One often ignored strength of the North is ‘tech-for-good.’ Across the region, entrepreneurs here seem more willing than most to think of people over profit.
Reason Digital is a great example of this socially-minded approach to technology. The Manchester-based agency focuses on projects that make the world a better place. A social enterprise, it ploughs its profits back into making a greater impact. It’s an approach that’s working. The company is at number 38 in our Northern Tech 100 league table of the North’s fastest-growing companies.
Take Gone for Good, a mobile app that is essentially ‘Uber for charitable giving,’ for example. You take photos of items you want to give away, select a charity shop to donate to, then that charity comes and collects the items from you. Bam – it’s gone. For good (in both senses of the phrase).
Safety Nets is another strong example of Reason Digital’s work. This app is designed to help sex workers share information and stay safe on city streets. The company recently learned that Safety Nets saved the life of a hearing-impaired sex worker.
Reason’s client work includes building websites and apps for charities. It generated websites for each of the Trussell Trust‘s food banks, for example. It also helps corporations with their corporate social responsibility programmes and has developed software to help them keep track of whether they’re living up to their targets.
While the company has an international client base, Reason Digital has helped to build a tech-for-good community at home in Manchester by holding regular events. It also records a regular podcast in which team members discuss socially-minded technology in a light, accessible way.
The company began as a plain vanilla web design agency almost a decade ago. Founders Matt Haworth (pictured above) and Ed Cox felt unfulfilled building products for businesses so decided to target the charity sector.
In a world where we usually talk about investment and profit as the key drivers of business progress, Reason Digital shows you can do well if you focus on social progress instead. With £1 million of work in its pipeline, the company is successful, but Matt Howarth says that scaling a tech-for-good business can be hard. “The traditional startup model doesn’t work, and it can be hard to engage VCs.”
As a result, the company is exploring other methods of growth. For example, it raised private investment for Gone for Good. It secured Comic Relief funding for a peer-to-peer support app that will help those recovering from addiction get support from someone who has been through a similar experience. Meanwhile, it is working on creating a joint venture with a group of charities to help them efficiently support more people at scale.
Reason Digital has been doing tech-for-good for nine years, long before the term became trendy. Now, with international growth in Australia and beyond on the cards, the company looks set to remain a leader in the space.