With under four weeks to go til the closing date for entries to the 2018 Impact Awards, we hear from four of the big winners in 2017 in our people-themed categories – including babylon, Founders4Schools and Squirrel – about what the awards meant to them this year, and how they’ve progressed their ventures since.
DigitalAgenda’s Impact Awards have a strong focus on people – with four categories celebrating tech innovations that improve lives, through education, health, skills and more. In 2017, our four people-themed categories received more entries than any other. Here our winners tell us what winning meant to them.
Health – technology that enhances healthcare knowledge and treatment, as well as people’s abilities to lead healthier and happier lives.
Among our highest-profile winners in 2017 were babylon, the London-based startup created to put an affordable health service into the hands of everyone. As well as video GP appointments and free medicine delivery, Babylon uses artificial intelligence, to provide a 24/7 symptom checker service.
Babylon has had quite a year, starting (of course) with its Impact Award win in March! In April babylon secured £50m in VC funding to build out its product at home and abroad. And just this month, it unveiled the UK’s first digital GP service with the NHS.
“At babylon we work tirelessly to deliver our vision which is to put an affordable and accessible health service into the hands of everyone on earth. We do this by combining the immense expertise of doctors, engineers and scientists with the latest AI technology,” explains babylon’s founder and chief executive, Ali Parsa. “We were honoured to be amongst the winners at the 2017 Impact Awards – and humbled by so many inspiring companies and individuals working to make people’s lives better.”
“Since March, babylon has made significant strides toward achieving our vision,” he says. “The service now covers over 1m people globally. In November, in partnership with the NHS, babylon launched GP at Hand – the UKs first digital GP service. And in Rwanda, we continue to work closely with government organisations to make babylon’s service available to all. Babylon’s proprietary artificially intelligent doctor can now triage and diagnose and a number of highly innovative new babylon features that will transform personal and population health monitoring will launch in 2018.”
Education – recognising technologies that are transforming both teaching and learning, in schools, universities or online.
Texthelp, our education winner for 2017, provides literacy support software for reading, writing and language learning in classrooms worldwide, helping students to overcome everyday reading and writing challenges.
So what did winning mean? Emily Paul from Texthelp says: “We always feel very humbled when we win an award, confirming that our software is making a difference to so many lives. But winning an Impact Award showcases Texthelp at the forefront of innovative technology – helping students feel understood, able to communicate better, and increase their academic achievement. Texthelp prides itself in playing a small part in DigitalAgenda’s mission to deliver positive change through technology.”
How the business itself grown through 2018? “Read&Write for Google Chrome has now reached 11m users worldwide,” reports Paul. “We expect that number to continue growing as more students and teachers adopt G Suite for Education and need learning tools to support them. In addition to our largest market – North America – we have expanded our reach into mainland Europe, with a particular focus on Spain.
“Due in part to Read&Write’s success,” she adds, “we have now made our foray into the world of STEM with the recent launch of our new digital maths product EquatIO.”
Employment & skills – technology that is changing ways into work, and work itself, as well as initiatives that increase people’s skills and access to talent.
Skills and the shortage of trained tech talent remains the number one challenge for the UK technology industry. Getting young people into tech jobs needs inspiration, and leadership. Founders4Schools, our 2017 winner, helps students aged 10 to 18 bridge the skills gap that bars them from entering work, connecting schools and students to an impressive network of digital business leaders.
Chief executive Joe McRoberts says: “We work tirelessly to increase the employability of young people across the UK – and it meant so much to us to be recognised by winning the Impact Award for employment & skills in 2017.”
How has the organisation grown in the past year? “In the past year we have increased the number of educators using our platform by over 400% and I’m pleased to say that the number of business leaders supporting our mission is growing exponentially,” says McRoberts. “To date we have facilitated 200,000 student-employer encounters, including with Workfinder, a new mobile service connecting young people with placements at great companies in just a few taps.”
Money – technologies that make it easier for people to save and spend, and that improve access to and the quality of financial services.
Money matters – and our 2017 Impact Awards put a strong emphasis on digital products that helped people manage their personal finances. Squirrel, our 2017 award winner, is a simple bank account controlled by an app that makes it easy to budget, save, and avoid running out of money. It empowers users to take control of their money by putting money away, so that it ends up being spent on what’s needed.
“Squirrel was honoured to receive the Impact Award for the money category during the inaugural awards ceremony,” says founder and chief executive Mutaz Qubbaj. “It’s amazing to see the recognition come through for what we have been able to achieve by way of empowering people to truly take control of their finances. As a company looking to build a presence with a massive vision to hand, we’re always on the lookout for catalysts to spread the word and bring more people into the fold.
So what’s happened since March? “Ever since winning the award, we’ve continued to grow our user base to close to 20,000 users across the UK and helped users achieve financial goals they never thought possible – from getting them out of their overdrafts, helping them clear their debts to saving up for their vacations and helping them get that deposit together to buy their first home.
“We continue to change peoples’ lives every day and we’re getting better at it – we’ve helped people save upwards of 10 times the national savings rate so far. And there’s a lot more to come in 2018,” says Qubbaj.
All video interviews by Shivvy Jervis. Films produced by Joe Madden at Paradigm Creative