Entrepreneur behind disability-focused tech firm Neatebox honoured at diversity awards

The founder of an Edinburgh-based organisation that helps disabled people navigate everyday life, including visiting venues, has received a prestigious award at a ceremony honouring diversity.

Gavin Neate has been named Entrepreneur of Excellence at the recent National Diversity Awards, which took place in Liverpool.

Mr Neate in 2011 founded Neatebox, which says it “creates solutions to the very real challenges faced by our society and aims to build smart solutions based on the challenges disabled people face every day”.

He has been given this latest award for “transforming the way in which customer-facing businesses serve disabled people through technology”.

'The award has my name on it but it is more a reflection of the work we are doing at [Neatebox] to improve the lives of disabled people,' says Gavin Neate. Picture: Peter Sandground.

Neatebox says its WelcoMe disability-aware customer service platform makes it easy to get personalised, accessible customer service at participating venues.

The platform’s remote button push app known as ‘Button’ lets users push any type of button from their mobile phone. It can be used to open doors and operate pedestrian crossings safely and confidently.

Mr Neate said: “The award has my name on it, but it is more a reflection of the work we are doing at [Neatebox] to improve the lives of disabled people as we exit lockdown.”

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He said Neatebox’s offering is used in a variety of sectors, with participants including the Scottish Parliament, NorthLink Ferries, Diageo and Irish Rail.

Additionally, it was recently launched at Edinburgh’s St James Quarter, NHS Golden Jubilee – the first hospital in the world to introduce the app – as well as Next and Westminster City Council, along with Sport England in 75 council-run sports centres.

Mr Neate said in the wake of the latest award win: “The [WelcoMe] app trains staff in the moments before the disabled visitor walks through the door and is changing not only the way staff interact with disabled people, but also the lives of disabled people who are encouraged to leave their homes knowing they will be met by someone who understands their needs. Our mission is to #EndLoneliness.

“Winning this award is part of our journey and as a Scottish SME we are immensely proud that we are making such incredibly positive waves.”

Role models

The awards were hosted by Konnie Huq, while the judging panel included campaigner and TV presenter Katie Piper.

She said: “I am so pleased these awards create and celebrate a new generation of positive role models.”

Prior to Neatebox, Mr Neate spent a decade with the Royal Air Force, followed by an 18-year career with Guide Dogs UK as a guide dog mobility instructor.

He has said he “had always thought that innovation and entrepreneurship was preserved for experienced and high-profile business people”, but with Neatebox “was surprised to find that I could influence society and make such a positive difference to the world with my ideas”.

The latest prize is one of many secured by Mr Neate.

WelcoMe in April snapped up the Inclusion and Empowerment Award at the UN-backed World Summit Awards (WSA) 2020, with Neatebox announced as the only UK business within the WSA Global Top 40.

That followed the Edinburgh-based organisation in November being named the Scotland winner of the Super Connect for Good competition, which recognises the best emerging start-ups that aim to bring positive social change and enhance people’s lives through technology.

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