Vimla Appadoo is Service Designer and Community Manager at FutureEverything, and Programme Director at Dotforge. She’s also one of Tech North’s Northern Voices.
In March, I was lucky enough to go to Atlanta, Georgia, USA as part of the Department for International Trade’s, Northern Powerhouse Female Founders trade mission.
The trip was put together to see how UK businesses could export their products or services to Atlanta. What made this trip different was its focus on startups in the North of England. And, more importantly, its focus on female founders and female led businesses.
It was great to spend a week surrounded by some truly inspirational and accomplished female founders. The trip also let me put into practice some of the great training and advice that I’ve received from Northern Voices. That’s another incredible support network for Northern women that I’m part of.
What was I doing out there, I hear you scream from the rafters?
I was in Atlanta to understand more about the tech-for-good community and social entrepreneurship. Dotforge is currently looking for collaborations and partnerships with social tech investors and people interested in profitable businesses with a mission. Moreover, following the groundwork we’ve been doing internationally in Pakistan and Canada to build relationships, the opportunity to jump into the market across the pond was something we couldn’t turn down.
The growth of tech-for-good
Social entrepreneurship is becoming a more widely recognised concept, both in the UK and even more so in the USA.
What I found interesting was the focus on for-profit-and-purpose startups, not just technology, but any startup that was trying to change their communities on small and large scales with sustainable business models. It’s a conversation that is becoming more commonplace in the UK. It’s also a concept particularly close to my heart, from the tech-for-good focus of Dotforge through to co-organising Manchester Social Entrepreneurs.
There’s a trend in the UK to support more for-profit-and-purpose ventures. There’s still a way to go in terms of impact investment though, but we’re getting there. Both Dotforge and Bethnal Green Ventures were mentioned in the recent Department for Culture, Sports and Media report as accelerators of the first of their kind in the world, spearheading the tech-for-good scene through profiling for profit and purpose technology startups.
So, it was great to meet so many likeminded people supporting all different kinds of social entrepreneurship in states. The Center of Civic Innovation was remarkable in its methodology and support for social entrepreneurship. The centre empowers people to set up businesses to solve problems they see in the communities that they live in. It’s not technology focussed, but hones in on sectors that affect the everyday lives of people in Atlanta.
Another highlight of mine was meeting the inspiration Joey Womack, the Founder of Amplify4Good. Similarly to Dotforge, Amplify4Good is a tech-for-good accelerator. It supports early stage tech startups to develop innovative businesses and business models that have long lasting impact nationally and internationally.
With such clear overlap, it was great to have continuously engaging conversations. They have helped to create some interesting ways that Dotforge might be able to support international entrepreneurs.
On top of all of that fun jazz, it was great to hear that Atlanta is in the process of building infrastructure to support internet of things technology to become a more integrated smart city. With my CityVerve hat on, it was great to hear about the roadmaps in place to get Atlanta on the map of smart cities and to see the similarities between Atlanta and Manchester.