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We love to celebrate our Talent Garden members and showcase the work they are doing as entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders. That's why we sat down to chat with Janice Valentine, Founder of Hack Access - a business that helps organisations solve accessibility challenges with the help of startup communities.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I'm from Greystones originally but have travelled quite a bit, having lived in Canada, Australia, London, along with stints in Singapore and the USA - I sometimes just refer to myself as a global citizen! That leads on to my passion beyond my startup Hack Access, which is travel - exploring new places and cultures has always been a big passion of mine.

What drives me is the desire to create something meaningful and impactful that has the power to demonstrate that, no matter what we go through in our lives, we all have the ability to play a role in making the world a better place and deserve to live an engaging, interesting and fun life.

What is Hack Access and how did the idea come about?

Hack Access is a business that helps public and private sector organisations, from various domains of the environment, solve accessibility challenges through the innovative and collaborative approach of utilising the startup community. We do this through a range of programmes, including our annual Hack Access Dublin Hackathon, which takes place in Google.

The idea was inspired by my late brother, Steven, who had muscular dystrophy. I wanted to solve the kind of accessibility challenges he encountered regularly, and empower people with and without a disability to work together, to create a more inclusive world . You can read more about Steven's story in our blog post 'The Legacy of Steven Valentine'.

How important is the participation of startups and how can people get involved?

Absolutely vital! Hack Access evolved from the startup community, and it is seeking to support the contingent that's focused on accessibility and inclusion, and providing a platform for people looking to learn about startups and make a difference. I am such a huge advocate of the startup community as a pathway to a more creative, autonomous and purpose driven working life for everyone, not just those who want to be their own boss but for Intrapreneurs too.
You might not know exactly what you want to do, but there's a good chance you'll be inspired and figure it out after spending time with fellow startup enthusiasts. Hack Access provides a great opportunity for anyone looking to make a difference, get involved in an exciting inclusive event and solve problems that exclude people who are disabled by our environment.

What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?

Discover what your character strengths are, be clear on your values in work and outside of work and leverage them to help you to solve a meaningful challenge - a challenge that can be described as one that you're emotionally invested in and creates a positive change in the lives of others.
If you are emotionally invested in a problem, there is a greater chance that you'll persevere through the ups and downs of an entrepreneurial existence! The role of emotions, intuition and purpose play a huge role in leadership ability, communication skills and resilience; all which are crucial to success as an entrepreneur.

What's next for Hack Access?

We will be launching Hack Access 2020 during Startup Week this year - people can learn about the various programmes and initiatives we will be running in conjunction with our annual Hack Access Dublin Hackathon. It's a very exciting time!
In the meantime, we are holding a Startups4AXS event on September 19th, which is an extension of our usual community event. We want to play a more involved role in supporting startups focused on accessibility and inclusion, and provide a friendly and supportive environment for anyone who wants to learn about how they too can become an accessibility innovator.

What do you hope to gain from being a part of the Talent Garden Community?

I really liked how Talent Garden Dublin is part of a wider network beyond Ireland and the other events and initiatives Talent Garden is associated in like Connected City. I am particularly interested in tapping into the IoT and smart technology community in Talent Garden, to understand how Hack Access solutions can best apply these technologies, as I think this is where we can make the biggest impact. Talent Garden Dublin is a great space with a friendly and supportive community; and in the world of startups, that support is absolutely vital!
Article updated on: 09 August 2023
Talent Garden
Written by
Talent Garden, Digital Skills Academy

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