May 16, 2023

UCeed-supported local business innovates for inclusivity

UCalgary celebrates purpose-driven leaders during Canadian Innovation Week May 15 – 19
Diverse group of people gathered around the entrance of a building. One person pushes a friend in a wheelchair down a ramp.
Getty Images

A local company focused on making businesses more inclusive and accessible is among the many startups, small businesses, purpose-driven leaders and innovators being celebrated at the University of Calgary and across the country during Canadian Innovation Week May 15 to 19. 

Making spaces more inclusive 

Included by Design, founded by Sean Crump in 2021, centres on the accessibility of physical spaces, consulting with businesses and offering feedback to ensure the environment is inclusive to everyone. The company has created innovative technology to help businesses track and improve their accessibility standards. Those standards include automatic doors, entry ramps, and dictation or screen-reading software. It has also created Krooshl, a digital map to help the public identify accessible and inclusive venues in Calgary. 

Sean Crump

Photo courtesy Sean Crump

“For me, it was about what actions can I take to change not only the quality of life one can have living with a disability, but the predispositions people have when looking at and thinking about individuals that live with a disability,” says Crump, who now lives his life as a quadriplegic after breaking his neck in 2004.

Crump has become a lifelong advocate for inclusion, and was named one of Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2022

Crump is far from alone: according to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability conducted by Statistics Canada, an estimated one in five Canadians (or 6.2 million) aged 15 years and over had one or more disabilities that limited them in their daily activities.  

Sparking change in our communities 

At UCalgary, the spirit of innovation is alive year-round as the university continues to support local entrepreneurs, including Crump, through the UCeed Social Impact Fund

The fund is designed to invest in initiatives that create transformational change to address human and social problems. It seeks out innovators who are thinking creatively and resourcefully to address pressing issues.

For Crump, UCeed has provided both investment opportunities and support. He has a long-standing relationship with UCalgary’s innovation ecosystem, including participating in one of Alberta’s first accelerator programs for social enterprise offered at Innovate Calgary in 2017.  

During the Social Impact Fund intake process, the transformative impact potential that a company could have on communities is one of the key criteria considered. Included by Design was proven to excel in this area, as its primary goal is to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities through a multi-faceted approach.

Jordana Armstrong

Photo courtesy Jordana Armstrong

“One of the reasons we love this investment is because Sean Crump is a systems entrepreneur as much as he is a social entrepreneur,” says fund manager Jordana Armstrong.

“He is thinking about accessibility and how to create more accessible spaces for people of all abilities through his business, advocacy and community leadership.  

“Sean and his team were consulting with the customers that they've now built the product for, for a number of years, and so they have very in-depth experience that generated key insights around the product that they developed.

"As a person with lived experience, Sean is deeply committed to and aware of the challenges of fostering truly inclusive spaces in our community.” 

Investing in the future 

UCeed is a group of philanthropically powered, commercially minded, pre-seed or seed-stage investment funds with a mandate to help the most promising early stage companies bridge the gap between innovation and commercialization. The funds are activated by Innovate Calgary to support, train and mentor startup companies.

In addition to UCeed’s Social Impact Fund, there is also an Energy Fund, a Child and Wellness Fund, the Haskayne Student Fund, and a Health Fund

“We like to come in early, we do a significant amount of reviewing of companies to make sure they can handle their investments, and then we try to help them attract further investments or specialized supports as they need,” says Armstrong.

“We have a phenomenal group of experienced investors on our board who provide critical feedback.” 

Crump’s entrepreneurial initiative is a perfect example of how using business models can be part of an innovative approach to addressing social issues and making a direct impact. Crump says the UCeed Social Impact Fund continues to help Included by Design.  

“Outside of the money that they put into the business, they’ve become a really big advocate, driving introductions and new opportunities our way as they come about and continually being present,” he says. 

Canadian Innovation Week at UCalgary

Join us for Canadian Innovation Week May 15 to 19, and experience a full week of conversation, inspiration and ideas. Learn how you can get involved.

Founded in 2018, Canadian Innovation Week brings together purpose-driven leaders from around the country who are innovating for good whether it be in science, technology, health, education, finance or other sectors. This year, the Rideau Hall Foundation is presenting innovation challenges or prompts to start the conversation, including: Innovate for Good, Innovate for the Planet, Innovate for Health, Innovate for Equity Education and Innovate for Competitiveness.   

UCeed Social Impact Fund

The UCeed Social Impact Fund is powered by the generosity of the United Way of Calgary and Area and their mission to mobilize communities for lasting social change, and the Government of Alberta’s Creative Partnerships initiative to support arts and non-profit sectors, and individual donors who want to see sustainable change in our communities. UCeed is funded entirely through philanthropic support and made possible by the community, for the community. Applications are currently open.   

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