Last week I was finally able to attend a Technori Pitch. This month’s event featured early stage companies focused on having a positive impact on some of the most pressing social challenges in Chicago, the U.S. and the world. This was perfect for me since I have joined just such a company in AuctionsByCellular.
It started off with a keynote from Christa Velasquez, Senior Fellow with the Initiative for Responsible Investment (IRI) at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University. Christa gave an overview of what qualifies as a social enterprise and talked about impact investing. Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation did a pretty good job of covering her talk here.
Next up, five companies pitched their business to the investors and other attendees. All of them had a unique, inspirational story about how they are making a positive impact on the world.
Founder Jeff Nelson gave a powerful talk about his program whose sole purpose is to get CPS students to graduate from college. When Jeff was a CPS teacher, he found out that only 6% of his students would graduate from college. By partnering with great teachers, OneGoal has raised that rate to 84%. Learn more about OneGoal at onegoalgraduation.org and follow @OneGoalGraduate on Twitter.
Founder Elise Zelechowski spoke about how her company, ReBuilding Exchange, is creating a marketplace for reclaimed building materials. They have been working with construction companies to foster a business model where it is more profitable for them to resell building materials rather than discard to a landfill. They also do cool things like offering DIY classes to people who want to build projects with reclaimed materials, employ workers that have barriers to finding jobs and sell custom furniture in their retail warehouse. They have an online store as well. Check them out at rebuildingexchange.org and follow @RXChicago on twitter.
The Spark Ventures presentation was very polished, both in the delivery and some really excellent photography showcasing all the good work their organization is doing. They specialize in creating sustainable businesses in developing countries, creating employment, opportunity and a brighter future for children in impoverished communities. Beyond asking for investment, Founder Rich Johnson asked the crowd to “lend us your status”, a really cool way to ask for people’s support via their social media accounts. Find out more at sparkventures.org and follow @SparkVentures on twitter.
I had heard of MoxieJean before when they competed in Bytes Over Bagel’s Chicago Tech Startup Madness. Founder Sharon Schneider started out by humorously going over all the problems Moms have finding quality second-hand clothes, and then quickly showed how her company had turned it into an easy, fun experience. Moxie Jean is upscale rescale, a website to buy or sell top brandname children’s clothes. They’re on twitter at @MoxieJeanKids.
Founder Kathleen Wright spoke about her company’s ambitious mission to bring economic opportunity to artisans all over the developing world by connecting them to big brands and retailers. They are already having a lot of success, partnering with quite a few brands already and getting a lot of press. Check them out at collaborative-group.com and following @coll_group on twitter.