Updated: Jun 17, 2021

Image: Two people working at a desk in an office. One of them is a wheelchair user.

SmartJob was founded to create the “smart” jobs of the future. To do so, we facilitate impact investments in the people, products, and companies that can dramatically improve access and opportunities for people with disabilities in the workforce, and in turn, strengthen work for everyone.

Ideas become viable businesses through ingenuity, development of critical business skills, meaningful support, deep and trusted networks, and access to early risk capital.

That’s why we have focused the investments of the SmartJob Fund at ImpactAssets into four main impact areas:

I. Work-Related Technology

Workers with disabilities know what they need to find, obtain, and thrive in employment, and when they can’t find solutions in the open market, they often invent them themselves.

Yet until now, disability-led innovators have often lacked access to the early-stage capital necessary to launch and deploy their work-related innovations.

From solutions built with AI and machine learning to apps, wearables, and communication devices, SmartJob seeks to seed and scale innovative technologies that maximize global human talent at work.

With the worldwide population of people with disabilities holding an estimated $8 trillion dollars in disposable income, these inventions possess immense revenue potential and corresponding opportunities to build wealth and upward mobility for entrepreneurs with disabilities.

II. Up-Skilling, Re-Skilling, & Future-Proofing

SmartJob is shifting the labor market toward an inclusive economy by filling ever-widening skills gaps. SmartJob supports investments which give workers the skills they need to compete in the 21st century global economy.

From coding bootcamps to advanced manufacturing training to augmentative or alternative reality vocational training, we facilitate the deployment of capital to fill the growing skills gap and support disability-diverse talent pipelines into emerging industries.

III. Seeding Underrepresented Founders

Groundbreaking ideas come from people of all backgrounds, but unequal access to wealth and social capital mean that many truly transcendent ideas are never realized.

We can change this by investing in early-stage companies across sectors that are led by underrepresented founders with disabilities. This is one of the best ways to build a more inclusive workforce and generate wealth for people with disabilities.

We are looking for early-stage, investible companies founded by people with disabilities that will have a material and measurable impact on disability-led entrepreneurship and innovation—and increase the labor market participation of people with disabilities.

IV. Accelerators & Incubators

SmartJob plans to support accelerators and incubators to find and fund the strongest disability-led employment solutions in the world.

We can help unleash unrealized global talent by backing programs that support disability-led solutions and the next generation of breakthrough founders, no matter where they live.

What SmartJob Seeks from its Allies

We value partners who believe that an inclusive economy depends on innovators working across national boundaries, social identities, and economic backgrounds to build a more equitable future.

Thus, we are in search of allies operating in any country who:

  1. Are entrepreneurs with disabilities, those with disability-led solutions, or disability innovation hubs that possess agile and flexible ways of approaching 21st century employment, and

  2. Champion innovations derived from diverse lived experiences which highlight new ways that workers with disabilities can lead in the next century, such as by participating in emerging or growing labor market sectors, inventing and leveraging technology, defining new avenues to access wealth and upward mobility, and tackling difficult global problems.

Founders with disabilities should be supported and funded to bring their best ideas to market. People with disabilities should also be included from the outset in testing and piloting new products and services. Building an inclusive economy will depend upon this.

The pandemic has made it more obvious than ever that 20th-century concepts of work are due for reinvention. Post-COVID, we have the opportunity to reimagine the future of work to be more adaptable, flexible, innovative, and inclusive. One exceptional way to start is to invest in ideas that come from people with disabilities.

Interested in investing in solutions with the power to close the disability wealth gap? SmartJob is on a mission to transform the labor market so that qualified workers with disabilities are included in wealth and opportunity. Sign up now to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox.

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

A group of people work at their desks in an open office.

In the conversations currently taking place about the economy, one theme is clear: we’re in the middle of one of the greatest economic and social shifts in at least 100 years. Exponential technological change, new workplace flexibilities, and remote work and training are increasingly neutralizing biological, physical, and geographical differences between workers. These changes are also accentuating the long-term value of a diverse workforce, creating the circumstances in which the workplace can be totally reimagined for everyone. While technological change has always been coupled with the disruptive displacement of workers, displacement in this particular paradigm shift includes displacement of those job functions that are the most physical, manual, repetitive, and rote. People with disabilities are vastly overrepresented in labor market sectors that rely on these same job functions. Yet, today’s growing industries require workers who can problem-solve in team environments, learn new technologies quickly, work from anywhere, and use their emotional intelligence to collaborate. In the future, flexibility and knowledge will continue to be valued over rigid constructs of physical proximity and productivity. Stephen Hawking famously said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” The economic conditions of this global shift call for thinkers like those with lived experiences of disabilities. What’s at Stake Employment is the most powerful social determinant of health. A worldwide pandemic has reminded us in stark terms that wealth and health are inextricably linked. We also know that global crises like climate change and environmental injustices, unequal access to healthcare, education and caregiving, malnutrition, unjustified institutionalization, over-incarceration, lack of living wages and exploitative working conditions can adversely affect people with disabilities as well as create disability. These problems can be intercepted with meaningful work and measurable improvements in economic participation. Correspondingly, if the 1 billion+ people with disabilities globally are not at the table to negotiate what role they will play in the next century of work, they risk being excluded altogether from new technologies and innovations that have the power now—more than ever before in world history—to dramatically improve their wealth and health. The risk for people with disabilities if they are not at the table is that work, technology, and the labor market will be made more efficient, better designed, and more accessible—for some people, not all. This will lead to consequences for everyone, from widening inequality and increasing poverty to increased costs for publicly funded systems. Indeed, this was the original sin of the last century of employment. Worldwide, the labor market incorrectly assumed that the presence of disability meant a lack of employability. The aptitude for work of many people was (and still is) often misjudged on the basis of medical labels. Instead of merely asking, “Who can do this job?”, we need to inquire whether the design of the job itself places an unnecessary damper on who could perform it. What the Consequences of Inaction Are There is a multi-trillion dollar hole in the worldwide economy where disability labor should be. When it comes to work, humanity continues not to live up to its full potential. We do not even know what innovators and innovations we’ve left out. We can only begin to imagine what products, services, or solutions are out there and may be adopted by the multi-trillion dollar consumer market if entrepreneurs with disability-led solutions can access flexible risk capital and the right kind of business support. The opportunity loss is enormous. It’s time to look for the next great revolution in work. We can do this together by creating better designed, or “smart,” jobs, via investment and support in new skills training, innovative work-related technologies, and giving founders with disabilities access to venture capital. Funding for Early-Stage Companies and Entrepreneurs is Urgently Needed

Large companies like Accenture have caught on to the value of inclusion: they know that diverse workforces and more inclusive workplaces actually increase the long-term value of businesses. Yet large companies alone cannot possibly absorb the sheer number of talented people with disabilities who want to work, grow their own companies and ideas, and contribute. For example, nearly 99.9% of all businesses in the United States are small businesses, and they employ approximately 60 million people. The same trend extends globally, playing a part in the crisis-level unemployment experienced by people with disabilities across the world population. Therefore, a bottom-up strategy is urgently needed. Given the lightning speed of tech innovation and its rapid changes to the way we work, it is an unimaginably high risk not to begin to reinvent work more inclusively now. To do this, we need people with disabilities, and those with disability-led solutions, to be the designers.

The labor market is ripe for disruption, for disability-led innovators to not just participate but to lead the movement to reimagine work, so that it offers workers of all stripes the greatest flexibility, autonomy, and social contribution potential, as well as the opportunity to build equity and wealth. Interested in investing in solutions with the power to close the disability wealth gap? SmartJob is on a mission to transform the labor market by leveraging the power of disability innovation. Sign up now to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox.

You're not promoting diversity on corporate boards if people with disabilities are not included in your diversity plans. But that's exactly what this new NASDAQ proposal does. SmartJob Founder Regina Kline and Bob Ludke of Ludke Consulting called this out in a letter to the SEC. And now Bob is joined by former Senator Tom Harkin speaking out in Bloomberg.