Galway natives win €20,000 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award

galway daily news galway city co-founders of byowave
Social entrepreneurs including Brandon Blacoe and Eibhlin O’Riordan, co-founders of ByoWave

Two social entrepreneurs from Galway city have been awarded a place on Social Entrepreneurs Ireland’s Impact Awards programme, securing €20,000 in funding for their organisation ByoWave.

Brandon Blacoe from Salthill and Eibhlin O’Riordan from Knocknacarra co-founded Byowave to make accessible and customisable video game controllers for people with disabilities.

The organisation aims to address the exclusion and isolation felt by people with disabilities due to inaccessible controllers.

There are an estimated 180 million disabled gamers worldwide who are unable to to play video games due to inaccessible video game controllers.

Co-founder Eibhlin O’Riordan has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which means she can only play games with one hand.

“It means the world have an organisation like SEI supporting us with our mission to make gaming and technology more accessible,” she said.

Each ByoWave controller is made up of a set of electronic cubes that can connect together at any angle.

The user connects their cubes together to create whatever shape they want to accommodate their specific disability.

Brandon Blacoe said: “Finding a community whose fundamental drive is social good, and being selected as a member within it, has re-energised the passion I found at UCD to innovate and engineer world class assistive technology that solves real problems for real people.”

The SEI Impact Programme is a nine-month accelerator programme that supports social entrepreneurs by providing significant funding and mentoring as well as access to a network of support.

This year’s awards attracted over 110 applications from across Ireland, with ByoWave being one of the five organisations to successfully pitch for a place and secure an equal share of the €100,000 funding.

Commenting, CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Tim Griffiths said that the pandemic has proven that innovation and resilience are two of our strongest assets.

“The role of social entrepreneurship and the individuals whose insight, inspiration and tenacity to create the solutions to our social problems, has never been in greater demand,” he said.

“As we continue to live through these extraordinary and challenging times, it is truly heartening to see so many people stepping up and sharing their ideas to tackle social problems.

“I’d like to thank everyone who applied to the SEI this year and extend my congratulations to ByoWave and all our incredible Impact Awardees who are already making such a difference across Ireland.”

Since its foundation in 2004, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland has supported more than 400 social entrepreneurs across the country to move from idea to action and develop solutions that are transforming Ireland’s approach social problems.