In Founder Focus we introduce entrepreneurs and change-makers working on innovative startups, social enterprises and SME’s around Aotearoa New Zealand.

At a glance

Founder: Tim Young

Business: Smart Access

Founded: May 2020

HQ: Waikato

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

Smart Access app allows disabled people, young families, and older people to plan a safe journey by using a navigation system that accounts for aspects of the environment that affect a wide-range of people. Unlike past audits that have been limited and have not been easily accessible to the public, Smart Access collects data on 38 accessibility features of the built environment identified through extensive consultation with the disabled community, including kerb ramps, toilets, footpath gradients, street furniture, bus stops and more. We also collect data that is useful for non-disabled people including taxi stands, shade sails, playgrounds, cycle racks, and seating.

Users can choose to see only the accessibility features that affect their travel by toggling on and off environmental features and sub-folders, so they can effectively plan the best travel route that meets their specific needs. For example, some wheelchair users may want to only see Accessible Male Toilets or Accessible Parking for a side-entry vehicle, while some users with low-vision may want to know which bus stops have tactile paving near-by.

We make money by charging City Councils to walk the streets of their city, taking detailed measurements and photos of their infrastructure and assets, and then providing that data to the public. The navigation tool allows users to prioritise routes based on difficulty level for different ability levels, rather than distance or time.

What’s the backstory for your business idea?

After facing many obstacles and uncertainty when travelling around the world as a tetraplegic myself, I decided to use my experience as a researcher, app developer, and CEO to improve safety and usability of transport networks with an application that provides information about barriers in the environment. I decided to develop a tool to make it easier for disabled people to get around, and make it easier for Council staff to prioritise upgrades, by providing the data and navigation options disabled people need to feel safe.

Currently, it can be difficult for disabled people to access buildings and services within their community due to unknown barriers encountered on their journey. As a result, many disabled people and older people do not leave the house or get into the community as often as they would like due to the anxiety and uncertainty they face when travelling.

What programmes, learning or mentoring, or resources have been of assistance so far?

I joined an accelerator that was really useful to learn about venture capital and make connections, but it ultimately went bankrupt. The connections I made were invaluable, including my current Business Advisor. He has been great at helping us set and achieve goals, meet investors, and focus our efforts and the most important aspects of the business i.e. how to scale.


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