Big Issue Invest offers £50K carrot for social tech entrepreneurs

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27 Feb, 2013

The Big Issue's investment arm launches "Tech for Good" competition.

The Big Issue’s social investment arm has launched a competition that will result in 10 early-stage tech ventures each bagging up to £50,000 in funding.

The competition has been launched in conjunction with the Nominet Trust, and has also won the backing of several other corporate partners, including the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, LDC, The MITIE Foundation, Salesforce Foundation and Unity Trust Bank.

Its aim is to find 10 organisations that have the potential to use technology initiatives to provide learning support and job opportunities to some of the UK’s one million young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETS).

Nigel Kershaw OBE, chief executive of Big Issue Invest, explained to IT Pro: “We’re looking for 10 ventures that we will invest £50,000 in each one and support with a really great network of mentoring.

"The challenge is finding those ventures that are using technology to solve big social problems and transform young people’s lives," he added.

The closing date for applications is 15 April, after which 20 teams will be chosen to take part in an intensive mentoring programme. From here, ten finalists will then go on to receive funding, and benefit from ongoing support.

Kershaw cited Raspberry Pi as a good example of the type of educational technology that could be used to help disadvantaged young people learn new skills.

“Are there enterprises out there using Raspberry Pi to help people who are furthest away from getting [access to] education, for example,” he said.

“The number of people of my generation who got into computing because of programming [ZX] Spectrum computers...gamers who really might not have been distanced from education...but learned new skills through their interest is something Raspberry Pi can help with.”

The ideal applicant will be an organisation that could use the funding and mentoring offered through the scheme to scale-up their operations, rather than start out, Kershaw added.

“It doesn’t matter what world you live in at the moment, that early stage growth funding is hard to get, regardless of whether your project has social benefits or not,” he said.

“So, [the ideal project] will have a track record, as well as a plan of action for the future.”