June 19, 2014

Millennial Innovators: Meet Ecoviate, GiveMob, and Scholarships Expanding Education (SEE)

Today I’m at MCON, an event focused on Millennial engagement. Here’s a postcard of sorts from one piece of the program: the Be Fearless! Pitch-It competition. (I was especially intrigued about this part of the event because, with the help of our friends at LimeRed Studios, NTEN is planning its own Idea Accelerator at the Leading Change Summit this September.)

Emily Yu of the Case Foundation served as the emcee and interviewer as three social entrepreneurs presented quick pitches about their work and tech products. Along with the input of four judges (who, ahead of time, narrowed the applicant pool down to these three competitors), the Case Foundation and Millennial Impact have asked the audience to vote online until 4:45pm Central time today

Whose stories resonated most? Who will win $2,000 to put toward their projects? Here are my notes, dashed off in the auditorium at #MCON14 to help you decide if you want to vote.

Pitch #1: Param Jaffi of Ecoviate
@paramjaggi
@ecoviate

    •    Param is 19 years old and is focused on tech products that help people make sustainable choices and reduce carbon emissions. “I was first an environmentalist and second an entrepreneur…It’s hard to change the world if you don’t have a planet to live on.” 
    •    60 million cars are produced globally each year, and there are 1.7 billion motor vehicles in the world today; 2.4 million pounds of CO2 released per second.
    •    Products include Greenshields, ecotube, and ecotank
    •    One tree is planted for every item purchased or downloaded
    •    Param met his business partners at the Forbes 30 Under 30 party. Each had products in development; they decided to work together rather than compete in the same space. 
    •    They’ve also launched the Ecoviate Mentorship Program – so far it’s very informal, they’re mentoring other youth around the world. Eventually they will launch a more formal program.
    •    Big goals in addition to iterating on the products and getting them adopted widely: By 2016, they will solidify their business strategy, aggregate a mentorship program of 100,000 students around the world, and plant a million trees. Aim to build sustainable tech, empower others to do the same, and have some fun in the process.
    •    Ideation process: “I’ve always identified as an environmentalist and an inventor” – Param will sketch something out and then reach out to his mentors to develop it in a pragmatic way. 
    •    Other guiding principles include “fail forward” and the principle that you can have great ideas in the lab, but if people don’t believe in the “why” of what you’re doing, the change doesn’t get implemented.

Pitch #2: Hiraa Khan of Givemob
@hiraak
@givemob

    •    Givemob is a mobile app that allows people to make charitable donations with simple clicks, and brings new projects to users’ attention.  
    •    In the U.S., charitable giving is rising, but falling among Millennials (from 8% to 3% in the last decade). At Givemob, we believe this is because nonprofits are not reaching Millennials where they live – on mobile devices.
    •    Among people ages 12-29, 50% say they primarily access online with mobile devices. “We can take spontaneous action wherever and whenever we want to do so.” 
    •    The 2010 Haiti earthquake brought mobile giving into public consciousness, citing strong percentages of people who have given via mobile who say they now prefer giving that way…but there are few mobile channels that allow and inspire us to give. 
    •    How Givemob works: After the app is downloaded, users select charitable preferences (e.g. housing, human rights, education) so that the Givemob team can curate content that reflects the needs and interests of users.
    •    Every day the app shows a new nonprofit campaign, whether project-specific or org-specific. They keep the past five campaigns active on the app in case users missed a few days.
    •    If you want to donate, you click and are taken to a text-to-donate mechanism (two main reasons for this: first, because texting is familiar to people, and also because Apple iTunes guidelines prohibit in-app donations unless it’s a donation via text). 
    •    Givemob also keeps a log of users’ giving so they can export and keep track for donation/tax purposes. 
    •    After launching February 2014, the app already has thousands of supporters, hundreds of users, dozens of nonprofit supporters without having put any money yet into marketing, sales, and partnerships. 
    •    Looking to release version 2 later this summer, with better content creation based on interest and giving history, geolocation based giving, offline interactions, generally enhancing UX and UI.
    •    “We want to make giving as easy as possible, and if you’re a nonprofit, we’d love to hear from you.” 

Pitch #3: Cabell Maddux, Scholarships Expanding Education (SEE)
@giveandsee

    •    Cabell taught himself programming to create the prototype for this platform. 
    •    Premise: Anyone can create a named scholarship on behalf of a loved one. They fundraise via their network and then transfer the total amount to an institution.
    •    Example: Story of Ashley Jackson, an admissions counselor from a small college in Danville, Virginia. Her friend Blake died a few years ago at age 24 due to complications from epilepsy. Blake was a beloved DJ at a local country oldies station. Ashley decided to create a scholarship in Blake’s memory. SEE aims to help someone like Ashley utilize her unique set of resources (time, social media presence, a cause that’s near and dear to her).
    •    The opportunity to create a named scholarship has traditionally been limited to people who can give $30,000 or $50,000 up front. But these restrictions aren’t the fault of the institutions – having to handle the logistics for smaller donations is a nightmare. So SEE aims to externalize those logistical barriers. 
    •    People can create a scholarship in less than 5 minutes and get right to fundraising, and then SEE makes it easy to transfer it to the institution of their choice.
    •    Someone donated $60 to the Blake Dalton scholarship in May. She didn’t know Ashley, but that brought the scholarship to $500 even. 10 days before her deadline, Ashley had reached her goal. This fall, a university will award the scholarship to a communications major. 
    •    Are schools receptive? SEE has gone everywhere from small K-12 private schools in VA to schools like UNC-Chapel Hill. The goal is balancing the experience of the organizer of the scholarship with making it simple for the institution.
    •   So far it is a bootstrapped platform that’s automated and very scalable.  

Intrigued? Already rooting for one of these? You can vote until 4:45pm Central time today at http://themillennialimpact.com/mcon14-live.