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Twelve months on and the RSA and Dotforge Impact partnership is going strong. Here’s what we’ve been up to over the past year, and moreover, here’s what Dotforge will be doing in the years to come.

What is Dotforge Impact?

Dotforge Impact is a “Tech For Good” accelerator. We take tech startups, businesses who are just finding their feet, and help grow their ideas into fully fledged companies. After a competitive selection process, startups join the programme and are injected with pre-seed funding to help their businesses get off the ground. This is coupled with mentoring from a range of experts, including Fellows of the RSA, workshops and a structured programme to lead early stage businesses down a path to success. 

What makes us different from other tech accelerators?

Dotforge Impact specialises in social enterprises. These aren’t charities or CIC’s, these are businesses that are commercially driven BUT have a social mission at their core. The businesses we support are solving real-life, challenging and impactful problems to change the communities that they live, work and play in. For example, Limitless Travel has launched in London to help travellers with accessibility needs to be more informed, travel safely and most importantly, have the time of their lives. 

We take our Tech For Good startups on an initial 13-week journey. They go through workshops and mentoring to make sure they know business fundamentals such as business model canvassing, through to financial forecasting, as well as how to be investor ready and, of course, how they should be measuring their social impact.

The Dotforge team helps startups take a 360 view of their business, looking at how they can scale on a national and international basis, and how they can become sustainable - ensuring that they have a meaningful impact on society at large.

Impact across the North

Dotforge was born in Sheffield and grew into Dotforge Impact in the city of steel - a great place to make connections, access a growing market and most importantly, build a social impact business. We launched our first pilot impact accelerator early in 2015 in Sheffield, supported by the Cabinet Office, Key Fund and the RSA and took 11 teams from idea to business. We aren’t sector specific, but we look at all industries and all social problems. As such, we had businesses solving problems in education, through to helping remote villages have access to power supplies.

Dotforge took all the lessons learnt from the Sheffield programme and headed over the Pennines to Manchester later that year. With a growing social entrepreneur network, a buzzing tech community and a history of creating social change, Manchester fit like a glove as Dotforge Impact’s new home. In our home away from home, 13 teams started their startup adventure, addressing homelessness, the tech skills gap and mental health.

The Dotforge teams from 2015 were ready to change the world.

We supported Mobile Power, who are helping remote villages in Africa have access to affordable power supplies for mobile phones, whilst also supporting local trade in The Gambia . We were also home to Kuorum, an integrated platform that helps politicians connect with constituents in a more effective and efficient manner, through to Litmus, an Irish startup that uses Artificial Intelligence as a personal mentor to help children improve their Maths skills.

Outcomes

After each 3-month, gruelling (some might say) accelerator process of ups and downs, hurdles and sprints of setting up business, teams learnt what it meant to be a Tech For Good startup, how to build a customer base and how to do social good.

In 2015, we had a grand total of 24 teams graduate from the Dotforge Impact programme.

The majority of those teams are now raising follow-on funding to help push their businesses to the next level. PiP Payments, an online payment system to help retailers and consumers make online payments with cash, has recently begun to expand their business and look at international markets, whilst Street Support has closed their first round of funding, enabling them to deliver a multi-functional app to help address homelessness in Manchester.

We also had three of our startups take part in the Tech North Northern Stars pitch competition in Manchester. OPolen, Deliverd and Donate Technologies all took to the stage to deliver a three-minute pitch about their businesses and the social problems that they're resolving. OPolen uses social media technology to help corporates and users raise money for charity; Deliverd uses local kitchens to provide healthy and nutritious lunch and dinners for office workers; Donate Technologies help charities manage their assets whilst enabling donors to contribute meaningful and impactful gifts or sponsors and were the first app to fully integrate Just Giving.

You can see an overview of all of the Dotforge Impact teams here.

What next?

Dotforge has recently launched its Health + Data accelerator in Leeds. Teams on the programme are building data-driven solutions to some of the health sector's most challenging problems. In collaboration with EMIS Health, Mercia Fund Management, Yorkshire and Humber AHSN and Creative England, Dotforge Health + Data offers data-driven health tech startups funding, mentoring and routes to market in a structured, 13-week programme.

Moreover Dotforge Impact is still going strong. With the success of the two pilot programmes last year, 2016 sees Dotforge Impact looking at a national and international stage. With a further focus on Tech For Good and the sub-sectors that sit underneath it, for example, Agriculture Tech, Clean Tech and Supply Chain Logistics, Dotforge Impact will be supporting international entrepreneurs to help solve social challenges on a global scale.

We’re looking to expand into Nottingham and Cambridge, whilst maintaining a presence in Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds that embeds Dotforge Impact as part of the Northern Powerhouse and helps to draw attention to the booming entrepreneur tech startup communities across the North of England.

Find out more

If you’re interested in finding out more about Dotforge Impact and how you can get involved, please join us at our RSA meetup: in partnership event in Sheffield on Monday 9th May!

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about the RSA's partnership with Dotforge Impact, please contact Rachel Barker: rachel.barker@rsa.org.uk

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