True innovators leap into action when they spot an opportunity, and the COVID-19 quarantine has created many opportunities for enterprising and community-minded people to step up with great and effective ideas.
Entrepreneur and GROW Accelerator alum Ryan Kelly saw how some of London’s vulnerable and elderly population were at risk of losing valuable connections to their community, and responded by rapidly developing a solution that offered a much-needed lifeline.
“The first thing I thought of back in March was I wanted to build something that could help support people,” said Kelly. “I assembled a team, we built, and brought it to market.”
What Kelly and his team launched, after only three weeks of intensive development, was The Atrium Project. “We built a site that connects volunteers with people in the community who need groceries and supplies.”
Recipients and volunteers can quickly register, and sign up to either request a grocery delivery, or be notified when a requested order needs to be fulfilled in their neighbourhood.
Almost immediately, Kelly realized they’d overlooked a major obstacle, and sought out an a simpler solution that blended old technology and new. “Since we were targeting seniors, we found that the web site became a barrier, because a lot of seniors don’t have internet access or technological experience.”
Pivoting quickly, Kelly and his team revisited their options and settled on a tool that most of their targeted senior population would be comfortable using: the telephone.
“We build a phone platform that’s powered by machine learning,” Kelly said. “So, you can actually ‘chat’ with our AI and order groceries directly through it.”
Now, their recipients could much more easily call in to a special number, ask for a grocery delivery, and provide a list of items, all while speaking to a friendly AI-powered voice. Then the system’s backend sends the request out to the volunteer network.
“We rate everything based on proximity,” Kelly describes the process, ”and volunteers are automatically sent a text if they are within the radius.”
With a simplified user experience and a conscious choice to not introduce a payment system at the outset, Kelly was able to get to market faster, and start serving the community quicker.
When The Atrium Project launched in early April, it struck a chord with the community, and thanks to a combination of smart social networking and media attention, they were able to quickly scale up to 230 volunteers across the city, and over 30 recipients.
“We found that was a good ratio,” Kelly adds, “because when an order would come in, it would be filled relatively quickly.
The community took notice of The Atrium Project’s success, and the team soon found themselves named a finalist for the Innovation Award at this year’s Pillar Community Innovation Awards on November 19.
The next priority for Kelly is deciding how to package the underlying technology of The Atrium Project and bring it to market, while staying true to his entrepreneurial goals, and his personal ethic.
Whether you have an idea to change your neighbourhood, or change the world, our Venture Growth & Corporation Innovation team can help you figure out the right plan to move forward and make a positive impact.