Tag Archives: Social venture

POWER PITCH

by John Jonelis

What happens when you give kids—kids gifted in math and science—a real chance to bust out with their God given talents and excel?

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  • What if you trust them to lay their greasy little hands on equipment normally available only at elite universities?
  • What if you allow them to direct their own time?
  • What if you challenge them to construct their own goals and learn by themselves how to accomplish them?
  • What if you dare them to build real startup businesses at such a tender age?
  • And what if you throw them into a competition against a panel of critical judges from the real private equity world?

What happens? Good things! Good things happen! They happen here at IMSA – the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. I’ll give you an intimate peek at the inner works of this educational powerhouse so you can see for yourself what makes this one of the biggest success stories in the country.

Showcase – Chandra Gangavarapu

This is a high school with a serious entrepreneurship program. Many of the ideas, business models, and pitches produced here outshine what we’re accustomed to in the business world. Mere students, you say? Some of their companies have gained funding and gone to market. And many of these same students intern at real-world startups throughout Chicago.

According to Britta McKenna, Chief Innovation Officer at IN2, “Kids love to have real-world problems to actually work at. This space provides that opportunity.”

Today’s event is the grueling POWER PITCH. Each team presents its company twice before separate panels of judges—the finalists pitch three times.

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What Do the Judges Say?

The judges are all smiles as they feed at the idea bar after the first round. Competitors get whittled down by secret ballot. I corner John Lump. He’s a colleague at Heartland Angels and a professor at DePaul where I’ve lectured at his invitation on risk profiles in private equity. See IN YOUR FACE RISK.

This a practical guy who’s knee-deep in the real world of business as VP of Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. I can count on him for an honest opinion. Here it is verbatim:

John Lump — Judge

“I love being a judge here. Second year I’ve been doing it. And it’s exciting and a lot of fun. The enthusiasm and energy of the kids is just fantastic.”

Swelly – Tyler Stock

“I saw several interesting businesses.

  • Swelly is a temporary insurance company.
  • Blabl is a company to help students with speech disabilities.
  • Rethink Numeracy is one that helps students with Downs Syndrome learn math—a more visual approach.

Some really cool ideas here.”

Blabl – Ayan Agarwal

“Obviously these entrepreneurs are quite young. There are some still in Jr. High. You’re talking kids that are 10, 12, 13 years old and already starting businesses! At Heartland Angels, we see entrepreneurs in their 20s up to their 50s and 60s. So these kids need much more mentoring. But I think you’re going to see some business opportunities here.”

Rethink Numeracy – Akshaya Raghavan

I touch base with Moises Goldman. As I’ve said before, he’s an old hand at private equity in Chicago and a VIP here at IMSA. I’ve known him a long time, and trust what he says. He’s a guy that projects humility, but receives deference and respect.

Moises Goldman – Judge

Today Moises is bursting with exuberance and he speaks with more passion than I’ve ever seen. What he says is as intuitive and emotional as it is insightful.

“Two of these kids blew me away. The company is called Fast Exit. One brother is 12 and the other is 15. Twelve and fifteen! I looked at the father and just jokingly said to him, what is it that you do? These kids are very, bright. Very, very bright—both of them.

[Moises is talking about the Orr brothers, Joshua and Maxwell. The older brother is in 8th grade at Avery Coonley. They are each pitching their own companies today.]

“What blew me away was that they’re two brothers, so I look at the father and I just wonder, what are his challenges as a dad with these two amazing kids? Because the social environment that they have—it must be an alternative universe to the one that I’m used to—that I grew up in.”

Jim Gerry with Joshua Orr of Fast Exit

[I suggest to Moises that their home life must be very nurturing.]

“Yes, somehow. But I’m amazed. That really blew me away—that blew me away. Last year, the older boy had a drone project that was a game you could adapt to Dave and Busters in that kind of environment.”

[I recall that drone project and ask if they’re both planning to attend IMSA.]

“The 12-year old—I don’t know. The 15-year old is applying for the coming year.”

OneNote Quiz – Maxwell Orr

Today there are 17 judges at Power Pitch – Patrick Bresnahan, Dane Christianson, Moises Goldman, Joe Jordan, Sanza Kazadi, Christine Krause, Maria Kuhn, John Lump, Josh Metnick, Nancy Munro, Kelly Page, Jacob Plumber, Lance Pressl, Julia Sanberger, Chris Stiegal, Tom Voigt, Joe Zlotniki. I agreed to be an alternate and fortunately don’t get that tap on the shoulder. I want to see the whole event.

Shop Cheetah – Catelyn Rounds, Julian Kroschke

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Entrepreneurship

IMSA’s entrepreneurship program is called TALENT—Total Applied Learning for Entrepreneurship—led by Dr. Carl Heine, Britta McKenna, and Jim Gerry. Jim is technically retired from the program but still volunteers his time. This is too much fun to stay away.

Heat2Heal – Sushil and Pranav Upadhyayula

At this place, students get real-life experience and opportunities to solve real-world problems and bring ideas to market. The goal is to instill the thinking patterns and mindset of an entrepreneur:

  • Develop a product
  • Form a team
  • Communicate ideas
  • Formulate a business plan
  • Protect intellectual property
  • Work your network
  • Raise funding
  • Start the business

Really? These are high school kids—some even younger. In a world of schools dominated by gangs, drugs, and fear, who would think them capable of such positive desires and accomplishments? Then I come across one of the quotes on the wall:

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IMSA Fast Facts

  • Teaching philosophy – The Socratic approach. Self-directed learning and problem-based learning.
  • 99.8% of IMSA students attend college.
  • 70.1% pursue majors in science or math.
  • 47% of faculty is PhD.
  • Alumni hail from every district in Illinois.
  • This is the school’s 30th year.

The IN2 Entrepreneurship Center at IMSA

I snag Dr Carl Heine, as he moves between presentations. He’s director of IMSA TALENT, their entrepreneurship program. I ask him if IMSA still has a presence at 1871, the huge incubator in downtown Chicago, or if all the activity is at the new IN2 facility.

Dr. Carl Heine, Director of IMSA TALENT

“IMSA is still a member of 1871. We take our students on Wednesdays to intern at companies. They’re embedded in startup teams. We can’t teach a class that’s better than that.”

“We do it every Wednesday. 1871 is just one location. We have students at the James Jordan Foundation downtown. Three of them are interning there right now, working on summer curriculum. There are students at a variety of other spots, too.”

[“This year’s Power Pitch is better than I’ve ever seen.”]

“POWER PITCH is an event that makes people feel good about the future. I hope you feel that way as a result of your involvement.

“The top three high school teams are advancing to the Next Launch regional competition in Indianapolis on May 17. If you would like to continue to work with your favorite team as a thought partner, a mentor or more, the purpose of IN2 and TALENT is to make that happen.”

Yoda

[I decide that Carl is the Yoda of IN2. I ask him, “What other events are coming up?”]

“This has been an academy for 30 years now, so we’d like to have a celebration. We’ve put it on March 30th this year, so there’s a 30 and a 30. As part of that, we’re doing the ribbon cutting for the IN2 space, and the new science labs that are part of a capital campaign that just wrapped up as well. And we’re celebrating the accomplishments of the institution over the last 30 years.”

This is just brilliant!

IMSA trains students not to fear any subject. I noticed THEORY OF ANALYSIS on the course syllabus. Normally, that’s offered only at the university level and it’s a course that’s hated and avoided by math majors nationwide. Never be intimidated by difficult subjects.

Award Ceremony

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17 Student Teams

IMSA’s President, Jose׳ M Torres, and the Stephanie Pace Marshall Endowment present the awards.

The top three high school teams—Blabl, Heat2Heal and Flameless—advance to the Next Launch Regional Competition in Indianapolis on May 17. The two winning middle school teams are Fast Exit and Shop Cheetah.

Blabl– Ayan Agarwal

 

Social Good Category Finalists & Winners

  • BlablAyan Agarwal – A mobile application that engages speech impaired children in conversation with an avatar – $1000 prize, Top 3 HS team
  • Heat2HealSushil Upadhyayula, Pranav Upadhyayula – A hands-free, self-powered Arthritis Wrap that converts body heat into electricity to provide targeted massaging & heat therapy for stiff joints – $500, Top 3 HS team
  • Rethink NumeracyAkshaya Raghavan – Teaching numeracy to children with Down Syndrome, leveraging their learning strengths.
  • Double-CheckRishi Modi – A protective biometric alternative to prevent ID theft.

Heat2Heal– Sushil Upadhyayula & Pranav Upadhyayula

Social entrepreneurs create self-sustaining businesses that promote social good. The STEM category is for-profit tech companies.

Fast Exit – Joshua Orr

STEM Category Finalists & Winners

  • FastExitJoshua Orr – A life-saving solution for managing exit signs – $1,000 prize, middle school team.
  • Shop CheetahCatelyn Rounds, Julian KroschkeA groundbreaking store navigation system that saves times and routes customers through the store$500 prize, middle school team.
  • FlamelessSivam Bhatt, Nikhil Madugula – Extinguishing cooking fires automatically with sound waves – Top 3 HS team.
  • SwellyAneesh Kudaravalli, Tyler Stock – A mobile app that allows users to get flexible insurance on personal items in an instant.

Shop Cheetah – Catelyn Rounds & Julian Kroschke

 

Other Competing Teams

  • AlertAshritha Karuturi, Priya Kumar – An app that efficiently connects homeowners to rescue workers, saving time and lives.
  • Be BettahZoe Mitchell – The food search engine and cookbook series that allows for bettah nutrition without changing your lifestyle.
  • Electrofood Alex Orlov – A microbial fuel cell that converts food waste to electricity.
  • OneNote QuizMax Orr – The personalized quiz generator.

Flameless – Sivam Bhatt & Nikhil Madugula

  • SafeSeatElliott Cleven – An app to alert parents if their child is left in a car unattended.
  • ShowcaseChandra Gangavarapu – A web app for musicians and dancers to gain recognition for their art.
  • Social BreadVainius Normantas – Using social media advertisements to raise funding and awareness for communities in need.
  • StrobeJayant Kumar, Zaid Kazmi – LED light strip supplements for fire and carbon monoxide alarms to assist the hearing impaired.
  • Verifact!Shreya Pattisapu – An effective and efficient way to couter fake news.

 

Go to Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Hope you enjoyed Part 2 – POWER PITCH

Read Part 3 – INQUIRY & INNOVATION

 

 

IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

Tami Armstrong – tarmstrong@imsa.edu

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Photography by John Jonelis

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under 1871, angel, angel investor, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, MIT, MIT Enterprise Forum, MIT Enterprise Forum Chicago, MITEF, MITEF Chicago, Social Entrepreneur, Startup, startup company, vc, venture capital

CLEANTECH TRUTHS DEBUNKED

Pigs TGenerally Accepted Truths of Cleantech Investing – Debunked

Laurance K. Hayward – The Venture Lab

It is generally accepted in Cleantech investing that:

(1) the companies are capital intensive,

(2) there is a sustainability premium associated with buying the companies’ products and

(3) the adoption of the companies’ technologies requires a change of behavior.

All three can slow adoption and negatively impact scalability and internal rate of return. Certainly this can be true for many Cleantech companies, but it isn’t true for many others.

There has been an evolution and broadening in the definition of Cleantech, call it 2.0. Cleantech 1.0 involved funding solar, wind, battery and biofuel technologies. Many drew parallels to biotech investing in which large sums of capital and extended timeframes preceded product viability. Then add in the need to build factories and infrastructure. The faint of heart don’t change the world.

Often these 1.0 technologies required the end user to pay more for their use, many required subsidies, or incentives to be competitive. For example, there is a generally accepted “sustainability premium” associated with receiving power by solar relative to coal or natural gas. The technologies also required a change in behavior, such as installing new infrastructure on the roof of your building. Ironically, many of today’s demand response applications require the consumer to monitor or use energy in response to new information (i.e. creating more work).

So, these three so-called truths have validity, but now let’s debunk them with some real life examples in the world of Cleantech 2.0.

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Self-Healing Polymers

Every year billions of dollars in corroded metal hit the scrap heap. Some gets recycled. Besides filling our landfills with pollutants, these metals and their coatings require enormous inputs of energy to create and recycle. (Been to a steel mill lately?)

Various coatings are added to metals to help them last longer; there have been remarkable improvements. The old rust-bucket automobile is a rare sight today. But, coatings get damaged after which corrosion ensues. What if the coating could last several times longer? It would reduce the need for chemicals used in cleaning and recoating metals and keep more items out of the scrap heap.

Today, self-healing polymers can be added to a coating in small quantities to prolong the life of the coating and underlying material. Manufacturing can be outsourced to established suppliers and the paint can be applied like any other without a major behavioral change. The sustainability premium is small relative to the performance gain.

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On-Demand Technology

When a 500-bedroom hotel wants to heat water, how do they do it? They typically keep large tanks of water hot with a boiler system. These systems are large, expensive and redundant. They keep large quantities of water hot even during times when little is being used.

Enter on-demand technology, which only heats water when it is being used and has no storage tanks. On-demand technology is now available for use in commercial and industrial environments. Interestingly enough, the system can be less capital intensive than the system it replaces. It can cost the hotel the same or less to buy and install, avoiding the sustainability premium. And, it doesn’t require a significant change in behavior as it uses the same natural gas and connects in a similar fashion. It actually can be a little easier to install due to a smaller form factor and cooler exhaust.

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Chemical Advances

Beta Glucan is used to promote animal (and human) health and as an alternative to the potential overuse of antibiotics in our food sources. The conventional method of production involves extracting beta glucan from yeast. It is costly, messy and involves harsh chemicals.

There is now a proprietary method to produce Beta Glucan from algae in sterile fermentation tanks (not too dissimilar to the ones used to brew beer). It is a cleaner and more energy efficient method of producing Beta Glucan and results in a product with greater purity and lower cost.

The sustainability comes with a discount rather than a premium. The end product is used essentially the same requiring no change for the end user. And the production tanks are inexpensive – just as it is relatively inexpensive to start a craft brewery today.

These are just three examples of technologies that contradict commonly accepted truths; there are many more.

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Cleantech 2.0

Cleantech 2.0 isn’t better—it’s just different. Many disruptive and important technologies come with aforementioned truths and our world needs the investors who support them. A Tesla automobile doesn’t exist without major capital investments and a willingness of consumers to change the way they source fuel for their cars. (The sustainability premium is dropping).

The objective of this article is to cast light on generally accepted truths that have scared away many an investor or acted like blinders covering the eyes of others. The unaccepted truth is that there are numerous options to positively change the world without having to settle for a less attractive investment profile. As Cleantech investors ourselves, we don’t necessarily want too many investors back in the game, but a few additional kindred spirits wouldn’t hurt.

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Larry Hayward 2

Larry Hayward is a Chicago entrepreneur.

This article was adapted from TheVentureLab blog

Copyright © 2015 TheVentureLab

Photos – Larry Hayward

VentureLab logo

theventurelab.blogspot.com

This article appeared in News From Heartland

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THE APPRENTICE MEETS DIGITAL BOOT CAMP

icstarg 1Techbash – Part 3

VERBATIM – John Jonelis

This is a story of high expectations, high reality, and high energy. I may as well give it to you straight, because Loop Lonogan would want it that way. He’s in the lockup. Too much hard partying on Twelfth Night. His guests spilled into the street and all kinds of trouble erupted—part of it involving a policeman he knocked cold.  So I’m here at i.c.stars headquarters.  Here to finish Lonagan’s series of articles.  I’m talking to the president and co-founder, Sandee Kastrul.

The location—downtown Chicago. The workspace—all business. I start by throwing out this question: “Can I call i.c.stars a social incubator. Is that fair?”

Sandee bursts out in a smile. “I love it—I love it. It’s all about transformation. Technology is a tool of transformation. Sandee 2We teach technology because it’s creative. It doesn’t know what you look like. At the end of the day you can be a rock star.

“But what really gets us jazzed about technology is the systems thinking and the process that’s embedded in it. If you can take that and apply it to community leadership, to organizing, to service leaders, to entrepreneurship, we can literally make a change in the communities that we come from. And so we sit between the leadership and the technology side. Our vision is 1000 community leaders by 2020. So everything is about the leadership angle.”

This gal is for real and genuinely creative and intellectual. I’m going to enjoy this conversation.

Then she pauses and cocks her head. “Why was the TechBash event so special for Mr. Lonogan?”

icstarg 14

High Expectations

“When Loop visited TechBash,” I say as I lean forward, hands clasped, “he met people that deeply impressed him. Everybody wants to give back—both interns and alums. They’re all wonderful evangelists for your program. He convinced me that you’ve really got something terrific going on here. I also think he feels a deep empathy with the people he met because, as you know, he grew up in a tough neighborhood—and he profited by it. Of course, with Loop we always have to consider the open bar.”

Sandee 16Sandee laughs at that and I ask her to fill me in. 

“Reciprocity is one of our seven tenants.” she says. “It’s embedded in everything we do. Our model is all project-based learning. You spend a week doing team building, leadership training, trust exercises, cross-cultural communications, and then that Friday the team is divided up into three teams that form their own consulting companies and they’re literally competing with each other for their first bid on a project.”

Now I feel a grin coming on.  That’s the kind of interactive hands-on education that I always loved and seldom experienced.  I ask her if the project is a simulation.

“It’s kind of like The Apprentice meets Digital Boot Camp,” she says. “Leadership objectives are baked into their project. There are monkey wrenches all the way through, and those things are scripted, but the software they’re building is real, the requirements are real, it’s all very real.”

How many of your people find work in their field in six months?”

90% placement rate for our graduates—within six months probably 95-100%.”

That’s a significant statement.  Amazing in any economic climate.  So I ask her for the details. 

“Four months of an intensive, twelve hour a day, project-based learning environment.”

“Homework?”

She comes right back. Sandee 6“You do the work until it’s done. I always say the difference between school and work is: School is all about you and work is about everybody else. Sometimes they’ll be here till one in the morning working on deliverables.”

“So twelve hours or even more.”

“Yes. It’s project-based learning. The student is in a meeting and client will say, Okay, we want you to build this mobile app.”

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High Reality

“Corporate sponsors come in with real needs?”

“That’s right. And then the interns figure out how to do it. Then in the last hour, we have a subject matter expert who will come in on a parachute from the sky and help them over the last mile. And what’s important about that from a pedagogy standpoint is that you are learning how to learn—how to figure things out—how to learn quickly—and how to apply that information. Sandee 7It’s not pre-teaching for later—it’s literally learn-for-the-month. What’s interesting is that our whole program is built on the premise that people who have overcome adversity have developed resiliency. And they wouldn’t be sitting at our table without it. Resiliency is the number one thing we’re looking for in our assessment process.”

That makes so much sense to me. I know she’s right.  Of course, not everybody thrives in such a setting and it takes strength of character.  So I ask her where she finds her intern candidates.

“We recruit from all over. Most come from the South and West sides of Chicago.”

Consider the magnitude of what she’s saying. Those are some of the roughest neighborhoods in the country. So I relate to her what Lonagan described last night through the steel screen: “Some of the alums told Loop they felt helpless till they found i.c.stars. Angry. No expectations out of life. No hope. No reason to have any. But each of them somehow had the drive to try this program and somehow got accepted. Does that describe your students?”

“I think so. We’re looking for people who are fighting for something bigger than themselves. That and the resiliency piece. Sandee 9So at some point, they faced adversity in their life and said, ‘I’ll show you. You’re not gonna tell me no.’ And it’s that fight—that resiliency—that develops this tool kit that has creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, all these things. We’re taking that toolkit and providing different context for them to learn. Our assumption is they already have all the raw materials. The project-based learning environment says, You already know—we’re just giving you this other context.

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High Energy

“But you train them first—before they go into a project?”

“A little bit. A week.”

I sit straight in my chair. A week? Who can do that? She must be describing the hottest recruiting ground in the world. “So they learn to program while doing?”

“Yes. We also have night classes. Experts come in and teach a concept.”

“Where do you find the experts to teach?”

She grins. “We have about a thousand volunteers plugged in. The training program manager handles that. A technical coach is on staff. It’s a busy place.”

She’s describing a training program on steroids.  “How many recruits do you accept for a four-month internship?”

“We have capacity for 20 people at a time. We err on the smaller side.”

“I heard that you start with 3,000.”

“That is a very interesting statistic. The top of the funnel is about 400 people who are interested enough in i.c.stars to show the necessary commitment. Sandee 10What happens in that pipeline is quite rigorous: Four phases of assessment tests. At each level, people drop off. They self-select out. They might say, ‘It’s a little too intense—I’m not ready yet.’ It’s not as if we’re kicking people out all the way through—they’re saying, ‘I’m not ready.’

“The last leg is our panel interview. That really looks at resiliency. It is nothing more than seven existential questions in a panel setting. That interview has been THE greatest indicator of people’s success in the program. And on the job. And in the community. It really is looking at, ‘How do you see yourself in the world?’ Are you coming from a locus of control, like, ‘I’m a victim,’ or are you at, ‘This is what I want to do.’ Where do you sit? It’s very powerful. It’s like, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’”

Sandee 8Then she abruptly stands. “High Tea is going to happen now. It’s something we do every day. We have a different business or community leader come to the table and share their story.” She ushers me in and gives me a seat. “You’re going to introduce the person to your left.”

Introduce who—how? Suddenly I’m getting a small dose of what it means to learn while doing and it doesn’t feel comfortable at all.

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GO TO PART 4 – HIGH TECH HIGH TEA

GO BACK TO PART 1 – TALENT HIDES

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Contacts

i.c.stars – www.icstars.org

Sandee Kastrul – President & Co-founder – sKastrul@icstars.org

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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KILLING IT

Impact the World TImpact Engine – Part 8

By Jeff Segal – message therapist

Less than a year ago, I asked a prominent figure in Chicago’s startup community about local investors’ interest in the social enterprise model.

She told me flatly, “No one cares.”

Well, they care now. Six months after the first Impact Engine Investor Day, five of the eight members of the initial cohort have closed a round of funding. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 62.5%, compared to 6% or less for startups in general, according to Forbes.  Impact Engine and social enterprise are killing it – killing the competition.

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Surprise

Portapure, one of the first group of grads, builds individual water treatment devices for developing nations. The company recently closed angel funding worth potentially $300K. I didn’t see that one coming. What did I miss?

“Other filtration technologies aren’t specific to developing countries’ needs and environment,” says founder George Page. “They are high-end products developed for the first world, some with pumps that require electricity or batteries. They’re useless in developing countries. Portapure units work on gravity, with no complex mechanisms. Anyone with a 2nd grade education level can understand how to use them.”

Page explains that Haitians, who on average earn less than $1,000 a year, can spend as much as $3.50 a week on drinking water—but can buy a Portapure unit with a microfinance loan and pay it off in 4-5 months with the savings. With more than 4 million Haitians lacking access to clean water, that’s a promising market.

Before Impact Engine, Page says he was offered $50,000 for half of his company. It’s now valued at $4 million. He thanks Impact Engine “…for access to folks who understand that sustainable social impact is a true value-add, at the forefront of changing how business works.”

Impact the World courtesy Technori.

Legitimacy for the Whole Social Enterprise Space

Collaborative Group closed on funding of $550K. They connect retail brands with artisans in the developing world—for example, a line of Rachel Roy/FEED handbags is now sourced from India. Founder Kathleen Wright describes the impact such projects create: “We’re employing five artisan groups, and they’re all now sending their kids to school. It really enables them to have different dreams for their kids and themselves.”

But it’s not all social impact—Wright projects that her revenues will double this year.

ThinkCERCA got funded to the tune of $490K and launches its platform this August. They provide curriculum and tools that teach the critical thinking and literacy skills essential to the new Common Core State Standards—standards 49 states already adopted—standards that nobody knows how to implement.

For starters, they’ll reach more than 5,000 students between grades 4 and 12 in both city and suburban school districts. “It helps teachers and kids collaborate and construct new knowledge,” says founder Eileen Murphy, “because you just can’t teach someone to write using multiple choice questions.”

Aside from its feel good vibe, Murphy points out a concrete advantage of the social enterprise model in the tech community: “The social impact focus makes a big difference (for a startup company) competing for engineers.”

Regarding Impact Engine, Wright says, Chuck Templeton’s  guidance—how can you put a price on that? It gives legitimacy to the whole social enterprise space.”

Murphy adds, “Their energy, intelligence, support, and influence can’t be replicated, no matter how brilliant you are or how hard you work.”

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Two More Funded

Asadi, which markets inexpensive feminine hygiene products in rural India, has since moved back to India to build and train its sales network of 100 female entrepreneurs.

Pangea —which, for reasons unstated, didn’t even pitch on Investor Day—has closed on more than $1 million to finance its multiplatform, worldwide money-transfer solution.

Elizabeth Riley, Impact Engine Program Manager, explains the kind of company that fits the incubator’s profile: “We don’t accept companies with a Buy-One, Give-One business model,” she says, referring to companies that just donate to charity every time someone makes a purchase.

That’s not the social entrepreneurship model. A true social enterprise creates its social benefit from the exact same business activity that generates its sustainable revenue. It’s a model that’s gaining credibility and winning converts, and the eight members of Impact Engine #1 are establishing Chicago as one of the world’s top social enterprise centers.

So—who’s next?

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About the Author

Jeff SegalJeff Segal   Twitter Bird @MsgTherapist, works with entrepreneurs as a Message Therapist, translating great ideas into messages that connect with customers, partners and investors. He also writes at BrokerSavant  and We’re Not Expecting Any Surprises. Contact him at mt.jeffsegal@gmail.com

This article can also be seen at Technori

Photo credits – Technori and Jeff Segal

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Look for Part 9 – Coming Soon

Back to Part 1 – WHAT’S GOOD

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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