ThinkBusiness’ Barry Walsh caught up with Dónal McClean, COO of Access Earth, to discuss his innovative start-up and the difference its making in the world.

Why was Access Earth started?

Access Earth was started by Matt McCann after a visit to London for the Paralympic Games. Matt lives his life with cerebral palsy and has always been determined to improve the world around him through his skills and experiences, both personal and professional.

Matt found that the accessibility information he needed while in London was either unreliable or simply not there. He requires a rollator to get around due to his cerebral palsy and, like millions of others around the world, is at the mercy of the information he has access to whenever he travels. Upon returning from his visit Matt decided to start Access Earth to address this universal issue. It is in part due to his work and efforts at Access Earth that resulted in him being named in the Irish independents 30 under 30 for 2018.

Did you receive any grants or supports when you first started, or since the company has grown?

Access Earth received CSF Funding from Enterprise ireland in late 2018.

“Matt lives his life with cerebral palsy and has always been determined to improve the world around him”

How long did you spend on your app and website before launching?

Access Earth has always been user and community focused. It was important to us that we were recording the right information and displaying it in the best way possible. It’s because of this focus that we kept the Access Earth app in beta for a number of years, while we liaised extensively with our user base and accessibility group networks to ensure we were addressing the key problem areas in the most impactful way we possibly could at the time. In early 2019 we launched out of Beta and have been improving the platform since.  

What are some of your biggest wins since starting the company?

Access Earth has gotten a lot of recognition over the years, including Microsoft The Imagine Cup, the Enactus World Cup, Kildare’s Local Enterprise Offices Best Idea award, UN Zero Project Innovative Practice Award, and more.

But our biggest win to date has been our community’s engagement with the platform. 2019 saw over 100,000 places rated on the platform. That is over 100,000 more places people can view confidently for accessibility information that were not easily accessible beforehand. That is just a tremendous feeling and something we are all very proud of.

“2019 saw over 100,000 places rated on the platform. That is over 100,000 more places people can view confidently for accessibility information that were not easily accessible beforehand”

The start-up community in Ireland is thriving at the moment. Are there any other companies in the diversity and inclusion start-up space that impresses you?

We had the pleasure to meet the team behind Way2B over the past year. They are a great team with a fantastic mission and we’d encourage people to check them out and learn more about who they are and what they do.

What advice would you give someone starting a business in this space?

Surround yourself with the team you want, but also the team you need. Complementary skills are just as crucial as culture fit. Be honest about what you don’t know and where your weaknesses are, that way you’ll be better able to address them head on.

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Interview by Barry Walsh

Published: 4 November, 2019 

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