A Remarkable achievement: icare funding supports team to gain $1 million from Google

Xceptional, a social venture that supports people with autism gain employment, has received a $1 million boost from tech giant Google.

A group of people cheering at the announcement of the funding from Google org for Xceptional.

Xceptional formed two years ago and has been fostered to grow through the icare foundation funded Remarkable Incubator. 

“Our aim in partnering with Remarkable was to ensure that businesses like Xceptional had a chance to not only grow and develop but thrive and become self-sustaining,” said icare foundation Interim General Manager, Barney Smith.

“All too often these socially focused start-ups begin as brilliant promises only to fold because they haven’t got the proper business strategies, customer focus and support needed to self-sustain and develop during the first crucial years,” he added.

Xceptional has a two-pronged approach to employment:

  1. It operates its own software testing service, employing people with autism to test software for bugs and security issues.
  2. The company runs a recruitment service which matches companies with recruits who demonstrate unique skills and strengths in areas such as data analytics and cyber security.

Companies who recruit from Xceptional are also taken through a training program where they learn how to get the best out of their new employees.

“People with autism often have enhanced skills in areas like pattern recognition, attention to detail and focus, which means they can make wonderful employees if given the chance.” said Xceptional Chief Growth Officer, Aron Mercer.

It's perhaps no small coincidence that this social business has attracted the interest of technology giants like Google.org, Microsoft and Apple.

“The roles we’re placing recruits in are usually some of the hardest roles to fill— like full-stack engineers, cyber security and data analysts. We’re tapping into a group of people that are often overlooked and underutilised and linking them to businesses,” said Mercer.

According to Mercer, people with autism are around 12 times more likely to be unemployed. But it’s not just unemployment that’s an issue, it’s also underutilised skills and education.

“This week I’ve met with two of our job candidates who have double degrees in mathematics and technology who are currently working as drivers. And at the same time there are businesses that can’t find people in their space,” Mercer said.

To combat this issue, Xceptional is developing a strengths-based employment assessment app tailored to get an in-depth understanding of the exact skills of the job candidate. This process bypasses the need for a traditional interview process where candidates are asked to explain their achievements.

“Generally speaking, people with autism can struggle articulating their skills through the verbal interview process—meaning they miss out on so many opportunities. Our app turns the interview process on its head and evens the playing field for people with autism,” Mercer said.

The app was ideated and developed in icare’s iLab space during a two-day product development workshop with Remarkable.

“Out of that workshop we developed a prototype for our app that assesses people with autism for jobs in a way that works for them,” Mercer said.

It was that prototype, as well as a promising business plan and pitch that turned the heads of the judging panel for the Google Impact Challenge (which included a former Premier, Chief Scientist and Global Head of Google.org).

Having secured the Google.org $1 million Impact Challenge funding, Xceptional are moving ahead with scaling their enterprise solution and support service to increase their impact and help secure more people work.

“The fact that we’ve got paying customers across multiple sectors demonstrates there’s strong market appetite for a service like ours,” Mercer said.

Xceptional are part of the third cohort to pass through Remarkable this year, along with seven other amazing start-ups all building technology to benefit the disability sector.

Looking to the future, Mercer said the company is considering further developing and expanding its services to help people with other conditions including anxiety and dyslexia to secure appropriate and fulfilling work.

“We are so proud to have helped this extraordinary company grow and develop through Remarkable,” said Barney Smith, Interim General Manager, icare foundation. 

Find out more about Xceptional.

Tagged in: