Peter Horsely is CEO of Remarkable, a unique startup accelerator that is creating a new-breed of high-impact founders and businesses.

What does your business do, and who are your customers? 

Remarkable (made possible by Cerebral Palsy Alliance) is Australia’s leading accelerator for startups creating technology to empower human potential and positively impact life for people with disability.

Our 16 week accelerator program equips early-stage startups with $75,000 of seed funding; expert coaches and mentors; access to user testers and the skills needed to become commercially successful businesses that have a positive social impact.

What’s your mission? 

Our mission is to connect a global ecosystem of partners who shape future technologies that lower barriers to disability inclusion. We do this by facilitating interactions and cooperation between users, innovators and entrepreneurs, capital and expertise.

What does it mean to you, to be a ‘social enterprise’? 

Every organisation has primary drivers – be they profit, shareholder value, market share, etc. A social enterprise has its primary drivers as social and/or environmental good.

Remarkable is an ecosystem support for social enterprise as they attempt to enter the market. We hold that tension of impact and commerciality and support them through knowledge, connections and coaching. 

Can you scale a mission? Are there challenges around growing your business, while also staying committed to your impact thesis? 

Scale is usually thought of quite one dimensionally – “Do the numbers go up and to the right?” But scale of impact needs to be both deep and wide. We’ve recently started to scale into the US and it is not without its challenges, but the key has been to find good people who are committed to the same mission and have the capability and experience needed. We’ve managed to find them and they make all the difference! 

The other dimension is whether you need to do it all. Are there alliances and partnerships that work towards the same impact thesis, but don’t require you to own it? Last year we launched the +N Inclusive Innovation Network and while it’s been a bit slow going so far – the 160 organisations who have asked to join have encouraged the 6 founding partners to scale the mission. 

How have you seen investor sentiment change over the past 5 years, when it comes to recognising the value (or cost) of being mission-led? 

There have been some interesting shifts in blended financing models, with examples like Small Giant’s BOLD investment with one of our portfolio companies – Xceptional. There has also been growing momentum in younger investors for social and environmental impact aligned business. A recent Morgan Stanley report showing that 95% of Millennials are interested in sustainable investing.

On the whole though, and this may be slightly controversial given this audience, with a higher volume of investors also joining the impact train, pure returns dominate their decision making and impact is merely a backdrop. Impact is assumed. Some use ‘finger in the air’ measures of intended impact. Obviously this is not all, but as a sector, we need to do better. 

We need more options around high risk investment for early stage social enterprise. We need more options around patient capital and we also have to recognize that many of these industries are still quite nascent and so volumes of investible enterprises just aren’t there yet. So we need investment into ecosystem builders. [gets off high horse]

Was there a business (either local or globally) that influenced the development of your organisation? 

Startup Accelerators are pretty commonplace now, but when we conceived of the idea in 2014, there weren’t many around at that time. The origins of Remarkable go back to a global competition that sparked the development of a solar powered wheelchair and an Australian first hackathon event called “Enabled by Design-athon” organised by Cerebral Palsy Alliance in 2014 in partnership with the University of Technology Sydney and FutureGov.

Telstra Foundation were in attendance at the design-athon and out of this came a partnership that started out as Life Labs and became known as Remarkable which launched in March 2016. Just as we were shaping Remarkable to launch, we managed to get connected to another disability focused accelerator in Israel, that had launched around 6 months before Remarkable. They sadly aren’t around anymore, but we had regular conversations about how to do what we were doing. Remarkable was also shaped by people like Ben Reid, Annie Parker and Mick Liubinskas at Telstra’s MuruD – who weren’t working in disability tech, but in related startup areas. 

We always say it takes a village to raise a startup, so we’re always thankful to the many, many mentors, founders and partners who continue to shape the development of Remarkable. 

What’s in store for your business in 2022? (eg. New products? Growth aspirations? New hires?) 

2022 has been a big year already – we have doubled the size of our team from 3 to 6 people, with two more hires to go; we are currently running our 7th cohort of startups in our #RA22 accelerator program; as part of that, we’re piloting Remarkable US; we have just received funding from TPG Foundation for a pre-accelerator program launching later this year and in the last part of the year we will launch a podcast on Technology and Disability called Remarkable Insights. 

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