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ICT4Social Enterprise Business Plan Competition Finalists

By Eric Blantz on December 30, 2010

A few weeks back I had the privilege of serving as one of 4 judges for the business plan competition that is the culmination of Assistant Professor Tapan Parikh’s graduate course, “ICT for Social Enterprise“, at UC Berkeley’s School of Information Sciences.

I was introduced to the course and the competition last year, when I also judged, and from what I saw this year all I can say is that if I were going back to school (a perennial fantasy of mine), and if I had any real tech chops, I’d want to go to Cal in the iSchool. Full disclosure, I was Bear as an undergrad so am a bit biased.

This year we evaluated 5 projects, each of which puts ICTs at the core of an innovative Social Enterprise business model. Though each pitch was distinct in terms of focus and ICTs, there were some recurring themes as well, among them the use of crowd/outsourcing, reliance on mobile devices and pilot projects planned in India.

Here, in alphabetical order, are brief descriptions of each company, pretty much verbatim from their pitches, along with contacts in case you’re interested.

  1. AwaazDe’s primary offering is a voice messaging platform that allows individuals to call a hotline, leave a message, and receive a tailored response from the organization managing the hotline. Team: Paul Goodman, Meena Natarajan, Rose George.
  2. Edumile enables micro-loans through social investors to reach students pursuing higher education in India. Team: Satish Polisetti, Ankita Goyal, Sean Carey.
  3. Mobile Works gives underemployed and impoverished individuals in the developing world the ability to earn supplemental income by doing work through their mobile phones. Team: Anand Kulkarni, Daniel Chiang, Philipp Gutheim, Prayag Narula, David Rolnitzky.
  4. The NGO360 web directory is a website for NGOs and anyone interested in learning more about them. The profiles serve as a hub for discovering more information about NGOs in existing web locations. Team: Walter Koning
  5. Shreddr revolutionizes data management by providing organizations with on-demand paper data transcription and access to digital versions of their data. Team: Andrea Spillmann, Ariel Chait, Daniel Perry, Kuang Chen

The pitches this year were strong; so strong that we decided to award 2 “first place” prizes ($4k each to AwaazDe and MobileWorks) and a second prize ($2k to Shredder) as well. I know that risks spreading the love too thin to do any one project much good, but I think all the judges agreed that several of these projects have a real chance to get to pilot, and even modest support, however small, can help to leverage additional funding.

I look forward to following their progress and hope to be invited back next year for more great pitches and an update on the alums.

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Eric is the Senior Director for Healthcare Solutions, responsible for Inveneo’s overall approach to this rapidly changing problem area, including strategy, select project management and development of health-specific ICT solutions in collaboration with Inveneo's strategic partners in the health sector.
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