Australia's first-ever incubator for neurodivergent entrepreneurs kicked off this week in Perth, Australia.
The ProFound Incubator is a 12-month program that introduces neurodivergent individuals to the startup community so that they can build new networks and explore different career pathways in the tech industry.
Johnny Doan, Manager of Profound Incubator, said the overall aim of the program is to improve participant’s software development skills to help them launch or work with startups and tech companies.
“The [start-up] industry, especially around software and technology, is quite well-suited for neurodiverse people especially when it taps into their interests, hyper-focus and creative out-of-the-box thinking which of course is vital for creating innovative products," he told NeuroWork.
It was originally founded by Stuart Kidd, Managing Director of Apps People, and has the support of Professor Tele Tan from the Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) out of Curtin University, as well as psychologists Dr Theresa Kidd and Dr Jasmine McDonald who founded the Curtin Specialist Mentoring Program.
ProFound embraces the talents of neurodivergent individuals with most of the participants either on the autism spectrum or have ADHD and all come from a software development background. Unlike traditional incubators, participants will go through educational workshops over two months and be supported by founders, entrepreneurs, mentors, coding buddies and psychologists as they work on their startup projects.
Operating out of the brand new WeWork William Square coworking spaces in Northbridge, participants will have access to office space, meeting rooms and a widely-connected community (including online). Participants can also bring support workers, or take a break in the Wellness Room should they need to a private break from workshops or networking events and have support from psychologists throughout the program. Johnny believes that all of these factors contribute to a safe and inclusive environment that embraces both the strengths of neurodiverse people can foster creativity while addressing the challenges they may have in both learning and social situations.
“When you create an environment in which [neurodivergent people] can think differently and approach problem-solving in a different way, and feel like they can be heard or take a step back when needed, that's where you tap into innovation and a flow of creative thinking to,” he said.
“With myself being neurodiverse, as well as one of our mentors being on the spectrum, we want to show our participants the possibilities of what being an entrepreneur in the tech industry can look like, which is very exciting,” said Johnny.
ProFound Incubator received funding through the X-Tend Program an initiative of the McGowan Government in Western Australia to encourage innovative education programs. They have also forged partnerships including with WeWork, Wrays, Spacecubed and the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Research and Innovation to support the participants in their journey. Furthermore, much of the program relies on the generosity of mentors and workshop facilitators, many of who have volunteered their time for the project.
For Stuart and Johnny, their hope is that the incubator becomes a social enterprise that creates talented neurodiverse software developers and ultimately being a catalyst for greater workforce change with intentions for the incubator to expand nationally and internationally.
“We could look at how we actually change the industry to have more inclusive workplaces, as well as incorporate neurodiverse-friendly learning environments that genuinely meet the needs of people with autism, ADHD or related conditions," said Johnny.
Read about the program and get in contact on their website on profoundincubator.com.au