SEMO, the first team to win a Hack Access Dublin!


It’s never easy being first up to pitch in a startup competition! And given that the stage was Google’s European Headquarters in Dublin, the pressure was on this team of seven who had just met 3 days earlier.  

They rose to the challenge though and SEMO will go down in Hack Access history as not only one of the pioneers of hacking access but the team who won our first hackathon event.  

The first hackthon was really an experiment to see what would happen when you brought startup enthusiasts together for a weekend to hack accessibility challenges.  Back in mid 2014 Janice Valentine had a vision while she sat in the auditorium in Google Dublin and watched her first startup weekend pitch. She was blown away by the energy and talent on display.  Having a keen sense of social responsibility, she wondered “what could the startup community do with a challenge as complex as accessibility?” .  

It took three years and MANY conversations with the leaders of Dublin’s startup community for her vision to turn into something real.  

The Friday launch of Hack Access Dublin in Google’s spectacular Ocean’s 11, was an emotional evening for Janice whose late brother Steven Valentine inspired the hackathon. An enthusiastic gamer with a tremendous drive to live a full life, Steven used technology as a lifeline and it was key to helping him keep working and enjoying his short life. Steven passed away at the age of 31.  

SEMO answered Janice’s call for a questioning approach to the transport challenges that Hack Access Dublin was focused on in the first year.  At the launch event, she urged participants to ask ‘What is possible to achieve?”, and to “keep asking questions until you find the answers”. And they did.  Hard as it was. Their answer to the question around the general anxiety people with disabilities face when navigating around the city was a seamless mobility system: SEMO. 

Their idea was to bring together a person in need of assistance with a volunteer willing to help. It would be done in real time using an application that shows registered volunteers in close proximity to the person who requires assistance.


The aim of this project mainly focused on developing and building a strong team/system of the volunteers in Dublin to help people in need of short term assistance. The volunteers would be from all walks of life and would be split into three types (no training, some training, certified training)

Their APP/system would not only provide an efficient service for people of all abilities, but also create a database showing geo-tagged problem areas that need to be tackled.

Some of the members of SEMO are now part of the organising team of Hack Access.

That is the strength of the Hack Access community -  once you enter, you may not ever leave!