7 Remarkable new startups

One of the largest under-served global markets is disability, and we have just launched our fourth cohort with 7 startups creating technology for the benefit of people with disability.

From startups using AI to teach children with dyslexia to read, to others using virtual reality to take physically disabled people on virtual excursions, these startups are doing more than just creating tech to make life that little bit easier – they are creating technology to make life possible.

“We’re excited to welcome this latest cohort. There is great diversity in the startups and each of the founders have a deep desire to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities,” said Pete Horsley, founder of Remarkable.

“Applications came from Australia and across the globe – including Azerbaijan, Israel, Ghana, Brazil and Portugal, however we are really proud of the startups who were selected.”

The Cohort 4 Startups are:

  • Bookbot empowering those with learning disabilities to become confident, independent learners through a reading assistant app.
  • JobMatcher – using predictive artificial intelligence to match the most relevant positions for each job seeker, particularly tackling the low employment rates for people with disability.
  • NomadVR – bringing highly stimulating virtual reality experiences to empower anyone without the means to go outside with the ability to do so much more.
  • Our Care Journal – an app created with carers for carers, offering a way to organise everyday care needs, find services, communicate with others and arrange important information.
  • PolySpine – a customised, modular torso and head support system that enables people with physical disability to participate in various recreational and rehabilitation activities.
  • sameview – a trusted online platform for easier, and better disability care coordination.
  • Spokle – a speech therapy app in your pocket that provides practical, family- centred communication strategies to support children with communication disorders.

Since inception in March 2016, Remarkable has worked with 26 startups to make a positive impact in the lives of people with disabilities. They have seen 82 full-time equivalent jobs created through the startups, and 2,517 customers with a disability served.

Thanks Ben Reid – Entrepreneur in Residence

Who would have thought that a one-off coffee in early 2016 could have led to one of the greatest working relationships I’ve ever had?

Ben Reid had already played a significant role in the formation of Remarkable when he volunteered while he was at Muru-D to run a strategy planning day for Remarkable earlier in the year.

Pete and Ben

We thought we’d ask Ben for some further advice. A few coffees later and Ben had signed on as Remarkable’s first Entrepreneur in Residence and we were brimming with excitement about the potential of startups that lived in the nexus of social impact and tech startup.

Now many, many coffees later Ben has actively coached 20 startups through Remarkable (and countless others outside Remarkable) – he has spent hours and hours thinking about each of the businesses, strategizing and opening up networks to catalyse their growth and development. And the success you see in our alumni has been in no small part due to the care, attention and guidance Ben has given.

Now the time has come for Ben to return to his own startup ring (you can’t stay away too long) and grow another startup, so reflecting on this end of a chapter, I immediately thought of 3 things Ben has done extremely well:

  1. Ben believed in the potential of the founders – many times, more than the founders believed in themselves. He often put big stretch goals in front of the founders that even they didn’t think was remotely possible. And most of the time they hit those goals.
  2. Ben always tried to speed up the time taken in laps of learning. Many organisations would have iterative cycles of weeks, months, and sometimes years. Ben always encouraged startups to do laps of learning with customers in days.
  3. Ben brought humour to the startup journey. Startup is often a serious business – legals, business models, strategy and sales. But at the heart of it, startup is about creating your own destiny – it is positive and generative and Ben had a philosophy of keeping things fun.

I will miss working with you Ben, and we know you’ll still be around mentoring Remarkable startups. Thank you for your investment you’ve made into startups making an impact in the lives of people with disability.

Pete, Founder, Remarkable

3 Ways to Get the Attention of Impact Investors

For any startup, the pathway to sustainability is tough, but add the pressure of a product that makes a difference to people or planet, and it is really tough – you’re balancing building your product or service, navigating the legal minefield of setting up a company, building a team, embedding systems and processes, creating awareness of your product and trying to pay your bills. Sometimes you will need outside investment to get there. Enter impact investors – they are a growing number of investors looking for a return through both social impact and financial return.

So what’s the best way to get the attention of impact investors? Here are 3 tips for making sure you’re on the right track…

1 | Be Uber Clear on Your Impact

From the inception of your organisation’s public profile there should be an understanding of how your offering will solving a problem in society. This impact should be at the centre of all communications and sung loud and clear! It’s not just about the size of the problem (although it doesn’t hurt if you’re solving a big problem), but it’s about the extent to which your solution brings sizeable relief to a well articulated problem.

Professor Alnoor Ebrahim from the Harvard Business Review stated the importance of utilising evidence in showing the difference your organisation is making, rather than simply making grand, but general claims. So instead of reiterating mission statements, use community feedback, data and research to demonstrate the impact you’re making.

Sound Scouts, a startup who was part of Remarkable’s first cohort, is focused on improving children’s experience with education by creating accessible and easy-to-use hearing tests. Sound Scouts noticed that children were slipping through the cracks in getting their hearing properly assessed, often being “diagnosed” as behavioural issues at school. Sound Scouts is both clinically proven (published in the International Journal of Audiology) and they are super clear on their impact, leading to the Federal Government recently announcing support for making Sound Scouts accessible to more than 600,000 Australian school children over the next 4-5 years. Not only is this a huge success for Sound Scouts, but it will change the lives of thousands of kids. How’s that for clear impact?!

2 | Have a Sense of Urgency

There are countless good causes out there – all doing really important work, and sadly that creates a level of “noise” that if you’re to get the attention of impact investors, you need to rise above. A sense of urgency is helping to show people that “the time is now” for this impact. There is little incentive for people who are unaffected to engage with the issue and ultimately the service. Therefore, in order to encourage action it’s crucial to drive necessity and to relate this issue back to something a greater audience cares about.

Xceptional, a tech company that harnesses the unique talents of people with autism and assists them in finding employment, use a personal story that affects the founder to create a sense of urgency. Founder, Mike Tozer’s driving force is his young son, who has autism and will be entering the workforce in ten years time. By 2028, they aim to make Xceptional the rule, rather than the exception. It’s not a niche problem either. In Australia, 1 in 70 people have autism, and the unemployment rate for people with autism is almost six times the rate of people without disability (31.6% vs 5.3%). Without a discernible way to change this pattern this number will only increase. Xceptional has recently been awarded $1m from the Google Impact Challenge which will fast-track development of their anxiety-reducing recruitment app. Not only is this an outstanding achievement for Xceptional, but it shows the effectiveness of urgent communications in attracting support from investors.

3 | Use Story to Move People

As emotional beings, stories which engage us emotionally tie us together, help us understand each other, and are what make us human. They are also more easily remembered and shared.

Testimonials are a good way for companies to appeal to consumer emotions: having someone telling their story of how your product/ service changed their life is significantly more compelling than listing off the functional attributes of the product. This is particularly important for a social enterprise, where the product/service can have a genuinely life-changing effect on someone’s life.

Autism Swim use this technique very effectively in their communications. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are 160 times more likely to drown, according to Columbia University research, a statistic which shocked Founder Erika Gleeson into action. Not only does Autism Swim provide the necessary training for instructors, but allows children with ASD to experience swimming and have fun in the water in the way all children should. Erika has heard the shocking stories of children with ASD who have sadly drowned (watch the video on their homepage), but she uses the positive stories of those who now know how to swim to encourage support from the public and investors.

So if you’re clear on your impact, have created a sense of urgency and use story to motivate – you will be guaranteed to be closer to having successful conversations with impact investors.

Enabled by Design-athon 2018

80 people. 48-hours. 8 teams.

1 common purpose: to improve the lives of people with disability

Last week we hosted our fifth Enabled by Design-athon at Telstra CIC. Enabled by Design-athon is our two-day hackathon style event where teams form to solve some of the problems that people with disability find disabling with their world.

Enabled by Design-athon
Enabled by Design-athon

This year, the eight teams tackled different issues such as inclusive education, exercise, supports to go out and employment. 11 corporates, students from 2 universities and staff from Cerebral Palsy Alliance came together to design solutions to these problems.

Enabled By Design-athon is the only event in Australia of this kind that is specially focussed on disability inclusion. It is important for:

  • putting people with disability at the centre of the design process
  • developing new inclusive products, technologies and processes
  • creating champions advocating for diversity who take inclusive principles back to their workplace.

“While a lot of the design-athon is about education on inclusive design, ultimately we want each team to continue their idea on after Enabled by Design-athon – to further test and validate their solution. Remarkable will be running a one-day bootcamp in November for those who are interested to take their prototype to a minimum viable product.” said Pete Horsley, Founder of Remarkable.

Abled Explorers
The winning team – The Abled Explorers

And the winner? …drum roll…The Abled Explorers – an adventure based game that provides a safe and structured approach to facilitating an interactive exercise experience for kids with autism. It combines digital gamification with real world tasks and activities that encourages kids to be active and rewarded for their participation. Now this an idea that we’d like to see come to life!

Enabled By Design-athon doesn’t happen without a lot of help from our sponsors and mentors. Here are some of the organisations and people we’d like to thank (sorry if we missed anyone!)

Thank you to our corporate attendees:

Telstra, Australia Post, Accenture, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, CHE Proximity, IAG, icare, Munich RE, Eclipx, Fjord and Readify.

A big thank you to our mentors who participated over the two days:

Mel Tran, Marco Raab, Judith Geppert, Jack Tyrrell, Renata Zanetti, Sophie Marmont, Johanna Tibbertsma, Bruce Straw, Prof Simon Darcy, Christie Roberts, Janine Owen, Megan Stronach, Liza McLean.

Want more of this type of thing?

Join us at The Inclusivity Experiment which is part of Spark Festival, where you can hear from leading startups, ethicists, and design practitioners to share real life case studies of success stories and challenges for designing inclusive and diverse products and services.

Where are all the Startup Founders with a Disability?

As we approach the end of our 16 week accelerator program, we are starting to think about who will be applying for our 2019 program. We know that the best founders have a deep understanding of the problem they’re trying to solve for and it got me thinking about where are the founders with a disability and how do we get them to apply for Remarkable? We think that there could be more people with a disability out there who are either working on something or have the seed of an idea for something…and we want to know who they are!

Founders with a disability
Founders with a disability

We’re looking for people with disability to get involved in Remarkable because we believe that founders with disability will have great insights and truly understand the problem they are solving. Designing with disability rather than designing for disability can make a big difference. As Liz Jackson, founder of @The Disabled List says “People with disability are the ultimate life hackers. They’ve been hacking their whole lives”.

There has been no better time to get involved in disability tech. Crunchbase news recently reported that VC investment in startups building assistive technologies and treatments for disabilities grew by 133 percent between 2012 and 2017 and the number of VC deals grew by 87 percent.

And Startup Muster, the largest survey of the Australian startups, shared in their 2017 Annual Report that 4.3% of startups are in the disability space. This is the first year that Startup Muster has recorded this information about disability and we expect to see this grow in 2018.

Now is an exciting time to innovate and to harness technology to improve the lives of people with disability. This is a call out to unearth the founders with disability and invite them to apply for the Remarkable accelerator program in 2019. If you or someone you know has a disability and an idea, even if you’re not ready to apply in 2018, we would love to hear from you!

Highlights from the San Francisco Tech Summit

Ever get the sense you’re on the verge of something truly incredible? I had a palpable sense of this last week when I arrived in San Francisco for the Summit on Advancing Innovation in Assistive Technology. I was there as part of the team from Cerebral Palsy Alliance who hosted a Summit on Advancing Innovation in Assistive Technology in San Francisco.

Roadmap planning for communication stream

It was a gathering of some of the world’s top scientists, technologists and engineers from universities like Harvard, Cornell, and Brown, as well as corporate representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, as well as other technologists from across the globe (Israel, Europe, Japan, Canada, etc).

Over the two and a half days, presenters shared 15min lightning talks on their technology and on the final day, we worked out a road map for future collaboration and action. I also had the opportunity to chair a session of industry leaders including experts from Facebook and Microsoft speaking about their push for technology that is inclusive of people with disability.

Some of the most impressive businesses I met were:

Dr Walid Soussou from Wearable Sensing with Pete Horsley
Dr Walid Soussou from Wearable Sensing with Pete Horsley

Voiceitt – the world’s first speech recognition technology designed to understand non-standard speech.

Seismic – a new integration of apparel and robotics called Powered Clothing – think exoskeleton that goes under your clothes.

Embodied Labs – creates embodied, virtual reality patient experience labs for healthcare trainees and professionals.

Facebook’s Silent Interfacenon-implanted devices that allow you to type directly from your brain without using a keyboard at 5 times the speed of what we type into our smart phones.

Dr Leigh Hochberg from Harvard explaining BrainGate
Dr Leigh Hochberg from Harvard explaining BrainGate

HAL – (or Hybrid Assistive Limb) this exoskeleton assists those with physically disabilities to move enhancing the users own thoughts.

Microsoft – developed standardised protocol for eye tracking devices and have developed a wheelchair controller that utilises eye-tracking.

Over the coming months the plan is to develop out a road map and build a global strategy around disability technology.


Remarkable is leading the way with Founder Wellbeing

We know how stressful it is to run a startup. Add in the additional pressure of people relying on your startup – it’s a lot of responsibility and it can be exhausting. That’s why, we’ve welcomed Sean Hall as Head of Founder Wellbeing to our team. We’re working on developing purpose driven leaders who will see it through and we know they need energy to do that. We believe this is a first for accelerator programs in Australia and we hope that others will follow.

Sean Hall, Head of Founder Wellbeing

Sean is a long time friend of Remarkable. DiversityX, Sean’s first startup, was part of Cohort 1. Since then Sean has gone on to launch Energx, a performance training and coaching company that enables people, leaders and organisations to excel in times of disruption and change.

We asked Sean to tell us more about himself and how he’s working with Cohort 3 throughout their 16 week’s with Remarkable.

Tell us a little bit about you and Energx

I’m on my fifth career (fitness, marketing, technology and HR have come before) and Energx is an eclectic mix of what I’ve learned along the way – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve built two start ups and worked as employee #11 in another. On the corporate side I’ve been responsible for a $10B brand impacting 16 million customers and designed culture strategy for 40,000 people. I have five world firsts in bringing tech innovations to life. But perhaps most importantly, I learned why wellbeing is important the hard way by suffering burnout, or what I call an energy crisis, twice in three years.

While I was on the Remarkable Accelerator, I realised that one of the biggest barriers to social change is that people are simply too stressed and tired to provide significant help. This realisation led me to launch Energx. We created and teach a skill called energy intelligence designed to help people increase the quantity and quality of energy we have. We believe when we collectively have more in the tank will see social change progress faster.

What’s the Remarkable wellbeing program involve and what results are you hoping to see?

Mental health and burnout statistics for entrepreneurs are shockingly high coupled with a startup culture that seems to make heroes out of people doing ridiculous hours. Our focus is on prevention with my job to build the energy intelligence in the cohort so they are more aware of what is impacting their energy and therefore make better decisions.

Each of the cohort have completed our unique Energx ExIQ assessment which determines their current energy and helps them set new energy goals. I’ll help them get to their goals.

We kicked off the program with a group session last Friday which was designed around the aggregated data of the cohort. At the end of the session everyone had a plan to confidently get them to their goals. Throughout the program, each of the Founders will have 1:1 coaching sessions to keep them accountable and on track.

Each week we’re also asking them to set a ‘no fail’ goal that’s relevant to their wellbeing in the same way they do for their business. And finally we’ll assess everyone in 12 weeks time to track their progress and maintain their momentum. This is so everyone is at their most energised leading into the last weeks of the program and demo day.

Why is wellbeing important on an accelerator program?

Ultimately it is the quantity and quality of energy we have that determines our ability to be and feel successful. We literally cannot achieve what we don’t have energy for. Of course there are the obvious health benefits to a wellbeing program but what I’m really focusing on is the most important part of their bodies – their brains. Their ability to build their cognitive energy will be directly linked to their ability to create value.

All the skills that are required by the startups to achieve the impact they desire are super hard when we’re tired. You need energy for things like complex problem solving, decision making, creativity, building empathy, critical thinking, building relationships and just having fun.

What are your top five wellbeing tips to help the cohort?

1. Never lose sight of who and what really matters. Success is worthless if you’ve got no one to share it with. Failing and being alone is even worse. Always make sure your best energy is available to the people who matter most.

2. Fully utilise everything that the wellbeing stream of the program has to offer. Follow your personalised energy plan to enable you to be your energised best.

3. Make sleep and hydration a priority. Every day we wake up tired, we start behind. Drink enough water to optimise brain function. It really is the simple things sometimes.

4. Reframe your diary as energy vs time. Focus on activities which are energising and important, as these will be the ones that drive the most value, most quickly.

5. Make time to ‘shimmy’ every day – one of my favourite quotes is “life is too important to be taken seriously” after all if you can’t have fun doing it, what’s the point?!

4 ways to create ideas that grow

Alvar Aalto, a Finnish Architect and Designer who was designing in the mid-1900’s, spoke of the journey of the seed of an idea to its execution. He once said, “Architecture in its details are in some way all part of biology. Perhaps they are like a salmon or trout – they’re not born fully grown, they’re not even born in the sea or the water where they normally live. They’re born hundreds of kilometres away from their home grounds, where the rivers narrow to tiny streams. Just as it takes time for a speck of fish spawn to mature into a fully-grown fish, so we need time for everything that develops and crystallises in our world of ideas”.

I love the thought of an idea developing from something somewhat small and insignificant, but to eventually reach maturity and really change the things we see that are broken in our world. I’ve heard others describe the path of an idea from the fringes and margins of a society, until it eventually becomes part of the centre – our mainstream, common thought, part of the public agenda. It’s one of the reasons I love visiting art galleries and working with creatives. They draw our attention to issues using the medium of art. They give voice to areas of our society that needs to change.

Today marks the 25th year of observing an International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It, in itself, is an idea that is making its way towards its home. It is a day to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities[1]. Many would say we have come a long way in further recognising rights, however, most would say we’ve still got a long way to go.

Remarkable is a division of Cerebral Palsy Alliance and we believe that technology has a part to play in that change. If you think about the way that powered wheelchairs have changed the independence of those with lower limb impairments, or cochlear implants have enabled others with hearing impairments, it is clear that technology can play a role. Yet there is more we can do. We look towards disruptive technologies that are removing barriers that are disabling people. So far, we have invested in startups creating technology in robotics, wearables, VR, real-time tracking, marketplaces, AI, gamification and more.

For us, we’re at the top of the stream – we have only been in existence for just over 18-months, however, we believe that the idea of Remarkable is starting to grow and we’ve learned 4 things that enable ideas to take root, to give the greatest chance of success:


1. Work with the end beneficiaries

One reason ideas fail is that they are based on false assumptions and untested reality. We work with startups to ensure that they understand the assumptions they are making around their product, their business plan and their future development. Then we work with them to test these assumptions.

One of the best ways to begin to validate your assumptions is to test products with real customers. Or better yet, to start your idea with your end beneficiaries as co-founders.

“Nothing about us, without us” was a phrase that was adopted by the disability activist movement in the 1990s and it is the essence we’re wanting to instil in our founders.

Since March 2016, 62 people with disability have participated in Remarkable’s programs. 19% of founders in the Remarkable Accelerator and Startup Bootcamp live with disability – a figure representative of the Australian population. 70% of startups from our accelerator programs and bootcamp have a person with disability in their founder team or on their board. We’re not there yet, but we are working on it.

How could your idea incorporate more input from end beneficiaries?


2. Align your idea to a growing market

They always say it is easier to turn a moving ship or to go with the flow in a fast-moving stream. Ideas won’t succeed when they are isolated. When startup expert Bill Gross studied 200 startups to find the reason some succeed and some fail, he found that the number one reason was not the idea or the team, but the timing[2].

We believe the time is right for Remarkable Startups – people with disability and their families have been calling for change for decades and now we have a burgeoning market being created through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – a $50bn/yr industry that is set to grow. Impact Investment is looking for investible enterprises.

So far we have worked with 12 startups intensively.

Does your idea have proximity to an area that is growing that you could align and harness?


3. Build a network for your idea

Ideas need to take root in people beyond you or your core team. Just like it takes a village to raise a child – so too, does it take a diverse community to see ideas become reality.

Remarkable has had the privilege of working with a diverse range of entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, technologists and investors committed to diversity and inclusion. Sharing our vision has helped to create a community of support – knowledge, resources, funds – and has increased the likelihood of the startups’ success.

How can you best engage a network around your idea? Can you host a Meetup? Can you involve some volunteers?


4. Leverage powerful allies to grow your idea

Who are the people or companies who could also benefit from your idea? They may not be end beneficiaries, but in working in alliance with them, the net effect of the impact is greater. Is there a way to increase the pie, rather than eek out your part of it? Is there a win-win partnership that could happen to increase the power of your idea?

We are working with corporate organisations to increase the impact. Startups creating disability tech is only one way to create change. There are millions of products, technologies and services that already exist that could be more inclusive. We’re working with them to gain a greater understanding of inclusive and universal design. So far we’ve worked with 178 organisations helping them to see the benefits from designing to include a wider diversity of the population than those who simply fit the middle 50th percentile.

Who are the powerful allies you could engage in your idea? What is the value proposition for them?


Ideas are the easy part – it is how you deliver on these that is the challenge. If you would like to read a case study on how to embed ideas for success using these four areas, then the team from Remarkable have taken the brave step of starting the process of measuring how well we’re delivering on our idea. Today we’re proud to release our Social Impact Review – a look at the impact that Remarkable has had from March 2016 to August 2017. Please download a copy here and help our idea make its way down the stream.


[1] https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/international-day-of-persons-with-disabilities-3-december.html

[2] https://www.inc.com/chris-dessi/this-ted-talk-explains-the-5-reasons-why-startups-succeed.html