At Nominet Trust, we’ve seen the truly transformative effect tech can have on people’s lives from our experience of funding more than 300 projects over the last 10 years. Organisations such as GiveVision demonstrate how tech can massively enhance lives, while ventures such as Alice, are demonstrating how new tech, in this case, blockchain, can be used to help those most in need.
Since 2014 we’ve funded seven rounds of Social Tech Seed (STS) – an early-stage funding programme, supporting ventures developing tech to solve society’s most persistent challenges. Here, we focus on the eight ventures funded through the fifth round (STS5), approved in early 2016, to test the core assumptions of the programme.
Our STS5 data (see visualisation below or download it here) shows us five ways in which Social Tech Seed is helping tech realise its potential to create positive social transformation:
1. Social tech bridges the gap.
The eight STS5 projects all came to the Trust in the early stages of their development, typically with basic prototypes, but some way from having something that could generate revenue and attract further investment. In the period after receiving Nominet Trust support, the STS5 cohort has gone on to secure over £1.5m in additional grants, investments, and revenue after a combined initial investment of £393k from the Trust (see Fig. 6). This represent a multiplier ratio of 1:4.5 from the Trust’s initial Social Tech Seed funding. This figure is continuing to grow, with ventures such as Konnektis generating increasing interest from statutory sector providers.
2. Tech transforms lives.
Whilst it’s vital that social tech ventures can generate income and secure investment, the main objective is to have a significant positive social impact. Even though the ventures supported through STS5 were at a relatively early stage there is already evidence that they are transforming lives, with more than 700 people directly benefiting from the services they provide (see Fig 4) – again a number that is continuing to increase month by month.
“There is an 8-year-old girl with Glaucoma who is registered blind and rejects the cane – but she enjoys a method in Visual Assistant we call ‘the artificial cane’ – a method we provide for navigation in closed spaces. She can navigate the school stairs with the Visual Assistant and go from one class to another without a cane.” Tim Carrington, Visual Assistant
The evidence from STS5 suggests that the core convictions that underpin Nominet Trust’s Social Tech programme are correct. Digital tech (in its many forms) has a huge potential to help address a wide range of social challenges, and carefully targeted support, provided at an early stage, can help unleash that potential. However, STS5 also indicates that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the full social potential of digital tech does not go unrealised. It is also clear that the further investment they need to grow and reach their full social potential is hard to access. What is needed is greater cooperation and communication between investors who understand both the potential and challenges of developing socially driven tech to ensure that the most promising social tech is not wasted, but given the opportunity to transform as many lives as possible.
You can read more about our full evaluation of Nominet Trust’s Social Tech programmes here.