The startup world’s ‘tech for good’ movement has grown rapidly in recent years—but what exactly is it? Whilst explanations vary, Tech for Good Global (powered by early-stage VC Bethnal Green Ventures) defines it as being “intentional about the use of tech in tackling the world’s pressing social and environmental challenges.”
Purpose-driven business models that put impact alongside profit are proving fruitful for both founders and investors. Tech for good entrepreneurs are “reaping the rewards”, experiencing an increase in customer acquisition and interest from top talent, not to mention a positive impact on their fundraisings—impact investments from tech for good funds are becoming more popular by the day. And the challenges of COVID-19 have only increased interest in the movement.
Today, we’re seeing significant tech for good innovation, from a long list of ambitious startups. According to McKinsey, these cover six main areas: job security, material living standards, health and longevity, education, environmental sustainability, and equal opportunity. The types of tech being used varies hugely, though artificial intelligence, online cloud-based platforms, and smart tech are being used to great effect in all areas. And businesses in these sectors are being nurtured by several impact-focused accelerators and incubators, including Microsoft’s AI for Good, Nesta, and the Social Tech Trust.
We’ve used Beauhurst’s company description search to identify nine tech for good companies in the UK that are aiming to make a lasting positive impact, alongside a financial return. Interestingly, six of these businesses have a female founder or co-founder, despite women being typically underrepresented in the high-growth ecosystem. To find out everything you need to know about these up-and-coming tech for good startups—from founding stories to fundraising figures—read on.
Fintech company UpEffect is a seed-stage startup that helps social enterprises crowdfund successfully. Knowing that 60% of crowdfunding campaigns end up failing, Sheeza Shah launched UpEffect to help founders employ best crowdfunding practices. Services offered include a personalised crowdfunding playbook, help with content creation, coaching, office hours, and a post-campaign impact assessment.
COVID-19 has increased consumers’ motivation to choose brands that have a positive societal stand, and UpEffect has so far helped these businesses raise over £260k. A wholly self-funded business, UpEffect has attended the MassChallenge UK accelerator, a global incubator for businesses looking to solve huge challenges.
Founded in 2015, cleantech startup Greengame develops technology which tracks how users impact the environment. The tech for good startup was founded by Victor Palau, and works with cities, universities, and businesses to incentivise sustainable behaviour.
Greengame’s app tracks modes of transport, email activity, and social media, and can be connected to external apps to build a full picture of users’ environmental impact. Positive behaviours are then rewarded through gamified competitions and incentives.
Greengame has been backed by crowdfunding platform Seedrs and accelerator manager Collider (the company attended Collider’s UK Accelerator Programme in 2016). Greengame has secured two funding rounds from these funds so far, the latest of which (in 2017) was worth over £88k.
Early-stage startup Epic develops a directory of sustainable brands which is connected to personal bank accounts. Epic users can automatically earn rewards for shopping with selected retailers, whilst businesses can take advantage of having greater access to conscious consumers.
Rewards are earned in the form of Koin: digital rewards points which can be used to buy from eco-friendly brands, be donated to charity, or used to offset a users’ carbon footprint. For every purchase made through Epic, users will earn a minimum of 3% cashback in Koin.
Epic has raised over £415k so far, across three rounds, the latest of which was secured in 2021 and brought in nearly £20k.
Sector: Internet platforms
Matchable is a B2B platform that offers employees upskilling opportunities by working with non-profit companies and impact startups. Users get a specialist account manager, who helps employees to find a volunteering match, and a monthly report detailing the impact the partnership has made. Matchable is backed by eight leading global charities and is aiming to deliver over £420m of value to organisations over the next five years.
Founded by Wai Foong Ng in 2019, Matchable became a certified B-corp in September 2020, and attended the We In Social Tech accelerator for female founders. To date, the company has secured over £614k, across three rounds, the latest of which raised over £444k at the start of this year. It was also named as the winner of the 2021 MSDUK Innovation Challenge, celebrating ethnic minority-led businesses working to make the world a better place.
Sector: Internet platforms
Goodsted is making a positive impact through redefining the volunteering experience. It has developed a digital technology platform, connecting those leading socially and environmentally-impactful initiatives with collaborators and volunteers looking to share skills and resources.
Selin Yigitbasi-Ducker founded Goodsted in 2018, whilst searching for a volunteering project, having identified a gap in the market for a platform that helps individuals find meaningful, skilled opportunities. The company attended both the We in Social Tech accelerator and London & Partners’ three-month Business Growth Programme. And it’s raised one funding round, worth over £225k.
London-based fintech company Beam operates a crowdfunding site, designed to raise money to help homeless people gain employment and find accommodation. Registered partners and public sector organisations will refer an individual to Beam, to build a bespoke employment plan, before launching an online crowdfunding campaign on Beam’s website. Beam then provides ongoing support, throughout training and the start of their new job.
Beam was founded in 2017 by Alex Stephany, after he became friends with a homeless person outside his local station. Over the last two years, the company has won 14 awards, including being named one of WIRED’s top 10 startups in London and on the NatWest SE100—a list of 100 social enterprises deemed to have the greatest impact, whilst demonstrating growth, innovation, and resilience. To date, Beam has raised over £481k, from one fundraising round.
Sector: Internet platforms
Tech startup Bankuet is a social impact company that develops a mobile app for food banks. The technology allows food banks to request exactly what they need, reducing waste and making it simple to donate. By pooling donations together to buy more for less, the company is able to deliver over £1’s worth of food for every £1 donated. The pandemic served to speed up the pace of Bankuet’s work, as the scale of food poverty in the UK increased and more donations were made.
Bankuet was founded by Robin Ferris in 2019, when he realised that the food bank he volunteered at had too much of some products and too little of others. It was complicated to make an impactful donation. Bankuet went on to attend Resurgo Ventures’ Social Impact Accelerator in 2019 and, most recently, was recognised as a Trailblazing Newcomer on the Natwest SE100 for 2021. The company has so far raised over £599k, in one round of investment.
The youngest company on our list of tech for good startups, Nodanni, partners with governments and international organisations to provide solutions for the most vulnerable people in society. Its flagship product is Vactraca, a wearable vaccine necklace, designed for mothers. The pendant tracks infants’ routine immunisations information, from birth to completion, to reduce infant and child mortality.
Nodanni was founded by Victoria Ndoh, who worked in the international aid sector for over 15 years before starting the company. While visiting health facilities in remote parts of Nigeria, she noticed that record-keeping was a challenge which, in turn, led to infants not completing their routine immunisations. This led to the creation of the Vactraca, which made it to the semi-finals of the 2020 MSDUK Innovation Challenge, under the health innovations category.
Yet to undergo its first funding round, Nodanni has attended The Hatchery accelerator, which provides support and office space to startups founded by UCL graduates.
Sector: Online publishing
Moonshot is a seed-stage startup that’s working to reduce violent extremism online, including violent misogyny and disinformation, by connecting vulnerable people with safer content, counsellors and information, and encouraging engagement with local services offline. The London-based company uses the ‘redirect method’ to challenge the potentially harmful content that individuals are searching for online via targeted advertising, opening them up to more balanced views and alternative messages.
The technology was piloted in 2016 as part of a partnership with Jigsaw, a department within Google that builds scalable solutions to online threats, and was then deployed internationally by Moonshot.
Moonshot was founded, and remains led, by Vidhya Ramalingam—who previously spearheaded the EU’s first inter-governmental initiative on far-right terrorism and extremism—and Ross Frenett—former Director of the Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network, comprised of former violent extremists and survivors of violent extremism.
In June 2021, Moonshot raised $7m (£5.10m) from Beringea and Mercia Fund Managers, at a pre-money valuation of £14m. This capital will be put towards research and development, and supporting international expansion.
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