Showing posts with label Seed spot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Seed spot. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

SEED SPOT DC VENTURE THURSDAYS by Skyler Myers, Creative Investment Intern, Clemson University

Booz Allen Hamilton was gracious enough to host 2019’s DC Venture Thursdays sponsored by Seed Spot, an organization supporting entrepreneurs making a societal impact. Seed Spot helps by providing mentors, capital, and other resources needed to succeed. The March 21 event was the final pitch practice for the entrepreneurs participating in the program. Each was given three minutes to summarize their product or service. Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading business and technology consulting firm, was the perfect place to hold the event, with a space that resembled more of an incubator than a consulting office. There was coffee on draft, pizza, and beer available for all participants, giving the high-pressure event a more laid back feel, and the location was stuffed with virtual reality gear connected to large monitors.

Nine entrepreneurs were given a shot to impress the audience, who were then able to ask biting questions to the entrepreneurs themselves on the spot. Of the nine startups, I noticed a pattern develop. Seed Spot makes no attempt to hide its focus on diversity and inclusion, and that was on full display among the entrepreneurs selected. Six out of the nine were women. Half of those were American ethnic minorities, from a Pakistani woman to a handful of African American women. Their ideas reflected this diverse background. Meher Rehman, from Pakistan, focused on a striking problem in Pakistan that has also affected many Western countries - discrimination against women, particularly in the workforce. Ms. Rehman indicated that there are thousands of highly qualified, degree holding women in Pakistan who cannot find employment, especially in the technology field in which they have been trained. Her start-up attempts to solve that problem by creating an app that connects these women to employers specifically looking to diversify their workforce. It must be noted, these women are not being hired just because they are women; the app ensures that applicants are completely qualified for each position.

The focus on impact did not end there. The African American women who presented were all in the business of creating startups that dialed in on their group. The startups presented included an all-encompassing finance app and a startup focused on training in order to get more African American women in upper management. Many of these ideas have already been put into practice by other entrepreneurs, but the niche these women are targeting is the part of the market that only caters to  specific groups, like African American women in need of financial services, and then builds their program around maximizing benefits to this demographic before expanding to the general marketplace.

Of the startups presenting, one of my personal favorites was an app called Goodfynd by Kyle Miller. The app is to make it easier for food-seekers to find and pay food truck owners. There are over 400 food trucks in DC alone, so this app has the potential to streamline the process of finding the truck you want most, seeing their menus, and paying for your meal. As someone who nearly exclusively gets food from stores that have a mobile ordering app, this could be a great benefit to my arsenal, since I love the cuisine that food trucks offer, but it hasn’t been worth the time or hassle in finding them.

But, out of all the startups, if I had only one to invest in to maximize my returns, it would be Haven by Ben Pugh. Haven is a sleek and user friendly app (designed to feel like using Instagram) that quickly clarifies complex health insurance plans, bringing users the information they need as to what they can and cannot do with their insurance without spending hours researching this information. Simply put your data in the app, and thirty seconds later, you are told all of your healthcare options. In an age where so many are constantly connected to their phones and are app crazy, a simple, easy to use app which provides a great personal and social benefit to nearly everyone has the ability to take off. Ben also answered all the erudite questions from the audience without a moment of hesitation. He got my vote for best of show.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Seed Spot Demo Day: A Night of Excitement, Passion, and Social Impact

On July 14th, 2017, Seed Spot hosted their first ever demo day for their Washington, D.C. location. Seed Spot is a nonprofit organization, based in Phoenix, AZ., committed to supporting social entrepreneurs through education and investment.

They did not disappoint.

At core, Seed Spot embraces entrepreneurs seeking to solve social problems, regardless of the entrepreneur's race, gender, age, or socio-economic background.  Seed Spot's dedication to the D.C. area was on full display as well, with the CEO and many board members in attendance.

Their dedication to inclusion and excellence was also on vivid display at the magnificent Warner Theater in downtown Washington on Thursday night, with nine truly remarkable DC-area startups being showcased to a packed crowd. The startups on display completed Seed Spot's 14-week accelerator program.

These businesses are more than just individuals with a dream or good idea.  Each startup had a strong team complete with a board of directors/advisors, subject matter experts, employees from various backgrounds, and even some interns!  This showcased Seed Spot’s impact in providing these companies with the resources they need to succeed and the entrepreneur’s true commitment to their passions.

Throughout the night, you could clearly see Seed Spot’s and Washington’s commitment to diversity in the startup world.  Over half of the companies were founded by women, with multiple ethnicities represented in the cohort.  This inclusionary stance embodies the principles needed in the startup culture and Seed Spot should be applauded for their commitment to their values.  Opportunity should be linked to merit, something all too lost in some circles of the startup industry.

Pitting the businesses in a friendly competition, the audience was asked to vote on their favorite, based on potential social impact.

A brief outline of each startup and their product can be found below:

IMBY (In my backyard)
Mobile app allowing a user to find information on construction projects in their area. The app also provides a mid-term outlook on how the neighborhood will change if the project is built.
Survey data from the app is accessible to real estate investors, thus increasing their knowledge of resident’s opinions on potential projects.

Empowered to Run
Digital tools to help people run for public office, providing a road map for success, campaign techniques, and help finding needed resources
Geared to state and local elections, this product will help decrease the number of uncontested elections nationwide by empowering candidates who may previously have not thrown their hat in the ring due to feeling unprepared.

Halana Foods
Makes snack foods from “imperfect” produce from local farms. The firm states that 30 to 40 percent of local produce normally cannot be sold due to minor imperfections.
In contrast to others in the alternative snack market, Halana is both healthy and affordable.

Mobile app offering career development tools from educational workshops to counseling/consulting
Aimed at providing development opportunities to all levels of the workforce: college graduates entering the workforce, mid-career professionals striving for a new challenge, and seasoned workers looking to make a change to an enjoyable position after retirement
Digital media outlet for sharing the incredible stories of those individuals striving to save and conserve our environment at the local, national, and worldwide level.
Help pair conservation projects with donors and/or local volunteers looking to join the good cause

Digital platform helping people advance their careers by showing the skills needed for certain jobs and the labor demands for that position
Shows educational options needed to obtain certain skills, with the idea of reducing university recruitment costs for partnered (and paying) universities.

Product provides mobile cybersecurity, a grossly underused and undervalued area of cybersecurity
Smartphone antivirus software helps protect against potential hacks of personal information, location services, or camera access.

Mia Learning
Interactive app helps kids choose books best suited to them, fostering greater achievement and motivation to read
Targeting elementary schoolrooms, kids can tell “Mia” what they are interested in and appropriate books will be recommended.

Mentor Method
Provides a new hiring solution to promote both diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Compared to an online dating type platform that pairs employers with minorities and women that meet their company standards, not just their diversity mandates

All of these companies showcased phenomenal products, with tremendous social impact.

As a newcomer to the Washington area, I was astounded by the level of support for local startups. With over 500 people in attendance and remarkable pitches by each team, the event gave me a clear sense of how tight knit the startup scene is in the Capital: during the awards ceremony, a member of the audience decided to give his personal favorite project  an impromptu award of three months of office space!  Other key takeaways from the event include noting how well organized these DC startups are, the obvious dedication to minority and woman inclusion, and the professional, profound involvement of BoozAllenHamilton.

In addition to being the lead community sponsor for the night, BoozAllenHamilton provided active support to many of the companies in the Seed Spot program. Booz also gave two cash prizes for social impact.  With Executive Vice President Julie McPherson and numerous employees in attendance, it was good to see their genuine interest in local startups.  This type of commitment from very established firms is vital in promoting growth for both new and well-known startups.  Hopefully we will see this trend continue, with large, respected companies helping startups in any way they can, from direct investment to expert consulting.

Seed Spot demo day provided me with an experience I frankly did not expect.  The vibrancy of the audience coupled with the true passion of the entrepreneurs made for a fun night full of promise and excitement.  Demo day opened my eyes to the exciting local startup scene I just walked into and I look forward to seeing its continued growth and expansion.

So, who won? Mentor Method took home the top cash prize.

Overall, D.C. demo day was an outstanding success for Seed Spot, the entrepreneurs, and the D.C. community.

John Ray
Impact Investing Analyst at Creative Investment Research
Georgetown University
Mcdonough School of Business
Masters of Finance, May 2019