First question, how are you during this difficult period?
I am fine, busy. It is a whole new life and way of living now. I have been juggling several different things, and I was busy and getting involved in several different tech initiatives around COVID-19, but still felt like I wasn’t doing anything particularly tangible to help anyone, which is why I ended up launching Bytes for Heroes.
Can you tell us a little bit more about what Bytes for Heroes is?
So, the premise is that we want to feed a million NHS workers through technology companies, donating to the cause, and then funding local catering businesses, which is an industry that has been completely decimated by COVID-19.
My background is working in the tech industry, and so I thought it would be good to try and create a charitable initiative which, although the outcome is the same, its target market is technology companies and technology professionals, and then created a brand around that regarding Bytes for Heroes.
It started a few weeks ago. A friend of mine owns Jolly Hog’s Sausages. It is owned by him and his two brothers, and their business sells retail food, but it was in event catering. They said: “We have got this event equipment and all this food stock that we are not using, let’s see if we can do something good with it.”
They spoke to Bristol Southmead hospital and arranged to take one of their catering trucks down there to hand out bacon baps and hog roast to some of the staff. They ended up handing out around 600, and it went very well.
I dropped them a message just to say my congratulations and that is a great thing to do. How are you getting on? They said “we’re funding it ourselves so there is only so far we can go with it. And then we are getting quite a lot of demand from the hospital asking if we can come back and could we do three days a week”. There is only so far that they can fund it.
There are several initiatives like that across the country – local catering firms trying to donate to the hospitals, or they are doing crowdfunding. The problem is that this is not sustainable, and from a messaging perspective, it just targets the consumer.
How are technology companies involved in the project?
Primarily through charitable donations. Amazon Web Services and UK Cloud have both donated infrastructure to the cause, and what that is being used for is an app that a team has developed for us.
We might change exactly how it works, but fundamentally the onsite workers and NHS work or hospital staff, download the app and get a QR code every day, which gets them a free meal, and they can then redeem that against our approved caterers, which we can then fund.
This gives us a live ticker on our website and some data around where donations are going, and the positive effect that they have.
Why do you think something like Bytes for Heroes is so important right now?
If you talk to the layman about technology companies, they think about Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, those sorts of companies, and those companies have thrown the kitchen sink at the government and the NHS with regards to how they can help, and they have done a great job, but that leaves a huge industry sat there than can help but don’t know how to.
A lot of them were offering their products for free, or offer it to various places, but there is a cost associated with doing that, and it is not really what anybody wants. We have tried to give them a tangible, direct route to helping.
What do you see in the future for Bytes for Heroes after COVID-19?
We have applied for registered charity status, so we are looking to form as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), and the charitable objects that we have applied for are primarily around mobilising funds and people to support those have been affected by disaster from the tech industry.
Initially, COVID-19 is our first initiative, but post that there is a great opportunity for us to do more with tech companies, not just with their financial perspective, but also funnelling tech companies’ offerings, and the capabilities of tech professionals, into government initiatives and tech for good causes. We can be an aggregator of need and supply.
Is there any chance that in the next few years, we could see you working worldwide?
Potentially yes. We have only registered as a UK charity at the moment, but there is scope to take up the brand and have US counterparts. That is a possibility!
Bytes for Heroes has served more than 5000 meals across the UK so far, and it hoping to expand into three other London hospitals.
If you are interested in helping, and just want to know more, visit their website here.