6. Zero Gravity

Zero Gravity is creating a tech solution for social mobility, partnering with employers to funnel talented students from low opportunities into university, work, and life.

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DEI Award Shortlisted

For the business that demonstrates committed diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative and how it has been embedded in the company.

Startups 100: DEI Award

Founder: Joe Seddon
Year founded: 2020
Website: zerogravity.co.uk

Gen Z might have discovered Nepo Babies for the first time last year, but the rest of the world has long understood (and accepted) that opportunity depends on where you're from, rather than what you can do. It’s not what you know, but who you know, after all.

Joe Seddon disagrees. Growing up in West Yorkshire in a single-parent family, he went straight from state schools to Oxford University. “I saw first-hand the barriers that those from a low-opportunity background can face in top schools and careers,” he recalls.

At 21, Seddon’s life was influenced by Big Tech as he saw how brands like Uber and Instagram were reshaping our lives. Why, he reasoned, couldn’t technology be used to fix the most deep-seated problem of them all: the UK’s class system?

Driven by a clear company mission to level the playing field for ambitious young people from low-opportunity areas like himself, Seddon founded Zero Gravity using the last £200 of his student loan.

I saw first-hand the barriers that those from a low-opportunity background can face in top schools and careers.

Partnering with over 500 state schools, the platform identifies high-performing students who, despite being in the bottom 40% for socio-economic disadvantage, outperform by achieving grade scores in the top 15% of the country.

These young people are then paired with industry mentors and curated job opportunities in medium and large enterprises. Employers get an effective talent pipeline to build a diverse workforce, while students are given the tools and support needed to reach their full potential.

In the last financial year, Zero Gravity has championed over 8,000 students from low-opportunity backgrounds into top-tier universities. Impressively, 400 of these were at Oxford and Cambridge, both of which rank among the top 10 higher education institutions in the world.

Plus, the company even introduced its own charity, the Zero Gravity Fund, through which it channelled nearly £1.4m towards a scholarship fund for its latest cohort.

In the last financial year, Zero Gravity has championed over 8,000 students from low-opportunity backgrounds into top-tier universities.

Looking ahead, Zero Gravity is hoping to scale up its service offering to support more than 20,000 students annually by 2025. Having already secured £3.5m in seed funding, Harvard University is also part-funding an international pilot to help the brand shape global futures.

Aiming to remove the glass ceiling for disadvantaged young people, there really is no limit for this startup. Even gravity can’t hold it down, which is why Zero Gravity has floated right up to position six in this year’s Startups 100 Index.

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