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Innovations that make a difference

Vodafone Techstarter offers UK-based social tech ventures and charities the chance to secure funding and gain access to expertise to help take transformational ideas from start-up to scale-up.

We’re launching the award with a prize fund of £300,000 and the potential for winners to receive guidance from our expert teams and partners. This could be around key technologies such as Internet of Things, 5G, digital services and infrastructure or in areas such as commercial development.

Application and selection process


Five tips for creating your pitch video

1.    Tell us in one sentence what your venture does and why and what makes your tech innovation unique.
2.    Tell us why it's socially transformational and what positive impact it will have on people's lives.
3.    Show us your passion and why you do what you do.
4.    Show us your team and introduce the people who make it happen.
5.    Tell us what the award would mean to your venture and what it would enable you to do.

Meet the Award Judges


What is Vodafone Techstarter?

The Vodafone Techstarter Social Innovation Award is a new partnership between Vodafone and Social Tech Trust to support the UK’s efforts to create the best environment for developing and scaling new innovations that help people, drive prosperity and well-being for communities and protect our environment. Innovations that will contribute positively to the world in which we live. 
The new Award will contribute to the need for industry support to help take commercial and not-for-profit minimum viable products to market readiness and scale. It will identify and support some of the most innovative ventures realising social opportunities across health and well-being, education, environment, social mobility and inequality.  

What is the award?

Vodafone Techstarter has a total prize fund of £300,000 to recognise and support new technology innovations by both social businesses and charities.
There will be ten awards awarded:
Category 1: Not-for-profit awards – supported by the Vodafone Foundation 
• Four winners will receive a £35,000 award in cash each
• This category is only open to charities, social businesses, social enterprises, and community interest companies (CICs) which have a social mission defined in the governing documents
• Each Award will be comprised of £35,000 in cash, and a full 12-month programme of support and value-in-kind
Category 2: For-profit awards – supported by Vodafone UK
• Four winners will receive a £35,000 award in cash each
• This category is only open to commercial businesses, enterprises and for-profit start-ups which have a social mission defined in the governing documents
• Each Award will be comprised of £35,000 in cash, and a full 12-month programme of support and value-in-kind
Vodafone Champions award 
• Two winners will receive an award of £10,000 cash each
• Winners will be chosen by popular vote amongst Vodafone employees across UK
• One winner will be a not-for-profit organisation, and the other will be a for-profit company
• Vodafone Champions Award winners can also be winners in Categories 1 or 2
Support and value-in-kind:
• In addition to cash to support great ideas and innovation, Vodafone is uniquely placed to support the development and roll-out of new technologies
• We will provide the winning Vodafone Techstarters with a customised 12-month programme of “money-can’t-buy” support, shaped to match the winner’s needs – and will include: in-depth mentorship and access to expert consultation across a range of technical, legal and supply-chain areas; marketing and communications support; investment advice & support; access to commercial partnerships; and full access to the support and network of our partners at Social Tech Trust.

Why has Vodafone launched Vodafone Techstarter?

Vodafone would like to contribute financial and expert resource to help UK innovators and entrepreneurs take transformational social innovations from prototype to market readiness. We believe this is an area where industry can provide huge value. We also want to help support the scaling of social tech innovation – which is a particular challenge for any start-up, and especially challenging in the not-for-profit and social innovation space.
Vodafone UK supports a wide range of community investment programmes, from teaching digital resilience in schools to using our technology to help support survivors of domestic abuse. We also work with companies to help them develop innovative products and services driven by social purpose The Award presents a new way to harness innovative technology for social good and utilise our fantastic technology and network capabilities.

Who should enter?

We welcome applications from organisations including social businesses, charities, social enterprises and CICs that are helping tackle social challenges through technology, connectivity and innovation. The winners will be set up as either for-profit or not-for-profit organisations, but don’t worry, we’ll make sure your application is considered for the category your organisation is eligible for. Although organisations must be based in the United Kingdom, projects may operate and help people outside of the United Kingdom.

How do I know if my organisation is eligible?

We’ll consider your application if your venture has:
• A social mission written into your organisation’s governance or be willing to do so during the funding period
• Potential to deliver social impact at scale
• An innovative approach to tackling a social challenge
• A working product or service that you will continue to test and iterate
• Evidence of your potential to create social as well as user and financial value
• The right team with relevant experience and expertise 
• Registration as a UK-based organisation
Please note that Vodafone Foundation awards may only be won by not-for-profit organisations

If my team and I are currently university graduate students, but will be graduating soon, may we still apply?

Yes, you may apply. 

What is meant by early-stage development?

The venture must have a working product or service that they are able to test with users during the award period. The technology should have the potential for large-scale impact. Teams should have a business plan or a basic framework for financial sustainability and roll-out.

What can the funding be used for?

Funding awarded to winners may be used for venture-related expenses only as detailed in the submitted project budget, not for the personal use of individuals.

May I apply to other sources of funding for the project?

Yes, you may apply to other sources of funding. Please list on the budget template other funding for the proposal that has been committed or is pending.

What is the process for submitting an application?

Submit your application via the Social Tech Trust website here: https://myaccount.socialtechtrust.org/vodafonetechstarters/login
You can check the status of your application at any time by logging into your My Account area on the website.
All application forms received are acknowledged by an automated email.  We aim to respond by email to Stage 1 applications around two weeks after the deadline date. If your Stage 1 application is accepted, we will invite you to submit a detailed and costed Stage 2 application.
You will be notified of the outcome of your Stage 2 application via email.
We’re unable to provide detailed feedback on each application at Stage 1, however, at Stage 2 you will receive an email indicating the key factors in determining the outcome of your application.
If you have any queries about the progress of your application, contact Social Tech Trust on 01865 334000 or email: hello@socialtechtrust.org.

Can I submit more than one application?

Yes, but it must be for a completely different project. 

What will I need to provide?

Stage 1:
A 90-second video. 
Stage 2:
If you are successful at Stage 1, you’ll become one of our 50 Vodafone Techstarters, and you’ll be invited to submit a Stage 2 application including:
• Your project plan
• Your budget
• A completed Social Business Canvas
Templates for these documents are provided in the Stage 2 application.

Why do we need to submit a pitch video?

The 90-second video is a chance for your team to “pitch” your innovation, and for us to get to know your team, so please make sure your team appears in it (as opposed to an animation, for example). The video doesn’t need to be professional quality (a phone video is fine) – it’s the quality of the pitch that matters. Please send us your video via a YouTube or Vimeo link and ensure that it is not private, or if it is, that you include your password.

What is the deadline to apply?

The deadline for applications is 12 noon 23 October 2018. Please start your applications early so that if you experience any difficulties submitting your application, they can be addressed with sufficient time.

Who should I list as the primary contact?

You should list the person who we should send all information to regarding your project application. 

What type of files can I upload in the application?

You don’t need to upload anything in the initial application, other than including a link to your 90-second pitch video. Documents and files can be uploaded in your Stage 2 application.

What happens to the intellectual property of my project once it is submitted? 

Your intellectual property will remain your own. Our intent is to support projects that are focused on delivering social impact through the application of technology across the areas of health and well-being, education, environment, social mobility and inequality, and not to find or copy intellectual property for the corporation.

Who should I contact if I have questions about my application?

Contact Social Tech Trust by calling 01865 334000 (standard call charges apply) or by email at hello@socialtechtrust.org.

What happens to my application once it has been submitted?

All submitted applications will be reviewed by Vodafone and our partners at Social Tech Trust. If you are successful at Stage 1, you’ll be invited to submit a Stage 2 application with a project plan and budget. 
Approximately 50 shortlisted teams will be reviewed, and 12 teams will be selected as finalists. The finalists will be notified by email in December, using the email address supplied as part of the application process. 

What’s in it for the shortlisted teams?

The shortlisted teams will be profiled via the Vodafone Techstarter website and on social media. They’ll also be invited to attend the awards ceremony in February 2019, with the opportunity to network with leading investors, policymakers, entrepreneurs and technologists.

How many finalist teams will present to the judging panel? How many winners will be selected?

12 finalists will be put forward to the judging panel. The eight winning teams will be announced at an awards ceremony in February 2019.
Two of the finalists will receive the ‘Vodafone Champions’ award voted for by Vodafone employees all over the UK.
See the About the award section above.

If my venture is not selected as a finalist, will you provide feedback?

We’re unable to provide detailed feedback on each application at Stage 1, however, at Stage 2 you will receive an email indicating the key factors in determining the outcome of your application.

What will you use to make your final decision?

The judging panel will review your pitch video and the information you provide in your application.

How will the final pitch be judged?

Judges will score each venture against the award criteria.

Who will pick the winners?

The judges have been selected to represent a diverse set of industries across the public, private and social sectors who have experience in developing or supporting innovation.

When and where will the winners be announced?

The winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony held in London on 7th February 2019, where winning teams will have the opportunity to pitch to a room of influential investors, policymakers, entrepreneurs and technologists.

How will the prize award be distributed?

Winners will be required to submit quarterly monitoring reports and attend review meetings with their social investment manager at Social Tech Trust on a quarterly basis. This ensures the winners have the support they need to reach their milestones and social investment managers have oversight of how the award funds are being used. The award is made in phased payments which are released after quarterly monitoring reports are approved. The final 10% of the award is released after the evaluation report is approved.
Vodafone Champions award winners will receive their award in one payment made after the winners are announced in February.

About Vodafone Limited and Vodafone for Business

Vodafone Limited is part of Vodafone Group Plc, one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies. Vodafone Group Plc has mobile operations in 25 countries, partners with mobile networks in 45 more, and fixed broadband operations in 18 markets. As of 31 March 2018, Vodafone Group had 535.8 million mobile customers and 19.7 million fixed broadband customers, including India and all of the customers in Vodafone’s joint ventures and associates. 
Vodafone Limited partners with businesses of all sizes – from start-ups and small businesses to the largest corporates and the public sector. We have worked with UK businesses for over 30 years, starting out as a mobile provider and becoming one of the UK’s leading total communications partners. We provide a range of voice, data and connectivity services and technologies and were the first service provider to offer a truly converged service for fixed and mobile.

Who is Social Tech Trust?

Social Tech Trust’s vision is a world where social transformation is the driving force behind tech. We're a leading tech-focused charity and over the last decade we’ve invested over £30m and supported more than 750 socially motivated tech ventures in the UK.  

About The Vodafone Foundation

The Vodafone Foundation invests in the communities in which Vodafone Group Plc operates and is at the centre of a network of global and local social investment programmes. The Vodafone Foundation is a UK-registered charity (1089625). Connecting for Good is The Vodafone Foundation’s commitment to combine Vodafone's charitable giving and connectivity to drive change. Globally, The Vodafone Foundation supports projects that are focused on delivering public benefit through the use of communications technology across areas including health, education and disaster relief.  In the UK, The Vodafone Foundation supports projects like DreamLab, Digital Parenting magazine, TecSOS and the Bright Sky app
For more information, see www.vodafone.com/content/foundation.html or our Twitter, @VodafoneFDN

What is The Vodafone Foundation’s relationship with Vodafone Limited?

The Vodafone Foundation receives annual contributions from Vodafone Group Plc and Vodafone Limited. The Vodafone Foundation maintains an “independent but linked” relationship with Vodafone Group Plc, drawing on the technology and expertise within Vodafone, in order to maximize its charitable impact.  The Vodafone Foundation’s independence is key to its ability to work globally with a wide range of partners to meet its charitable objectives.

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