Australian businesses working to make lives better for people with disabilities.
Companies coming through the program are provided with $35,000 in funding in exchange for 5% equity, along with a 16-week program consisting of masterclasses, product development assistance, mentors, investor briefing sessions, and a demo day for startups to pitch their projects.
Former members of the Remarkable cohorts include virtual reality diversity training startup Equal Reality, which received funding from Optus to head to the US, and Sydney-based startup HomeCare Heroes.
The most recent cohort consists of seven new startups, with the group having an artificial intelligence bent thanks to recent support for the accelerator from tech giant Microsoft. Speaking to StartupSmart, Pete Horsley, founder of Remarkable, said he was excited about the new cohort, but said all of the accelerator’s startups were his “favourite children”.
“We’re seeing more and more competition to be recognised in the accelerator program, and we had applications from all over the world as well as Australia,” he says.
“This time we’ve got some really diverse startups, everything from AI through to manufactured products. We’ve also got some slightly more mature founders this time, in terms of their company’s age and that they’ve founded things before.”
Remarkable’s new cohort
- Bookbot — a platform that helps kids with learning disabilities to become independent learners through a reading assistant app.
- JobMatcher — using predictive artificial intelligence to match relevant positions for job seekers, with a focus on low employment rates for people with disability.
- NomadVR — creating virtual-reality experiences for aged-care facilities, allowing movement-impaired people to experience simulations of the outside world.
- Our Care Journal — an app created for carers to help organise everyday care needs, find services, communicate with others and arrange important information.
- PolySpine — a 3D manufactured trunk-and-head-support system helping people with physical disability to participate in recreational and rehabilitation activities.
- sameview — an online platform for disability care coordination.
- Spokle — a speech therapy app to support children with communication disorders.
While Horsley says some of the apps may not be addressing huge disability markets, they were chosen for the impact they could have on smaller sections of the market, saying Remarkable doesn’t pick startups based solely on the number of people they can reach.
A number of Remarkable alumni have gone on to raise money from venture capitalists and government, and Horsley says it’s been hard for him to keep up with all the success stories coming through, which he believes is reflective of the disability sector’s growth in recent times.
“With the rollout of the NDIS, there’s a market forming where people have choice and control of the things they spend their money on. It used to be an under-resourced sector, and while there’s still a lot of teething issues, we can see a strong market forming,” he says.
Having received feedback from people with disabilities and parents with kids who are disabled, Horsley says it’s reached a point where they’re beginning to expect to have tech solutions which can address some of their issues, and notes that some of the larger incumbent disability support organisations are being slow to move on that.
“A number of the incumbents have been slow to adopt a digital transformation approach,” he says.
While programs such as Remarkable are making it easier for disability-focused startups to find success, the founder says there are still some common issues plaguing companies working in the sector.
“Access to customers is still a bit of an illiquid market while the NDIS reform is still taking place, which makes it quite hard to do any predictable business planning,” he says.
“And access to capital is still an issue, as it’s such a niche market. But we’re starting to see that change, and see people take it a bit more seriously.”