Forget glamour, model Lily Cole wants women and girls to pursue tech

Updated: 2016-11-11 07:15

By Belinda Goldsmith in Lisbon(China Daily)

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As a British supermodel and actress, Lily Cole has lived a life of glamour, but it is her new role as a social entrepreneur using technology to do good that she hopes will inspire women.

Scouted on a London street in 2002 at age 14 and featured on the cover of British Vogue at age 16, Cole became a fixture on catwalks and in fashion magazines with her trademark red hair and then in films such as Snow White and the Huntsman.

But Cole, 28, with a double first degree from Cambridge University, wanted more, so she started tracking the supply chains of fashion companies she was working for, hoping to drive some good.

In 2013, amid a wave of publicity, she founded, a "social giving" website and app where people post money-free requests and offers of assistance.

The tech startup, part of a growing global trend to build a shared economy, faced some controversy as it emerged that Cole received 200,000 pounds ($248,000) of taxpayer funds from the British government for her project that lost money in 2014 and 2015.

But Cole says Impossible has since evolved and become sustainable, adding a shop selling ethically sourced goods, a magazine and a lab to find innovative ways to create new products and deliver services.

With a new-look app launched in September and on Android this week called Impossible People, Cole says Impossible is now accessible in more than 120 countries, using the power of technology to create social good.

"I threw myself into a totally different world, with so many awesome people, and I was so amazed by the impact that technology can have," she said on Tuesday in an interview in Impossible's central Lisbon office.

Cole, who was attending Europe's largest tech event, the Web Summit, in Lisbon, says the use of technology was critical to helping build a shared economy and stronger communities.

The whole point of Impossible People is taking people back to a time when communities thrived and trust played a major part in everyday exchanges, although the international reach makes that challenging, she says.

With the tagline "We re - imagine the planet one product at a time" on the website, the app lets people post requests and offers of "small favors" and matches posts with users based on friendships, location and interests "to make sharing easier".

Cole describes Impossible People as like a "tinder for favors", referring to the dating app.

A quick trawl of the app found one man offering to give visual design lessons, a musician seeking help with artwork for an album cover and a Chinese resident of Spain offering to help people practise their languages skills.

"It is a bit of a mix of skills on offer, but generally it is quite simple skills."

Cole, who has quit modeling and has a 1-year-old daughter, says she wants to keep Impossible evolving as needed, continue acting and find some more artistic projects in coming years.

"I do wish there were more women in tech, as I wish there were more women in most industries," she says.


 Forget glamour, model Lily Cole wants women and girls to pursue tech

British supermodel and actress Lily Cole has a new role as a social entrepreneur using technology to do good that she hopes will inspire women. Reuters

(China Daily 11/11/2016 page18)