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Digital Innovators Scoop ‘Future Makers’ Funding Pool


21 July 2016 at 10:16 am
Lina Caneva
A group of emerging digital innovators have scooped up $300,000 in philanthropic funding, taking just 180 seconds each to pitch their ideas in the inaugural Optus Future Makers program.

Lina Caneva | 21 July 2016 at 10:16 am


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Digital Innovators Scoop ‘Future Makers’ Funding Pool
21 July 2016 at 10:16 am

A group of emerging digital innovators have scooped up $300,000 in philanthropic funding, taking just 180 seconds each to pitch their ideas in the inaugural Optus Future Makers program.

Optus Future Maker Winners RS

Seven digital innovators won over a high powered judging panel, which included the founder of social enterprise Thankyou, Daniel Flynn, with a three-minute pitch, landing them up to $50,000 each to make their innovative ideas become a reality.

Winning ideas included a telepresence robot and software to help teachers “gamify” their classrooms.

The Future Makers  program was launched by Optus to foster digital innovation that has the ability to change the social landscape.

The 2016 Future Makers winners are:

  • Colin Jowell from Sydney whose Guide Dots enables young people with vision impairment to independently discover the world around them and to engage with their social environment just like their sighted friends and peers.
  • Penny Harnett from NSW whose iWareness app will provide information to  young people of both genders to help them recognise, respond to and change attitudes towards domestic violence.
  • Marita Cheng, from Melbourne, who has developed a Teleport – an affordable and telepresence robot which allows young people with a spinal cord injury or debilitating disease to attend school or participate in the workforce by working remotely.
  • Marina Paronetto, from Melbourne, who has developed Biz – a peer-to-peer mobile app designed to give teenage girls of all backgrounds an equal opportunity to learn about business and enhance their confidence, skill set and employability .
  • Dr Rowan Tulloch from Sydney, whose Game Change software helps university and school teachers gamify their classrooms to better engage and motivate students. It also assists students who are marginalised by traditional teaching practices.

Following a unanimous decision by the judging panel, two finalists who pitched separately were also offered $50,000 funding to share, if they agreed to collaborate and bring their ideas to life as a single innovation.

Brian Collyer with his Wellbeing Coach, an app / web portal that gives young people access to information and resources, and uses technology to enhance communication in the counsellor / client relationship, has joined with Rhianon Vichta and her New Futures for Young People integrated online platform, that promotes and measures beneficial wellbeing outcomes for vulnerable young people.

Future Makers judge and Optus chairman Paul O’Sullivan said the program was about helping Australia’s innovators to make a positive social impact through the use of technology.

“We know how important technology is in people’s daily lives, and with Future Makers we are specifically targeting projects that will benefit marginalised and vulnerable youth,” O’Sullivan said.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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