Several UW groups competed and received grants and investments at the Social Venture Partners Seattle’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch (SIFP) forum on Thursday.
The teams competed for $230,000 in funding, which was awarded to 10 groups.
The event, run by former Microsoft executive Will Poole, is one of the largest innovation fast pitch events in the country. This year, 84 groups applied to participate but only 14 finalists attended the competition. Social Venture Partners holds variations of the event in 10 cities nationwide each year.
Judges scored finalists’ pitches and one-page executive summaries according to the following criteria: societal impact, innovation, sustainability, leadership, and presentation.
CityClub Living Voters Guide, a collaboration between Seattle nonprofit CityClub and the UW’s public engagement project UW Engage, won the first-place prize of $25,000 as an established nonprofit.
Travis Kriplean, a member of UW Engage who received his Ph.D. in computer science and engineering at the UW, said the funding will allow the Living Voters Guide to expand beyond Washington. By 2013, the team hopes to expand to seven new states. Eventually, the team will sell the service to governments, libraries, and nonprofits.
SIFP not only gives the teams the opportunity to expand through funding but also provides them with mentoring, feedback, and a network of like-minded individuals who have a genuine interest in their ideas.
“The network that comes out of this is valuable — it’s great to be able to talk to people with similar interests,” Kriplean said. “It breeds a sense of camaraderie.”
StudentRND, a program that inspires students to work on tech projects during their spare time, won the first-place prize of $5,000 for the university track. The program is run by UW students Edward Jiang and Adam Ryman. Funding will go towards launching another “CodeDay,” a 24-hour programming workshop and competition for youth. Eventually, Jiang and Ryman hope to expand nationwide and increase the number of CodeDays and summer-long “StudentRND Incubator” programs.
“Personally, [receiving funding] means people are recognizing StudentRND as something worthwhile,” Ryman said. “[StudentRND] is about seeing students proud of something they did, because we inspired [them] to do something they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Young Women Empowered (Y-WE), a program that empowers young women in Seattle through mentorship, future-planning, and confidence programs, received the second-place audience-choice award of $2,500. This funding will go toward increasing the program’s size from 75 to 150 girls and establishing Y-WE’s first summer camp.
Y-WE Facilitator and Program Coordinator Devin Majkut, who is pursuing a master’s in social work at the UW, said the event gave participants the opportunity to connect with community volunteers and leaders, and acquire new presentation and networking skills through mentoring and workshops.
“It has really connected us to a community who are committed to combatting the same issues as we are,” Majkut said. “It has refined our fundraising and PR skills, and given our girls an opportunity to connect with the nonprofit community.”
Other finalists included former and current UW student groups, including Microryza, Seattle Good Business Network, Springwire, and Corengi, Inc. CityClub Living Voters Guide, Y-WE, Seattle Good Business Network, Student RND, and Corengi, Inc. all received funding at the final event.
The event also featured a speech by Nathan Myhrvold, founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures and creator of the Global Good program. He told the 1,000-person audience to “embrace failure.”
He said inventing is not a game in which you should count misses or strikes — what’s important is the power of the idea.
“I like that [Myhrvold] said to embrace failure, which was reassuring,” said Denny Luan, founder of a crowd-funding website called Microryza, “because he definitely isn’t someone who you consider a failure.”
Reach reporter Ann Huynh
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