Australia gets tech accelerator to kickstart disability-focused startups

A new Australian startup accelerator aims to get smart, accessible technology in the hands of people who truly need it.

Following in the footsteps of well-known accelerators such as California’s Y-Combinator that foster young talent but with a twist, Remarkable Accelerator will host a 16-week program for startups focused on building technology that can assist people with disabilities.

In the first class, which begins Apr. 6, five to six startups will receive a seed grant of A$20,000 (US$15,306) to help them create worthwhile technology, Remarkable founder Peter Horsley told Mashable Australia.

The inaugural class includes a startup using gaming to detect childhood hearing impairments, an app to help find accessible public transport routes and assistive technology created using 3D printing.

Along with the cash, Remarkable startups will take part in a weekly breakfast masterclass, as well as evening sessions with stakeholders, mentors and investors. While Remarkable is not taking any equity in the first accelerator class, Horsley said the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, of which the accelerator is a division, has the first right of refusal to invest.

The idea for Remarkable emerged after a hackathon event Horsley started in 2014 called Enabled by Design-athon, which focuses on educating designers and creators about universal, inclusive design.

Despite the interesting ideas that emerged, he was left thinking about how the ideas that didn’t become reality. “As with lots of other hackathons, what happens with the things that are hacked in those days?” he asked.

He decided to found an accelerator so the startups could see their technologies actually end up in the hands of people with disabilities. There was also a distinct lack of opportunity in the space, he suggested. “We only know of one other accelerator in Israel that’s doing similar things: A3I.”

Thanks to the New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services and the Telstra Foundation, Remarkable has secured funding through 2016 and 2017. Another startup class will go through the accelerator in October, he said.

According to Horsley, Remarkable is getting started at the perfect time. The Australian government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, a new program aimed at supporting the disabilities community, is beginning its roll out.

As Horsley pointed out, funding for the sector should grow to around A$22 billion, meaning there will be a lot more money these startups could access if their technology is scalable. “That is a new sector opportunity. New innovation is critical for the success of the NDIS,” he said. “We’re starting to create a market.”

To read the rest of this article, published in Mashable, please click here.