‘Tech for good’ is a catch all term that describes technology which seeks to improve social, environmental and economic outcomes. An innovation that promotes inclusion and freedom of choice; Neatebox is a prime example.
Gavin Neate is the founder of Neatebox , a start-up which creates smart tech solutions based on the challenges disabled people face everyday. Gavin’s entrepreneurial journey started in 2009, when he invented a pedestrian crossing system which enables disabled pedestrians to press the crossing button using their phone. In addition to being a useful aide for people who can’t reach the physical button, this touchless system now has even more applications following COVID-19.
Today, Neatebox’s award-winning solutions have been implemented in a number of leading high street brands to support the accessibility of customer services. And with disabled households representing £274bn in spending power, it is a sound investment for ethically-led businesses that want to make their services accessible for all.
Why is making inclusive technology important to you?
In 1996 I joined Guide Dogs for the Blind and trained as a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. My passion revolved around the provision of canine guides and companions for blind and visually impaired people but by 2003 I began to notice how technology was beginning to influence the lives of my clients. It was slow to start with but gradually more and more people were turning up to train with their new dogs and were talking about and showing other members of the class their latest gadget or application.
I could see that technology was the future and started to really connect with it through the experiences of my clients. It was a hobby project initially but by 2011 I had invented the world’s first pedestrian crossing operated by smartphones. From here I realised that technology solutions, if designed with the end-user in mind, could dramatically change the world and improve the independence and choice available for all disabled people. This has not changed and the potential seems to grow larger and more exciting every day. I love being a part of it.
Has the pandemic made life more difficult for disabled people? If so, how does Neatebox support them?
The simple answer is yes but it has also given society the kick it needed to look at how innovative practices and solutions can help us come out of the other side of this dreadful period a much better more prepared society. The truth is though that this can only happen if we engage with real solutions. Identify them, support them, and promote them.
WelcoMe is our customer service application. It lets a customer service team know you are going to be walking through the door shortly and gives them the information they need in order to provide a better, less discriminatory service. It helps the service team feel more confident and promotes foundational quality relationships which we hope both parties embrace. So, yes the world is a more challenging place but it has also thrown up the most amazing opportunities for societal improvement. Now, all we need to do is get the message out there.
As a founder, how important is building the right team been to your success?
It can’t be understated. I actually love this question. In 1996 one of the team at Guide Dogs gave me the nickname Buzz after Buzz Lightyear. As we all know Buzz is the sort of chap who will run into a burning building to save a hamster or jump out a window to save Woody. The truth is though that on his own Buzz is much less effective. Yes, he can lead but his planning leaves a lot to be desired.
Now, Woody, he’s your planner. Put Buzz and Woody together you have the start of a team. Add Slinky and Jessie and Bullseye and Rex and Mr. Potato Head and you’ve really got a team. You’ve got an AMAZING team. Neatebox is a little like the Toy Story Gang. I’m definitely Buzz and my amazing COO is Woody with Caro, my Operations, director more like Jessie. Our team is growing and increasingly we add specialists who will add to the amazing company we are building.
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