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This London Apartment Block Wants To Reduce Maternal Mortality In Ethiopia And Bring Electricity To Rural South East Asia

The entrepreneurs of the Collective Global Accelerator on the pict day.

Can an apartment block change the world for the better? This one is trying.

A group of 10 young entrepreneurs from across the globe are about to finish a monthlong residential social-impact accelerator organised by co-living company The Collective for early stage startups.

In what is going to become an annual event, The Collective selected 10 inaugural members from more than 3,500 applicants from 158 countries for its Collective Global Accelerator. The programme aims to provide participants with the skills, advice and contacts to help them scale their socially conscious enterprises.

Such accelerator programmes are fairly common in the startup world, but the residential element here is fairly unique — all of the participants stayed in The Collective’s debut scheme at Old Oak Common in North West London.

Food For All Africa's Elijah Amoo Addo

A recent pitch day, at which the participants got to outline their enterprises for venture capital investors and business angels, gave an insight into the breadth and ambition of what those involved are trying to achieve.

One startup is looking to increase levels of blood donation in West Africa through an online platform that utilises gasification techniques. Another aims to increase levels of practical education and business skills for the poorest people in Latin America through online learning programmes.

Others are looking to reduce levels of maternal and infant mortality in Ethiopia through an SMS service; provide solar energy for off-grid rural communities in South East Asia; and develop smartphone technology to help the deaf follow group conversations — a nightmare for even the most sophisticated lip reader.

The Biz Nation's Daniela Carvajalino

The programme has been organised by Andre Damian, a Dutch social entrepreneur and human rights activist, who will also oversee future iterations of the accelerator.

“This will be a success if we can create a global alumni network and give those involved the assistance and contacts to take their businesses forward,” he said.

Those involved said the residential aspect of the accelerator programme had given it a different slant to other similar schemes.

“It has a social component,” said Pieter Dovendans, the 27-year-old founder of Ava, the smartphone voice-to-text app company looking to assist lip readers.

“We’ve actually been to other accelerator programmes and they are all about work, work, work. This has that but it’s also about fun, and it feels like a family.”

“The residential element means that these great minds can be around each other and interact in [a] more relaxed way,” Damian said.