We’re going to continue working with the Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance because they’ve got a lot of networks and they really supported us in winning that bid for that grant. We’ll keep working with the Curtin Specialist Mentoring Program that was set up by Doctor Theresa Kidd and Doctor Jasmine McDonald too. They’ve actually got a social group of people who are neurodivergent who are still studying. It would be really great to connect there to look at how we can get some of those people involved in what we’re doing. We are also looking forward to welcoming back our alumni as mentors to future participants. If you would like to find out more about what ProFound has accomplished so far, you can view their Impact Report here, or visit profoundincubator.com.au
Helen: What were some of the strengths and weaknesses of the program? Stuart: We’ve worked really hard to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the program. The strengths are rewarding to see; ProFound created a fantastic opportunity for the participants to learn so much about all aspects of app development and have fun while they’re at it. Having the opportunity to find work, or the confidence to go out and study has also proven to be a huge success of the program and a win for our participants. So, that’s been fantastic. When we looked at the weaknesses, we came up against the problem that this sort of program is very difficult to sustain year after year. We have always needed to consider how to raise the money needed to keep going. Previously this has been mainly through sponsorships and grants. But we’ve continued to explore one direction we think is quite good. That’s by creating an offshoot agency which will connect with companies and corporations. This is now becoming a reality and we will be employing our neurodiverse participants to staff the agency. Johnny: By creating an agency, we are able to employ people who are neurodivergent and give them the opportunity to work. In that space as well, if they are working on their own startup outside of that employment, we can provide that kind of ongoing support because of our connections with other founders and educators and hope that will stay in kind of the incubator model which we’ll build to be, again, more succinct. I think now that we’ve established it, we can kind of connect with other founders and other startups to contribute back to the program. Stuart: We are looking at taking on the next cohort in Feb 2021. We may run it slightly differently, for example once a week for a longer period of time. It really depends on the participants themselves. Johnny: Along with setting up the ProFound agency, we also want to broaden the scope for participants of the incubator. One of our learnings was around the fact that we had participants who were just specifically focused on coding. Now we’re opening the door to all people who are neurodivergent, who are working on some kind of digital startup whether you’re a coder or not. That allows us just to capture more people and build a wider staff for the agency.
Helen: Talk us through the ProFound Incubator program itself. Johnny: The program is quite unique - it’s the first of its kind in Australia. While there are some great programs out there in the corporate world that cater towards people with autism or who have other kinds of neurodivergencies, they don’t necessarily look at what the individuals actually want to do outside of just software development. ProFound is different in that it breaks down that box by finding ways we could work with those corporate partners, startups, founders and educators to create a more holistic program. Unlike other incubator programs, we don’t have a defined outcome for our participants. ProFound is about learning about what each participant is interested in and supporting them along that journey. Whilst being immersed inside an ecosystem, our participants have also taken their own, individual journey - whether that’s the path to being a founder, wanting to work for a startup or continuing in another area of software development besides testing. Some of our cohort have progressed existing projects, others have found the confidence to go on to study or into the workforce. It’s an incubator program that is focused on the experience of each participant. We didn’t want to overwhelm or place too many heavy expectations on them. It’s really about meeting them where they’re at and tailoring the program to that.
Here’s a snippet of the projects recently showcased in ProFound’s demo day. THE PROJECTS MY VISUAL BRIEF My Visual Brief helps web & graphic designers and teams to set the right direction for a design project by creating a design brief quickly and visually. When ProFound first started supporting this venture, the participant already had a strong user base of about 5 or 6,000 users. She’s since almost doubled that. During the program, she was also accepted to an accelerator program with Spacecubed which was a great success story. ALETHEIA A multiplayer simulation world, pushing the boundaries of AI. Throughout the program, ProFound was able to connect the participant developing Aletheia to the right people who work in the specific app development and software area gaming exists in. RUN180 An app created to help you run further, faster and better. Our client was amazed about the idea behind ProFound and wanted to jump on board. Consequently, we’ve developed their app for iPhone and android too. GROCER Grocer connects food-selling businesses to their local community, allowing users to buy end of day goods at a reduced price. The app prevents good food going to waste whilst supporting local businesses and reducing your environmental impact. FAMILIA Familia, as in the Latin word for family is an app helping you to record your family tree on video, creating memories for future generations.
Stuart Kidd and Johnny Doan, Founders of ProFound Incubator
HELEN EVANS Marketing and Communications Coordinator