Most startups are out to solve a problem, but some problems are more pressing than others. Some have implications for humanity as a whole.
Whether they identify as a social enterprise or not, many startups are finding new and innovative ways to improve the world around them, whether that’s making donating to charity easier, making life safer for construction workers, or bringing renewable energy solutions to the mainstream.
To be able to make a positive change, businesses need to be financially viable. Success philanthropy can only come from successful business.
Whether for-profit or not, these nine Australia-based startups are all making a positive impact the world around them.
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Launched ‘informally’ in 2015, this startup uses blockchain technology for voting, and while that could be shareholder voting, it could also apply to democracy as a whole.
In May, Horizon State founder Jamie Skella told StartupSmart the system could have serious implications for democratically unstable nations, where votes could be tampered with, or the act of voting itself incredibly dangerous.
Skella said: “A refusal to use this kind of technology will ultimately be a proclamation of corruption. There is no reason whatsoever, as a political figure, party or national government, that you should not want to improve the security of a result.”
While the technology isn’t a staple of democracy just yet, according to a LinkedIn post, the startup has received an exclusive request for proposal for running a national election. Although the company is tight-lipped about the government in question, the proposal is for an election in 2019.
PARK Social Soccer Co. is a social enterprise focused on getting soccer balls to children in need, through its Pass-a-Ball project. For every ball purchased, another is donated to a child. So far, PARK has donated around 4,500 balls across 11 countries around the world.
Founded in 2015, the startup uses the power of sport to get children thinking about others in need, while also promoting community spirit, teamwork and positive common goals in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Park co-founder Sam Davy was previously a creative director at Apple. In April, he told SmartCompany that he gives Steve Jobs some of the credit for the venture.
“My genesis for my social enterprise interest came from Steve,” he said.
“He had quite a large interest in impact, and I don’t think all of that was always realised through the [Apple] business.”
Davy added: “There’s such a growing appetite for social enterprise — entrepreneurs are becoming smarter about baking social impact into their businesses.”
i=Change allows online retailers to donate a small amount per purchase to a charity, chosen by the shopper.
When the consumer comes to the checkout, they can select the cause they care about most – be that stopping child marriage, helping women escape domestic violence, or helping cancer patients feel positive about themselves. So far, the project has raised over $700,000 for 24 charities.
Last year, founder Jeremy Meltzer said that, while the business is ultimately a social enterprise, it had to be profitable to succeed.
He told StartupSmart: “You need to apply the same robust approach you’d apply to any business, as you have to be profitable to pay your team and continue to use your profits to impact your chosen issue.”
He added: “To do anything well is hard. To run a not-for-profit is bloody hard, and to run a great business is bloody hard. To do both together is ridiculous.”
Founded by sisters Lucy and Rosie Thomas 12 years ago, Project Rockit is a platform designed to empower young people to stand up against bullying and hatred.
The startup runs workshops in schools, creating ‘safe spaces’ where students can explore themes of diversity, respect, empathy and ethics.
Earlier this year, the sisters scooped up the Drivers of Change award at InStyle Magazine’s Women of Style awards, alongside other winners such as Settlement Services International chief executive Violet Roumeliotis and Indigital founder Mikaela Jade.
At the time, Rosie told StartupSmart: “We’re both just really humbled to be included, and to be surrounded by so many incredible women.”
She added: “A lot of what we do is gruelling, hard work and scary, and it can feel like we do a lot of work without getting much recognition, so it’s nice for the whole team to have a moment to be elevated, and to get people talking about the issues and spreading the word about how we need to stand up for one another.”
They may not be Australian, but WePower is championing renewable energy providers Down Under, providing a financing tool allowing customers to buy energy upfront from facilities that have not yet been built.
It also provides a blockchain-based platform that allows users to trade renewable energy contracts, and to trace where their energy is coming from.
In February, the startup was accepted into Energy Australia’s Startupbootcamp, ultimately becoming one of only three startups selected for further testing with the provider.
Founder Mantas Aleks told StartupSmart at the time that, while he is supporting green initiatives, the focus on renewable energy sources is also just good business sense.
“When it comes to the energy sector, we look at where most of the investment is going right now,” he said.
“The focus on renewable is not only the right thing to do, it’s where the world is going.”
This app is designed to make electronic testing much more accurate and to instantly share product warnings or recalls, ultimately making life safer for electricians.
Founder Kurt Alexander spent 37 years in the electrical industry before launching the startup, and was accepted into the BlueChilli accelerator program. The app is due to go live within the next three months.
Last month, Alexander told StartupSmart that part of the reason he applied for the accelerator in the first place was to get the product to market as soon as possible, to start protecting industry workers.
“My first concern was safety for our guys and girls in the field,” Alexander said
“There are no mechanisms anywhere that will give our guys and girls in the field first-hand alerts that could actually prevent death, prevent electrocutions, prevent harm and prevent industry loss.”
Another energy-focused startup, Brighte helps bring affordable energy to Australians through zero-interest loans for installation of things like solar panels or insulation.
Brighte provides a platform connecting homeowners with suppliers. Since it was founded in 2015, the startup has received almost 6000 applications and approved $45 million in loans.
Last month, Brighte announced it had closed its $18.5 million Series B funding round, following a $20 million funding facility from the National Australia Bank secured just weeks earlier, and a $4 million Series A funding round in September last year.
In September, founder Katherine McConnell told StartupSmart the platform can help families save money, while also providing sustainable energy solutions.
She said: “For families in Australia it just makes sense … it cuts energy bills dramatically. We’re creating our own energy and storing it. It’s great to be able to live a sustainable life.”
SafetyCulture provides technology designed to make workplaces safer. Through the iAuditor app, workers can build checklists to conduct audits and quickly evaluate safety and efficiency, ultimately making paper-based checks digital and reducing workplace risk and injury.
The app now collects 300 million audit responses per year. In May, Safety Culture raised $60 million in its Series C funding round, and the startup now employs more than 200 people.
Speaking to StartupSmart last month, founder Luke Anear said he wants the app to reach more people and to become a global standard in safety management. He said the SafetyCulture team is “here to solve a global problem,” adding that it’s “a problem that really matters to people”.
A 2017 graduate of Sydney-based accelerator program Startmate, Nightingale is a social enterprise striving to provide more affordable housing, by placing home buyers at the centre of development projects.
The buildings are designed to be sustainable, using no fossil fuels and including water harvesting facilities, and homes are designed to encourage connected communities, offering ‘active’ street frontages and ‘tactile’ pedestrian spaces.
Finally, projects costs and decision-making processes are designed to be transparent, meaning licensed architects can develop more Nightingale buildings using the blueprints and learning of architects before them.