Five Australian innovators share US$200k Optus future makers grant

Future Makers is an annual program launched by Optus to foster innovative tech solutions which address social challenges for disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

Five digital innovators impressed the esteemed judging panel to score a share of the $200,000 grant pool. Maslow Co-founder Nitin Ferdandez scored top grant of $75,000 grant as well as winning an additional $10,000 People’s Choice Award.

Five digital and social innovators from across the country have walked away with their share of $200,000 to make their idea a reality after successfully pitching to an expert panel as part of the 2020 Optus Future Makers.

After submitting their technology innovations in late 2019, Nitin Fernande, Narelle Priestley, Frances Atkins, Bronwyn Covill and Clive Vaz were shortlisted finalists for the 2020 Future Makers capacity building and accelerator program. 

In its fourth year, the five finalists were mentored over six months, with experts from across Optus helping them to hone their idea and develop the pitch that would go on to secure funding from Optus Future Makers 2020.

Comments on Optus future makers grant

Each finalist pitched to a panel of judges from Optus, that included Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, CEO, Richard Webby, MD Digital, Kate Aitken, VP HR, Andrew Buay, VP Group Sustainability and Helen Maisano, Director Optus Group Sustainability.

Clive Dickens, VP TV, Content and Product Development was also involved from the beginning in selecting the start-ups and presenting during the program.

After an intense pitching process, the five Future Makers each walked away with their share from a grant pool of $200,000 to start to bringing their bold, innovative solutions to life.

Nitin Fernandez, Co-founder of the care and rehabilitation innovation Maslow scored the top grant of $75,000 and the $10,000 People’s Choice Award which will go towards delivering a voice-enabled rehabilitation assistant for young people living with paralysis.

Helen Maisano, Optus’ Director for Group Sustainability said, “We are incredibly proud of our Optus Future Makers program and our alumni of purpose- driven innovators.”

Now in its 4th year, it enables opportunities to support innovation and purpose-driven social entrepreneurs to ensure they can make a positive social impact with the use of technology.

“Accessing technologies and bridging digital divides is core to driving what we do; improving the lives of those across the country, especially those disadvantaged and vulnerable.”

“We look forward to experiencing the future innovations as part of this program, as its incredible to not only have the chance to mentor but take key learnings from these outstanding talents.”

Clive Dickens, Optus’ Vice President of Television, Content and Product Development said, “Yet again, the Optus Future Makers event has left the panel truly inspired by the range of meaningful and purpose-driven innovations across our country.”

“Collaboration between established organisations and start-ups is critical to harnessing technology innovation in Australia. Speaking on behalf of the entire team on the panel, it has been a privilege to be a part of this program and drive technology innovation for social good.”

Future Makers Panel

  • Kelly Bayer Rosmarin
  • Richard Webby
  • Kate Aitken
  • Andrew Buay
  • Helen Maisano
  • Clive Dickens

2020 Future Makers Funding Recipients 

AIBLE – Narelle Priestley (VIC)

AIBLE is a job search app that uses artificial intelligence to match abilities, personality types, experience, skills and certifications with job requirements.

Their profile questions are designed to improve workplace diversity and inclusion-they believe there are jobs for everyone. AIBLE is designed as a safe environment with support to include people on the margins of society in the recruitment process.

givvable – Frances Atkins (NSW)

givvable is a data-driven technology platform that helps companies find, source and track the impact of sustainable and social spending. It does this by mapping the impact credentials of suppliers to reporting frameworks use by listed companies and large organisations, such as UN SDGs and ESG indicators. givvable helps MSME suppliers grow and scale by increasing their visibility among corporate buyers looking to make impact driven purchasing decisions.

Maslow – Nitin Fernandez (NSW)

Maslow is a voice-enabled rehabilitation assistant for young people living with paralysis. Maslow’s inclusive design equips users with tools to independently structure their personal and rehabilitation schedule, measure their rehabilitation habits, and access guided health education to better understand and manage their condition.

Need A Tutor – Bronwyn Covill (VIC)

Need a Tutor was established in 2017 to address the problem of how people living in rural and geographically isolated areas don’t receive the same educational support as those in the city.

Through their innovative model they match students with their network of qualified educators, teachers or tutors. They then deliver personalised, live one-to-one lessons hosted via a custom-built secure online platform. This enables educational access from remote communities.

PeepsRide – Clive Vaz (NSW)

PeepsRide aims to enable care organisations with providing an on-demand transport service to help the elderly and those with disabilities to get outdoors more often.

Currently this demographic of people either have long wait times or don’t have any avenues to get subsidised and reliable door-to-door transport.

By filling this gap in the market and utilising the spare capacity within the existing fleet of vehicles and drivers, PeepsRide aims to help organisations with providing a better customer experience and with generating an additional source of revenue.

About Optus Future Makers

Now in its fourth year, the Optus Future Makers program supports social entrepreneurs to develop innovative tech solutions who are looking to make a positive difference in their community through the power of technology.


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