The celebrating began long before the London Creator Awards were over. About two-thirds of the way through, Eliza Rutherford and Anna Gross literally started dancing in the aisle. They were soon joined by a huge crowd that didn’t disperse for the rest of the evening.
Best friends back at Oxford University, Rutherford and Gross didn’t even know the other was a finalist until the day before the ceremony. They hoped that one of them would win, but both of their newly launched nonprofits impressed the judges. Rutherford brought home $18,000 for GetGrief, which helps young people deal with the loss of a loved one. For Project Access, an organization to level the playing field for college admissions, Gross won $72,000.
“I laughed out loud that we were both finalists,” said Rutherford. “Things just keep bringing us together, which is amazing.”
Sponsored by WeWork, the Creator Awards gave out well over £1 million — that’s more than $1.3 million — to 19 companies that are, in the words of WeWork Cofounder Adam Neumann, “changing the world.”
“We’re all a part of something greater than ourselves,” Neumann said to the crowd of 2,600 people that gathered on September 14. “When you have that feeling, nothing can stop you.”
The £1 million pounds awarded at the Creator Awards doesn’t include the $18,000 that went to three different WeWork members who won a special Giving Award. Abigail Barnes of Master Your Time, Samuel Knight of Pollen8, and Josh Fletcher of HISKIND had no idea they were going to win until they were called onto the stage to be honored for their community spirit.
“Just do what you love,” said Barnes, visibly shaken by the attention. “When you die, you’ll ask: ‘Did I live? Did I love Did I do what I was here to do?’”
The party continued long after the awards ceremony was over. The crowd rushed the stage for a performance by the outrageous House of Revlon, then danced until 1 a.m. to DJ sets by Benji B and Annie Mac. The event took place in the middle of Battersea Park, but you could still hear the music more than half a mile away at Chelsea Bridge.
Over the course of the year, WeWork will be giving out more than $20 million in cities spanning the globe. Coming up next are events in Berlin, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv. The top winners in each region will come together to compete against at the Global Creator Awards in New York City.
There were three categories of Creator Awards, including the Incubate Awards for great ideas or specific projects that need funding. Winners in this category pocketed $18,000.
Besides GetGrief, the other winners of Incubate Awards included ThinAirWater, Teardusk, Conservation Guide, The Hard Yard, Wayword, Fat Macy’s, nibs etc., and Androdes, all based in London. Also taking home prizes in the category were Exyo, based in Sheffield, and the Stendhal Festival, based in Limavady, Ireland.
Frankie Bennett, cofounder of The Hard Yard, said her goal is a pop-up version of her exercise startup that employees people who’ve been through the criminal justice system as trainers.
“We’d love to use the money to build a space that embodies what we do,” said Bennett. “That’s a bit of a stretch project for us, but really want to make it happen in London.”
The other categories were the Launch Awards (for young businesses and organizations needing a little help getting off the ground) and the Scale Awards (for more established operations aiming to get to the next level). The morning of the competition, finalists in these categories gave their best five-minute pitch before the judges.
Things got even more intense in the evening when a smaller group was asked to give one-minute pitches in front of the crowd. Then the judges peppered them with tough questions about their business models.
“This will have a big impact financially, but more importantly to me personally is the validation that comes with an award,” said Jeremy Bond, whose company makes a modular activity board for kids. “Having taken a leap of faith six months ago and working on MURO by myself since, it’s a massive indicator that I’m doing something right.”
The top winner in the category was bio-bean, a clean technology startup that recycles coffee grounds into useable products. Founder Tom Bage brought home a $130,000 award.
The biggest prizes of the evening were in the Scale category. Airlite, which makes a paint that purifies the air, and Andiamo, which creates high-tech orthotic devices for children, both won $180,000.
“We have a waiting list of over 120 children,” said Andiamo Cofounder Naveed R. Parvez. “We will be able to hire a short-term clinic space to start treating them immediately. Whilst we are doing this, we will be able to secure a long-term space so we can start treating children more regularly.”
The top winner in the Scale category was Simprints, a nonprofit tech company that has developed low-cost fingerprint scanners that will help aid workers in developing regions. It won $360,000 to further develop its product.
“I’m a scientist, a researcher, but above all, a builder,” said Alexandra Grigore, product developer of Simprints. “I want to build technology that works for the poor, not in 20 to 30 years, but right now. My colleagues and I at the University of Cambridge founded Simprints for that purpose: to create a world equipped with the tools necessary to stop preventable suffering.”
Photos by Oscar May