The Australian tech accelerator Remarkable has a vision for a more inclusive world. They are helping entrepreneurs and makers in the disability tech space who want to make everything from outdoor off-roading to sexual pleasure available to all people. As a mission-driven company ourselves, we were thrilled to hear that mmhmm could play a role in helping Remarkable’s Demo Day and helping startups bring more accessibility to their live events and pitches. We spoke to George Miller, their Operations & Community Manager, about the role mmhmm is playing in helping founders and startups build a world that can be enjoyed by all.
Tell us about your mission.
Remarkable is a division of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance here in Australia. We look at accelerating disability tech startups. Through our accelerator program, design-athons and events , we’ve built a pretty big network of individuals who are seeking to solve problems in the disability space using technology.
How different is work life for you in Australia now?
What we are experiencing now is what those who live with disability have been experiencing and have been requesting for their whole lives. Companies would never let you work from home because they didn’t trust you, or they thought you would have to be in the same room. However, we’ve all been confronted with the reality where we have to work from home and what we’ve learnt is that as a result; companies haven't really fallen apart. Some have had to make redundancies but from the point of view of the employee that freedom and autonomy is huge. I believe this experience of working from home has allowed many people to experience the benefits of this format but also the barriers.
How did Remarkable find mmhmm?
Someone must have posted it on one of our Slack workspaces. I am obsessed with new platforms and new tech, and I was like, Oh my!, this is amazing! Where has this been my whole life? I jumped on it, and signed up to the beta testing.
The reason that it shone to me is that we're working from home, we’ve all been on Zoom calls, and they’re just not interactive. They’re the same thing, the same box. We essentially are putting ourselves in boxes, which is demeaning. You lack so much of the engagement and human touch.
But the really interesting thing for me is that we strive for accessible technology. Closed captions and, for us, Auslan interpretation (Australian sign language) is a huge part of all the content that we put out. Since we have been working from home, we have been sure to provide the option for closed captions on all of our video calls. But I really love the idea, and haven't actually done it yet, of using a Copilot to actually have an Auslan interpreter in picture. On a standard Zoom call, if we would like to have an Auslan interpreter, and you wanted to see both of us, you would either have to select a gallery or side by side view. So if you require this interpreter while on a video call because of these limitations you have to look at two separate screens (one for the speaker and one for the interpreter) therefore making it harder. To be able to use mmhmm to bring that picture-in-picture would change everything.
We didn’t use it [for our Demo Day]; just the timing didn’t work. But it's what I suggest to other accelerators. I say there's two options, really, when you're doing a demo day. You can either spend A$20,000 and more to do a high quality production, or you can spend a little bit less, and you can now use platforms like mmhmm to do a very high quality founder’s pitch. My suggestions are that you have mmhmm as a software, you've invest in a pop-up green screen for A$80, and you buy a half decent HD webcam. With that, it's costing you A$250 per startup...versus your $20,000 for your high end production. We're 100% going to be using that format as we go forward.
How are you planning to make things better during this time?
I guess if there is one Covid silver lining, it’s that it's made us think outside the box and rethink things that we've done for generations, the same things the same way. So we had to pivot pretty early on and, in hindsight, we probably got a few things wrong. The first one is that you can't just take something you do in the physical world and do it in the online space. You can't do that. It takes so much more planning—you have to think about people's emotions and you have to think about accessibility from a completely different angle. On the other side, you have to think that okay well now we're not doing this in person. Can we open our doors to people from all around the world?
I hope that with platforms like mmhmm and other new accessible and inclusive innovations within the online space, that when the world settles into a new normality, whatever that may look like, we'll continue to see and approach the world through a truly accessible and inclusive lens.
To read more on Remarkable, see George Miller’s blog post, “Reinventing the accelerator wheel.”
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.