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Mayor of London announces startup funding

Seven technology startups working on the Mayor of London’s Poverty Prevention Challenge will receive up to £50,000 each to further develop their proposals, designed to help alleviate the cost-of-living crisis for the capital’s most vulnerable

The Mayor of London has announced funding for seven startups using technology to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis, as part of an initiative to support the capital’s most vulnerable residents.

Launched in January 2023, the idea behind the Poverty Prevention Challenge is to use technology to help Londoners deal with the cost-of-living crisis (City Hall data shows over half of Londoners are struggling financially), and improve how the public sector identifies and supports people at risk of falling into financial hardship.

Each of the seven startups selected will now receive up to £50,000 to develop their projects. This includes Mealia, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help families create personalised meal plans using the cheapest ingredients from their favourite supermarket; Mendee’s, which uses AI to provide language and digital literacy assistance to refugee support organisations; and SuperFi, a digital platform that allows people to manage their finances and debts, as well as access the services they need.

The other startups include Mortar Works, which has built a “tenancy sustainment tool” for tenants and landlords to implement payment plans for those at risk of falling into arrears; Time to Spare, a platform that helps improve coordination between local councils and charities so people can get the support they need; MatchingMind, another platform that similarly seeks to direct people to the right support at the right time; and Card-HR, which provides free legal services to residents, and free management and admin services to voluntary organisations across Southeast London.

“The cost-of-living crisis continues to hit Londoners hard, and these innovative projects will help thousands who are struggling to make ends meet in the wake of soaring energy costs and food prices,” said London mayor Sadiq Khan.

“Local government and community groups are working tirelessly to support residents during the cost-of-living crisis,” he said. “But as a city we must continue to innovate, and AI and new digital services have a real role to play in assisting that. 

“Supporting open calls to London’s tech sector means we can apply new approaches to the challenges people face. By working this way, we can break down silos, collaborate with new partners and build a better, safer, fairer and more prosperous London for everyone.”

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Theo Blackwell, London’s chief digital officer, added: “I congratulate all those who took part, the winners and the forward-thinking of Barnet council in trying out this new approach.

“Over the past five years, setting open calls – or challenges – like this has allowed us to be bolder and work more collaboratively with London’s startups and scaleups,” he said. “Seeking and testing new ideas and learning from others is an important part of London’s new way of working.”

The announcement is the latest in a series of more than 20 challenges set since 2018 by Challenge LDN, an initiative launched by City Hall in partnership with Barnet Council to encourage new ways of using technology for public benefit.

The Mayor’s office claims it has invested more than £2.5m in supporting technology startups to scale since 2018.

Previous challenges included using technology and data to help reduce residents’ exposure to air pollution, counter extremism online, facilitate better pay and conditions in the gig economy, and improve dementia care.

Previous mayoral funding programmes for startups include the Civic Innovation Challenge, which was designed to address pressing challenges while positioning London as a leading “smart city”, and the Mayor’s Resilience Fund, which was intended to help the capital’s post-Covid recovery.

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