Can Tech Save the World? Social Good Companies to Watch

  • June 21, 2016
  • Ariel Miller

Picture this: a 3D printer meticulously crafts a pizza in front of your eyes, row by doughy row. It doesn’t look entirely appetizing and it definitely begs no comparisons to Homeslice or Via313, but just when you’re about to critique the consistency of the sauce and lack of oregano, its NASA inventors tell you this printer is going to solve world hunger.

In 2013, I was fortunate enough to see this invention, among others, while serving as the PR lead for SXSW Eco, the sustainability, design and technology conference from South by Southwest. It might have been that moment that sparked my passion for the intersection of technology and social good. It’s now 2016 and unsurprisingly, the 3D printer has not yet eradicated world hunger, but it moved me that some of the brightest minds (shout-out to you, NASA) were rallying around tech to tackle our biggest, seemingly insurmountable challenges. In my opinion, tech is cool. But tech that makes life better for people around the world, even cooler.

Luckily for me, since joining INK in 2014, I’ve been able to keep this passion alive, from constantly having my finger on the pulse of the tech industry to working hand-in-hand on PR strategy with clients in the social good space. (ICYMI – INK has an entire section on our website dedicated to “Good Things,” check it out). Let’s take a look at a few startups making the world a better place through tech:

ReWalk is a computer-controlled, motion-sensing “personal exoskeleton” that allows individuals who have suffered from spinal cord injury (SCI) to stand upright, walk, turn, and even climb and descend stairs. Inventor and Israeli entrepreneur Dr. Amit Goffer, who is also founder of Argo Medical Technologies, is a 16-year quadriplegic himself. The company has just announced a new collaboration with Harvard for the treatment of stroke, multiple sclerosis, and limited-mobility patients.

DayOne Response
This company is tackling something often overlooked – the critical need for clean water in disaster relief situations. The DayOne Response Waterbag is a 10-liter personal purification unit that takes the shape of a portable backpack. Its patented solution purifies 2.5 gallons of water in just 30 minutes, and perhaps most exciting of all, it provides a family of four with clean drinking water for up to two months.

Ocean Cleanup Foundation
A few years ago, a teenager named Boyan Slat made headlines for his ambitious plan to clean up the world’s oceans of plastics. This month, his foundation announced they have raised the 1.5 million euros needed to put their technology to the test in the North Sea this summer. If Slat’s V-shaped underwater technology is successful, it could remove almost half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – or 154 million pounds of trash – in just 10 years.

Can tech singlehandedly solve all of our world’s problems? No. But all around the world, inventors, engineers, students, tech nerds, and social entrepreneurs are working to find solutions that make the world a better place – one technological innovation at a time – and that is worth celebrating.

Want more? If the intersection of tech and social good excites you, consider checking out Starr’s recent post on Fortune Brainstorm E and how tech is tackling climate change and energy efficiency.