The UK is yet to create a Google or Facebook style enterprise, and the likelihood that it will remains low. However, the UK is in prime position to become a leader in a different kind of tech, Tech for Good.
In recent years we've seen a growing number of entrepreneurs and investors set out to prove alternative models for tech innovation exist. Both profit and impact are good for society and can be achieved simultaneously.
UK businesses could set a new standard by demonstrating that best practices in environmental and social impact, diversity and privacy are drivers for better financial performance.
Start-ups are cropping up across the UK with promises to be kinder to the planet, to their customers and to their people, more so than the previous generations of businesses.
Whilst there's not a clear definition of Tech for Good, it involves start-ups using technology to tackle social and environmental problems. We're seeing a wide range of sectors benefit from such innovation, including the green sector, health, financial services and education. A simple way of looking at it, is that Tech for Good businesses solve a real customer need at the same time as having a positive impact on the world.
These communities are gaining traction and with the support from groups such as B Corp, they're expected to continue to grow at a fast pace. The community aims to achieve lower levels of inequality and poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose.
At the same time, more investors than ever before are becoming interested in these start-ups because aside from it being the right thing to do, there's also a real business case for investment.
Here's a selection of some of our favourite Tech for Good start-ups:
A UK-based dementia app which uses videos triggered by physical tiles to provide support to those with dementia. The team recently worked with Essex Council, as over the next ten years, 3,000 people will be diagnosed with dementia in Essex. How Do I? calculated if only half of those people use its product, they’ll be able to live at home with the disease for three weeks longer, and save the local authority up to £10 million in one year.
Ethical Angel combines a HR service with technology to engage and develop employees through volunteering and payroll donations. The platform allows employees to volunteer for initiatives as an individual or in teams. All the projects and experiences on Ethical Angel are 100% remote and assigned to a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for 2030.
Bulb is the UK’s largest green energy supplier and provides customers with 100% renewable electricity from solar, wind and hydroelectric. Their gas is 100% carbon neutral, 10% is green gas produced from renewable sources like food or farm waste, and the company offsets the rest of the gas they supply by supporting carbon reduction projects around the world.
Moixa is the UK’s leading smart battery company. They develop Smart Battery hardware and GridShare software to facilitate smart energy storage and sharing. Users can install a solar and battery system or add it to their existing solar panels so they can reduce energy bills, reduce their carbon footprint and save the sun’s energy for when they need it.
Beam is a breakout Tech for Good organisation that crowdfunds employment training for the homeless. Its innovative approach uses digital technology to remove financial barriers for the homeless community and allows them to improve their skills to get into well-paid work. Bringing together the public sector and technology, Beam partnered with the Mayor of London whilst being advised by tech luminaries.
Be My Eyes is a free app that connects people with a visual impairment to sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call. Be My Eyes aims to make the world more accessible by supporting those with visual impairments in situations where a pair of eyes is needed. Their B2B offering creates a better way for organisations to connect with customers and provides improved and more accessible support.
The UK Tech for Good sector is currently valued at over £2.3 billion and following 2019's Tech Nation Report, there are over 500 companies who are successfully combining profit with purpose.
With over £1 billion VC funding raised so far, there's a growing demand for investment routes that positively impact society whilst providing market rate returns. Organisations like Bethnal Green Ventures, Big Society Capital, Bridges, Sustainable Ventures and Impact Ventures are adopting Tech for Good into their products and services, which is a change for the better.
The recent £1.5 billion package for firms driving innovation will go some way to helping the UK remain at the forefront of the Tech for Good initiative, however if we want mission-driven technology businesses to have a positive impact on society, then we need to help them flourish and scale up by continuing to give them the right support and funding.
If you would like to learn more about the work we're doing with Tech for Good companies, please get in touch with me here firstname.lastname@example.org.