By: Zeb McLaurin VI

January 24, 2020

Globally, there are 821 million people who are hungry. That’s 1 in 9 people on the planet. Every year, nearly 40 million people experience hunger in the United States, including more than 11 million children who go to bed hungry every single night. Yet, we’re wasting more food than ever before— 80 billion pounds a year to be exact.  According to the EPA, food waste has increased by 50% since the 1970s and is now the largest solid waste contributor to landfill. And as this food sits, it gradually rots and produces harmful methane gas, a leading contributor to global climate change.

Not only is this bad for the environment, it’s bad for the bottom line and our communities. There’s the waste of the food itself, the waste of producing the now wasted food, and the waste of labor, the social inequity between people who really need food but can’t get it — and those who have too much and just trash it.

This is where Goodr comes in. We realized that hunger was not an issue of scarcity but rather a matter of logistics. In 2017, we set out to end hunger by using technology as we believe that technology and innovation have the power to solve big problems and especially hunger.

create an app that would inventory everything a business sells and, at the end of each night, donate surplus food (that would normally go to waste) to food insecure communities. The app allows businesses to simply click on items, tell us how many they have and request a pick-up. Our platform then calculates the tax value of items being donated as well as analytics on metrics like most wasted items. The app then connects with local drivers to get this food picked up from businesses and delivered right to the door of nonprofits and people in need.

We provide data and analytics to help businesses reduce their food waste and even save millions of dollars. Our mission was simple: Feed More, Waste Less and by 2018, our clients included the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson airport, and major companies and brands like Hormel, Papa John’s, Chick-fil-a, the NFL for Super Bowl 53 and more than 200 businesses. We diverted more than 2 million pounds of food from landfills to people. This accounted for about 1.7 million meals and then we started to expand our reach to other cities like Washington, DC, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia and more.

In 2019 we decided to take things a step further by collecting organic waste (nonedible food scraps), so we developed our Organics Recycling division where we either compost, feed animals, feed insects that produce fertilizer, and more! Once we collect, we take it to one of our partners who utilize the scraps in their operations. As conversations around sustainability continues to grow, we hope that both people and businesses keep Goodr in mind when they decide to embark on their journey to 0 waste.

Hunger and food waste doesn’t sleep and neither do we. Contact Goodr at [email protected] to join the fight!

By: Jane Curth, Co-Founder & CEO, FitFixNow

January 21, 2020

 

I’ve been a health and wellness professional for my entire adult life. I know firsthand how working on one’s own health dramatically improves quality of life, and have always looked for ways to make a real difference in the lives of others.

When we started FitFixNow, there was an obvious issue. The industry of providing continuing education to fitness professionals was almost completely offline. And the companies that did offer these products and services to fitness professionals weren’t all that different.

They had webinars at particular times, or if they offered an online course, you still had to wait to enroll, and attend at certain times. So it was technically online, but in the end, all that they gained from “online” was saving a commute. It still wouldn’t fit neatly into their busy lives.

So we decided to put together an option that would absolutely fit into any schedule. Then, they could attack the course work on any device, anywhere — and, most importantly, anytime.

But it had to go further. We wanted to rethink the nature of what we were teaching our customers.

Turning Fitness Professionals Into Entrepreneurs

 

The fitness industry has exploded in the past decade. You can see it in everything from gym attendance to standing desks at work, and everything in between.

But fitness professionals still struggle to make a living. Many opportunities for trainers and group fitness instructors are only within an existing system. Fitness professionals have largely been “gig economy” members long before the term was popularized.

So we asked the question, if fitness is booming, why aren’t fitness professionals reaping the benefits? That’s when we realized that fitness entrepreneurship was an essential component of becoming successful in the industry.

Seeing this need, we put together a suite of professional development courses that give fitness professionals the roadmap to success, whether they’re working at a big box gym or training clients out of their garage.

Turning Fitness Professionals Into Quality Of Life Heroes

 

Another need we discovered within the industry is with special populations, especially with seniors. Fitness becomes more important as we get older and experience more significant health conditions.

As such, we’ve developed courses that specifically will help trainers improve the quality of life for their clients within special populations, like those living with autism, Parkinson’s, or even teen athletes.

We think success isn’t measured in a bottom line, but rather how we empower our customers to make their own positive change in the world. 

Purpose Must Drive What You Do

 

When it comes to making something work as an entrepreneur, at every step of the way, it’s our values and purpose that act as the compass to finding our way in the dark uncertainty of the market. And it acts as a check on our decision making.

It’s this fundamental philosophy that pushes us to do more, to go further, and to make a positive difference in the lives of the people we touch.

Originally posted by The World Economic Forum

By: Judy Oh, Global Shaper, Atlanta Hub, BrightHouse

January 15, 2020

 

  • Millennials and Gen Z will be the majority of the workforce in 2020.
  • For younger generations, workplace purpose must be reflected by authentic actions.
  • Companies can examine purpose through the lens of humans’ innate psychological needs.

We are entering a new era in which the purpose of a corporation is evolving from the shareholder-centric model to one that serves to benefit all stakeholders. Corporations looking to thrive in this beyond-shareholder world must focus first on creating a purpose-driven employee experience, as employees have the potential to be a corporation’s strongest advocates and champions.

Specifically, corporations that want to succeed must engage millennials and Gen Z, as their presence in the global workforce will represent 59% in 2020.

For this new generation, it is not enough for their employers to simply have a compelling purpose. They want to see purpose lived out authentically through bold actions. As evidenced by the 32,000 French students from over 300 universities who have signed a pledge to only work for environmentally conscious companies and more than 1,000 Google employees across the world who staged a walk-out in protest of sexual harassment, misconduct and lack of transparency, they are emboldened to hold their companies accountable to their purpose.

Understanding the new generation of talent

To understand how to engage and motivate this new generation of talent, corporations need to examine their needs through a human lens. Motivation psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan found that all humans have three innate psychological needs essential for well-being: autonomy, sense of belonging and mastery.

While these needs are universal, they have new timely meaning and implications for millennials and Gen Z in the workplace.

1. Autonomy

Younger workers are looking for more decentralized environments where they can decide how work gets done. A Gallup study of the American workforce finds that 42% of millennials would switch to a job that allows them to work independently on a project of their choosing and 63% to a job that allows them flextime.

2. Belonging

Newer generations are looking for a deeper sense of connection in the workplace. A study by BridgeWorks shows that millennials and Gen Z consider their work a reflection of their identities, while a study by American Express shows that 75% of millennial leaders prefer to work with people and organizations that share their values.

3. Mastery

The new generation of talent is prizing employability above long-term employment. They seek continuous skills development and want to find meaningful growth opportunities at work. A global study by Manpower Group indicated 93% of millennials want lifelong learning, and four out of five said the opportunity to learn new skills is a top factor when considering a new job.

The lens of purpose

Purpose, which is the company’s reason for being, is the most powerful tool companies have at their disposal to meet the intrinsic needs of new talent. Purpose guides culture – providing a framework for consistent decision-making, creating connection through shared values and inspiring employees to reach their unique mastery. In order to fulfill the intrinsic needs of the new generations, companies must use purpose to reimagine the employee experience in three ways:

1. Purpose and autonomy

While the new generations crave expanded notions of autonomy, organizations cannot simply extend it without a mechanism for alignment. Purpose is the single most powerful edit point that aligns the organization. By clearly articulating and embedding the organizational purpose and the principles that uphold it, employees will be empowered with guardrails to make decisions at any level.

For example, Delta Airlines’ purpose harkened back to its founder’s philosophy of “customer service and hospitality from the heart” and inspired the “flat tire” policy, in which service agents were empowered with the autonomy to waive fees for fliers delayed by unforeseen circumstances.

2. Purpose and belonging

Purpose is a rallying cry that drives employees to emotionally connect to the company and to each other. When fully leveraged, purpose is not a static statement, but a powerful unifier and foundation for employees to understand and live their shared values.

KPMG, the international audit, tax and advisory firm, reinforced a sense of belonging within the organization through purpose-driven storytelling. In 2014, KPMG unveiled the Higher Purpose initiative, where the firm invited employees to share their own stories of purpose-driven work. It started a movement within the organization where more than 40,000 stories were shared across their 29,000 employee base, and key metrics, such as level of engagement, retention and pride, increased.

3. Purpose and mastery

To help employees prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, companies will not only need to upskill and reskill employees to meet market demand, but also personalize their learning journeys to align with their personal purpose. This means fostering a growth-mindset culture and creating opportunities for employees to elevate their strengths and passions in their day-to-day.

Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has used purpose to create a continuous learning culture. Microsoft’s purpose “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more” has helped embed a growth mindset in performance and development processes, shifting their focus from being a group of “know-it-alls” to a group of “learn-it-alls.”

To win in this next era, corporations must pay close attention to the unique needs of younger workers and reimagine the employee experience through the lens of purpose to deliver on those needs. Corporations that choose to act swiftly and deliberately in engaging this new generation stand to reap significant performance gains. By fulfilling the intrinsic needs of the new generations of talent, companies will enable them to unleash their full potential and be in a position to benefit from greater creativity, productivity and commitment.

Originally posted by InvestAtlanta

January 7, 2020

Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. (AEMI), a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Entity created by Invest Atlanta, officially closed an $8 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) transaction supporting the Ron Clark Academy (RCA).  SunTrust, now Truist, was the investment partner on this project.

The NMTC allocation will assist with the construction of the new 42,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Ryan Marshall Performing Arts Center, which will expand the existing school building both for student activities as well as for RCA’s teacher training programs. As a result, the school will be able to serve an additional 30 students annually and train an additional 2,500 teachers annually, increases which will help make the school 100 percent financially sustainable as well as subsidize tuition for students from households earning less than $30,000 annually. The $23 million expansion will also create seven new full-time positions.

Located in South Atlanta in a formerly vacant warehouse, RCA is an innovative nonprofit middle school and teacher training facility founded in 2007 by Ron Clark and Kim Bearden, both award-winning educators. Stated on its website, RCA’s mission is to: “Deliver the highest quality educational experience where global citizens are born through advanced rigor, engaging teaching methods, and a passionate climate and culture.”

AEMI specializes in providing gap financing for projects that create jobs and revitalize Atlanta’s distressed neighborhoods.  South Atlanta qualifies as “highly distressed” based on the 2011 – 2015 American Community Survey with a median family income of 31.84 percent of the area median income, a poverty rate of 40.9 percent, and an unemployment rate of 20.8 percent (2.5 times the national average).

Currently, the school teaches 150 children in grades fourth through eighth and offers a sliding tuition scale to assist families of all socioeconomic backgrounds. As a result of the school’s huge success (100 percent graduation rate with 95 percent of its graduates attending college or enlisting in the military), the RCA developed the “Ron Clark Experience,” for outside educators to learn about the school’s unique techniques and practices. The registration fees for the training program help cover student tuitions and enable 14,500 teachers to come from around the globe and train at the school each year.

By: Nathan Stuck

January 3, 2020

It’s 2020 and times have changed in the business world. More and more every day, becoming the gold standard of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is taking on a bigger role in C-Suite conversations.

No longer does the economic philosophy of Milton Friedman – to serve fiscal shareholders above all else – dominate the landscape. Customers and employees are demanding that the corporate world serve all stakeholders, including their employees, communities, and the environment. The number of companies listening is increasing. They have begun incorporating CSR initiatives into their day-to-day business operations. But with everyone doing it, how can you make your company stand out and work towards becoming a “gold standard of CSR?”

The answer is simple, join Ad Victoriam Solutions, Goodr Co., Decisely, Rubicon Global, and 11 other Georgia based companies and have your company certified as a B Corp.

B Corps Defined

B Corps are for-profit businesses that have a proven (and certified) commitment to serving all stakeholders. They use business as a force for good, ensuring fair pay and benefits to a diverse and inclusive workforce. They also promise to be good stewards of the environment. That means they are actively serving in their communities, and believing purpose and profit can harmoniously coexist.

However, the process isn’t easy. But as the saying goes, “if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it.” But it is worth going after and here’s why: 

1. The Gold Standard of CSR: A True Differentiator

In a workforce and consumer base increasingly dominated by Millennials and Gen Z, people are demanding more than just profit from the companies they buy from and work for. Consumers and potential employees are more likely to sniff out blatant “greenwashing.” Defined by Investopedia, “greenwashing” is “an attempt to capitalize on the growing demand for products that are environmentally sound.” Simply put, it is companies claiming “they are more natural, healthier, free of chemicals, recyclable, or less wasteful of natural resources,” with no real evidence to back up their claims. 

But with B Corps, the research and investigation into the legitimacy of a company’s claims have already been performed. After the company completes the B Impact Assessment (BIA), on which a company must score 80 out of a possible 200 points, B Lab, the nonprofit accreditation body that certifies B Corps, performs an audit of a company. The handbook and its policies are reviewed, numbers are verified, and an audit is performed. Succinctly put, B Corp certification is to for-profit business as Fair-Trade is to coffee or certified organic is to milk. The B logo is seen as a stamp of legitimacy on your CSR efforts.

2. Raising Capital

An often overlooked feature of B Corp certification is the ability to seek out investments in your business. According to Forbes, “The Global Impact Investing Network’s most recent estimate for the minimum size of the impact investment market doubled to $228 billion in assets under management, up from $114 billion in 2017.” More and more investors are looking to diversify their portfolios beyond industry. They want to include companies with environmental and social goals, following global standards like the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

As investors scramble to find investment opportunities that align with their personal values, “B Corps may attract capital better than non-b-businesses,” according to an article in Fast Company. In the article, Abi Barnes, the author of “An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Going B,” published by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, alluded to the B Corps’ ability to differentiate themselves to attract these investments. He stated that “in an era of ‘greenwashing’ and misleading labels, certified B Corporations and benefit corporations help consumers identify trustworthy companies.”

3. Hiring the Best Candidates

While often labeled as the entitled “me” generation (millennials) or as out-of-touch social media junkies (Gen Z), millennials (born between 1980-1994) will make up roughly half of the workforce in 2020. And a staggering 61 million Gen Z’ers have entered the workforce since 2016. To put it rather succinctly, these are, and will continue to be, the majority of your new hires. 

And they care passionately about everything from climate change to human rights to LGBTQ to equality, and the list is endless. More importantly, according to research from Sourcing Journal, a whopping “84% of millennials and a staggering 94% of Gen Z expect companies to address pressing social and environmental issues.” And the efforts have to be sincere, as a massive majority of both groups don’t trust traditional marketing. 

Positioning yourself as a leader in the CSR space signals your authenticity to these companies. As I personally recruit and interview at the University of Georgia, I am astonished at how many candidates approach us and begin the conversation with B Corp related blogs and social media posts they found when planning which companies they wanted to talk to. Our status as a B Corp has definitely helped us recruit top talent from both of these growing generational groups. 

4. Mission Lock

One of the biggest benefits of B Corp certification for a growing company is the ability to lock in your mission. When Ad Victoriam Solutions went through the assessment, we only had eight employees. We had to implement a lot of new policies and practices. More importantly, we had to envision what we wanted our company to look like as it grew. Fast forward three years and we have almost 70 employees and our old vision is our new reality. The mission and purpose are now baked into the DNA of our organization.

When we make strategic decisions, our status as a B Corp influences our direction. Whether it is how we recruit employees to ensure a diverse candidate pool or deciding on whether we want to take on a new client based on their mission and values, our certification weighs heavily on everything we do. And knowing that B Lab requires member companies to re-certify every three years ensures we are always thinking of a decision’s impact on everyone.

The truth is, not just focusing on the bottom line has been good for business. Since Ad Victoriam started the process three years ago, we have doubled our revenue every year.

4. Best Practices, Industry Standards, and Benchmarks for Improvement

An unexpected byproduct of B Corp certification is the inspiration from the B Community to always strive for more. There will always be another B Corp doing more than you for their employees, the environment, or their community. Allowing these companies to inspire you to deepen your commitment opens the door to becoming an even better corporate citizen. Being open to measuring your company’s performance to that of others allows you to identify areas for improvement.

In an interview with Forbes, Barnana CEO Nik Ingersöll stated, “Being a B Corp has solidified our commitment to the way we run our business. They also have an amazing framework that has given us more ideas on how to become even more sustainable. It has given me a path to constant and continued improvement.”

And in an article from the Harvard Business Review, “It Pays to Become a B Corporation,” Richard Stammer, VP of B Corp Cabot Creamery, highlights the use of benchmarking to achieve operational cost savings as well as to recruit and retain employees. Stammer also points to Patagonia, who “report[ed] that certification helps promote and validate its employee-centric culture, which attracts great candidates because of the company’s reputation as a great place to work. Since becoming a B Corp, Patagonia expanded the medical, military, and paid maternity and paternity leave for regular full- and part-time U.S. employees.”

5. Walk the Walk

On top of everything, you are signaling to the marketplace that your mission is sincere and genuine. It helps potential investors, customers, and employees more easily sift through the noise and find companies that truly believe in CSR.

B Corp Certification isn’t a pledge or a commitment to simply do better. It is the etching of your mission and your beliefs in stone. As such, it requires time and commitment to achieving. But in the end, it is worth it.

Curious to Learn More?

In collaboration with B Local Georgia, GSIC will be hosting a celebration of Corporate Social Responsibility in Atlanta, Georgia on March 10, 2020. With a mix of certified B Corps, companies currently taking the assessment, and others redefining the way business gets done. The event will offer a chance to meet leaders in the CSR movement, share ideas and best practices, and get inspired.

By: Aayush Gupta (22C)

December 18, 2019

EIIG has a mission of working with entrepreneurs who have little to no prior business experience and frequently lack the skills necessary to start and grow a company of their own.

The organization provides microloans ranging between $5,000 and $10,000 at low interest rates to entrepreneurs who undergo a rigorous evaluation process conducted by both students and faculty advisors.

Perhaps more critical than the capital, however, are the services that EIIG provides to the entrepreneurs, providing consulting services during the three year loan repayment period. Simply possessing the resources is not enough – it is essential for entrepreneurs to be able to effectively use the capital and resources at hand for the benefit of the business.

When asked about dealing with the challenges and fears of starting a new business from scratch at a recent EIIG panel, Nicole Massiah, founder of Massiah Law & Associates, said that you should be “trusting your gut, and spending time with yourself and realizing whether this is the right thing for you to do.” One must have a deep passion for the business to be able to pursue the highly demanding and often frustrating avenues of success, or it may be difficult to find the motivation to continue.

When talking about his motivations for starting SHWAXX, Kevin Rodgers said that the most important part of his business, for his personal self, was “to serve” the community around him, and focus on the “impact” part of “impact investing.” He aims to reciprocate the support shown to him by society by providing them with products catered to their needs. Improving his products based customer feedback became one of the central pillars of his business model.

Akissi Stokes, founder of WUNDERgrubs, had some profound insight to share with her peer entrepreneurs. “Keep yourself true to what you said the company was going to be.” She further added, “Planning is very important; utilizing the pool of resources, be it capital, people, or having a business plan or marketing strategy, you need to have a plan to refer back to.”

These founders – Akissi, Kevin and Nicole – each faced barriers when starting their companies. But leveraging the ecosystem of Atlanta’s accelerators and the funding EIIG has provided them, they have each built businesses that are creating jobs and giving back to their communities.

Impact investing holds the potential to change thousands of lives. These entrepreneurs show the dedication and passion they have for their cause, and their potential for growth when provided the necessary resources and capital.

This is part two in a series on student-led impact investing. For part one, see Atlanta Entrepreneurs Discuss the Benefits of Impact Investing at Emory University.

# # #

Run by Emory undergraduate students, Emory Impact Investing Group (EIIG) provides microloans and financial consulting services to Atlanta entrepreneurs to unlock the full economic potential of traditionally high poverty areas by increasing the number of successful small businesses. EIIG is currently fundraising $40,000 by December 31; if you’d like to contribute, please visit their website.

By: Davion Ziere

December 2, 2019

For at least 3,000 years, money (including but not limited to coin, shell, paper and digital currency) has dominated how mainstream society measures value. It was originally developed as a tool to simplify the process of trading and assessing the worth of assets, goods and services. Its creation has subsequently accelerated the rate of commerce & human exchange.

In the same breath, money, in and of itself, is nothing… It is not recognized by any universal principle or law of nature, and yet it has grown beyond helping us determine the value of a person or a thing. It has been a key factor for the type of life one can live – a restrictive experience shared by billions of colorful souls across the globe. While few thrive, many strain.

As we approach 2020, we are experiencing the dawn of new economies, the constant displacement and resettling of diverse identities, the decimation of our environments and the expansion of our collective consciousness via the internet and close engagement with ideas, values and energies from around the world.

Given the conditions, this is a good time for us to ask ourselves critical questions about money and our value: Is money a genuine mirror for how much we are worth individually & collectively?

 

Our Approach at Culturebase to Answering these Questions

At Culturebase, this issue of value is critical to us. We exist to advance socio-economic structures so that all identity groups, especially the marginalized, can actualize our full potential and have healthier, happier lives. The questions that birthed Culturebase were: 1. How do we build towards a world that empowers people to flourish being who they are most authentically? 2. What are valuable assets that nearly any person possesses that we could build around?

We first identified the assets that all people possess some level of: identity, culture, and data. This led us to defining two categories of people to serve first: 1. People who are proud of their culture and how it’s shaped them into who they are (their identity.) 2. People who are passionate about creating culture and how their creations impact and permeate the world around them.

Once we selected these groups, we deliberated on how we could cultivate an economy that accurately reflected the value of their lives and works. Fortunately, we discovered that there were already major existing markets that universally support culture and identity owned by the people producing them: tourism and local cultural consumption; both trillion dollar markets globally.

In order to connect these groups to markets that would support their value, we have created a platform that leverages AI and human curation to enable travelers and local culture seekers to tap directly into the offerings and subcultures of our city’s communities, in the same fashion that Spotify and Apple Music use AI and playlisting to curate music and genres.

We have also positioned ourselves to partner major brands with local brands, creators and small businesses in order to bring more visibility to the value produced within our communities. A great example was our “Brand New Day in the A” event, where we partnered Atlanta Falcons, TESLA and MET ATL with more than 50 local vendors for a 4 hour community activation. 

The result? 1200+ attendees produced over 1000 materials recycled, over 5000 transactions and tens of thousands of dollars driven to small businesses and the local creative community in just one day. 

Since then, we have also partnered with the likes of Google, MINT Gallery, Artpocalypse and more to hold workshops in Atlanta that educate small businesses and creators in Atlanta on how to assess their value, how to maximize their value in business and to legally protect themselves. 

So far, we have impacted over 1500 creators and small businesses in Atlanta. As we roll out our tech in full force, we are growing our reach exponentially in 2020. We have already seen an increase in brands seeking consultation on how to uplift our community’s economies while also activating their products, and look forward to continue bridging this gap.

These are just a couple of the ways we have made a dent thus far on the questions we asked above, and we are excited to share the economic data and community impact as we scale.

###

If you or a brand you know is looking to make a strong positive impact in communities by helping more diverse groups flourish while also getting your brand activated in authentic ways, contact us for a consultation at: [email protected]

By: Aayush Gupta (22C)

November 26, 2019

“Most people think of entrepreneurs as risk-takers. I was taught that you have gifts, you have talent, so you invest in those,” said Kevin Rodgers, founder of SHWAXX Laboratories.  

On Wednesday, November 13, Emory Impact Investing Group (EIIG) hosted a panel attended by students, faculty, and Atlanta community members, at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.  

The event discussed the challenges and experiences of entrepreneurship, and how impact investing can facilitate the empowerment of small businesses in local communities. Almost 48% of the American workforce is employed by small businesses, accounting for approximately 44% of the American GDP. There is, however, a large gap in the presence of micro-businesses between high-income and low-income areas. The difference can be attributed to the income gap and inequality in the U.S., as corroborated by Goizueta’s very own Professor Peter Roberts’ research.  

EIIG, led and run by undergraduate students, aims to provide microloans to local entrepreneurs who lack access to capital in an effort to help close the micro-business gap by increasing the number of successful small businesses in high-poverty areas. This goal is pursued by providing access to early-stage financing, student consulting, and networks necessary for the sustainable growth of a business. Three of the several entrepreneurs that EIIG works with were featured at this panel: Kevin Rodgers, founder of SHWAXX Laboratories, a company selling hair care products targeted towards people of color, Akissi Stokes, a former Emory graduate (92 Ox, 94C) and founder of WUNDERgrubs, a bakery that sells protein-rich mealworms through traditional snacks (cookies, granola bars, protein powder) to deliver increased nutritional gain to customers, and Nicole Massiah, founder of Massiah Law & Associates, a company providing legal services.  

Also in attendance were representatives from Start:ME and CREATE, two Atlanta-based accelerators that EIIG works with to identify and assist promising entrepreneurs.  

Brian Goebel, Managing Director at Start:ME, extensively discussed the research conducted by Professor Roberts and how it shows the disparity in the presence of microbusinesses between high and low-income neighborhoods. “[There is] no difference in talent, there are amazing entrepreneurs in both low-income and high-income communities. But there is a difference in the ecosystem of support, and on average there are 26% fewer businesses in an underserved, lower-income neighborhood,” Goebel explained.  

More important than just the financial inequalities, however, is the availability of networks that help a business succeed. It is essential to have a system to advise and support an entrepreneur. Start:ME was founded on the principle of “[bringing] knowledge networks and capital together” to reduce this microbusiness gap in Atlanta, the city with the highest level of income inequality in the U.S.  

Jonathan Tescher, Program Manager at CREATE, said that these entrepreneurs have a lot of “common challenges, obstacles, and fears” that they face. CREATE strives to help them overcome these issues with their program, through which they impart knowledge and training to the entrepreneurs to help them tackle the problems facing them. “Most people we work with have no prior business experience,” he said, which means they often lack the skills necessary to start and grow a company of their own.  

Entrepreneurs face many barriers when starting their own businesses. CREATE, Start:ME and EIIG make sure they don’t have to overcome those barriers alone.  

This is part one in a series on student-led impact investing.  For part two, see Emory Impact Investing Group (EIIG) Invests in Atlanta’s Entrepreneurs.

# # #

Run by Emory undergraduate students, Emory Impact Investing Group (EIIG) provides microloans and financial consulting services to Atlanta entrepreneurs to unlock the full economic potential of traditionally high poverty areas by increasing the number of successful small businesses. EIIG is currently fundraising $40,000 by December 31; if you’d like to contribute, please visit their website.

The Civic Impact Awards is an awards ceremony hosted by the Center for Civic Innovation to celebrate leaders and organizations who love Atlanta and are fighting for better policies, stronger civic engagement, and an Atlanta that is built for everyone.

We started this awards ceremony in 2015 to shed light on the work of dedicated and effective leaders who are doin’ the work and to remind people that amazing things are happening in our city every day.

We need your help! We are accepting nominations for the 2019 Civic Impact Awards in the following categories:

Investing in Impact: this award is for a foundation, corporation, or philanthropic organization that invested dollars into a project or program that moved the needle forward on advancing a new or more effective approach to solving a systems-level challenge in Atlanta.

Government Innovation Award: This award is for a government or quasi-government agency that executed a new or more effective program and/or policy to increase public participation or advance a new approach to solving a systems-level challenge in Atlanta.

Community Engagement Award:
 This award is for an organization, formal or informal, that executed a program or service to increase how people are informed and/or engaged in local decision-making.

NOMINATE AN ORGANIZATION TODAY – http://bit.ly/2019-CivicImpactAwards

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Relationships Matter for Diverse-Led Startups & Social Impact Startups: What We Learned By Spinning Up The Intentionally Good Project in 90 Days

October 14, 2019

On May 31st, we received notification that we won a VilCap Community license grant from Village Capital for their accelerator curriculum and data collection tools. On June 13th, Joey Womack presented on creating an “intentional” culture to support diverse changemakers at SOCAP’s Spectrum conference. And on June 24th at 4:32pm, we received an email from Kapor Center saying that we were selected to be one of ten grantees from across the United States, and the only one in the Southeast, to receive a $100K Tech Done Right grant. This is the story of how we launched The Intentionally Good Project, a ground-breaking initiative, against impossible odds over the next 90 days.

The Problem

Research shows that startups that raise venture capital use 40% of the funds for acquiring users and/or customers. In Atlanta, we estimate that our diverse-led startups, defined here as either Black-led, Latinx-led, or women-led, and social impact startups with founders from all backgrounds, typically receive funding two (2) venture investment levels (VIRAL) lower than the level indicated by their progress. For example, while many of their counterparts are raising seed rounds, these startups are still being forced to use personal savings or credit cards. This makes it extremely difficult to get the product ready for broad commercial distribution, talk with large partners, and determine if revenues/costs support positive unit economics, much less see inbound interest from potential acquirers. In short, these startups never get close to reaching their potential.

In 2018, the Kapor Center published The Leaky Tech Pipeline report, a comprehensive framework for understanding and addressing the lack of diversity across the tech ecosystem. Among other things, the report identifies how cumulative economic barriers and biases in entrepreneurship pathways affect the opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs to launch products and companies and invest in revenue-generating and social impact ventures. Chief among the barriers for the aforementioned Atlanta startups is low social capital caused by lack of access to high-powered social networks. Specifically, there is a huge disconnect between diverse-led startups/social impact startups and corporate employees, alumni of prestigious colleges and universities, and the entertainment industry.

Our Solution

We believe that Atlanta has everything needed to solve this problem. However, the startup, corporate, nonprofit, and entertainment ecosystems are highly inefficient relative to helping diverse-led startups and social impact startups. The Intentionally Good Project solves this inefficiency by using a collective impact model that connects these startups to corporations/large companies for short pilots or strategic partnerships, macro and micro-influencers for endorsements or key advisors, and investors where it makes sense.

The Intentionally Good Project is part culture and part program. Womack wrote about building an “intentional” culture in a July LinkedIn post. The design of the program is like a pipeline and divided into five (5) stages that begin every quarter: identifying the top startups in the area and selecting the top 10-12; assessing their readiness for corporations, influencers, and investors; pairing them with accountability mentors to improve their weakest areas over 90 days; introducing them to well-connected people; and starting meetings for pilots, endorsements, and investors.

What Happened In Q3 2019

Well. Everything.

In addition to actually building the parachute after we jumped out of the plane, we identified 150+ startups that fit our criteria and announced at a Georgia Social Impact Collaborative coffee meeting and the State of the Atlanta Black Tech Startup Ecosystem on August 7th that applications were open for the Fall 2019 cohort. Aided by articles from Hypepotamus and Urban Geekz along with sharing by 30+ people on social media and email, 125 startups applied.

Five (5) startups were advanced to Stage 3: Capway, EnrichHER, Goodr, InterAct Lifeline, and Qoins. Twelve startups were selected for Stage 2: Aquagenuity, Citiri, Civic Dinners, Countalytics, Empowered, Hawque, Make Music Count, Partnr, Speakalytics, TenScores, Unboxt, and Uplift.

We also partnered with Venture Atlanta for a dinner that led to eight (8) startups being selected as Showcase companies, and with Moxie for a FutureX lab where several startups secured meetings with Moxie executives as well as their clients. Nine of the applicants were selected for the Revolt Summit Code in Color Pitch Competition with musicbuk winning the competition. 26 of the applicants were selected for a recent Google For Startups Pop-Up where they received intensive mentorship from Google leaders. Startups in the cohort also secured meetings with Combs Enterprises, Porsche, Delta, Mercedes-Benz, and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Assessments

Before we make warm introductions in earnest, we host a series of Investor, Corporate, and Influencer Readiness sessions where each startup is paired with an evaluator for a curated 90 minute 1-on-1 conversation using the VIRAL rubric as the framework.

Google served as our host for the Investor Readiness Evaluation session where investors from Loeb.ATL, Shadow Ventures, Atlanta Tech Angels, and more grilled the startups on everything from their team to their plans to scale as well as exit potential.

On Saturday, September 21st, corporate innovators from companies like The Home Depot, NCR, Deloitte, Nine Labs, Twilio, Proctor & Gamble Alumni, and Southern Co. came out to ATDC in Tech Square to determine other large companies’ likely confidence in wanting to run a short-term pilot or create a strategic partnership with the startups.

The Assessment Phase concluded with a trip to the Porsche Experience where local influencers (both corporate and consumer) with experience from the Atlanta Greek Picnic, SalesLoft, Sony Music, Beyond The Game Network, The Garner Circle PR, MailChimp, Target, and Emory University rated the startups on the likelihood that they will be able to attract other influencers to become key advisors or endorsers.

Our work bringing together the ecosystem is already paying dividends. Partnr, a startup that makes it easy for software development teams to track, sync, and get insight into their code quality and project productivity data in one place, has begun discussions for pilots with Delta and Porsche due to connections made in August and September. And this story is not uncommon Take Make Music Count which is working eliminate students math phobia by teaching them how to play popular songs on a piano-based app with direct math lessons. Evaluations revealed a need to improve the founder’s understanding of the market and financials. The founder took the feedback and used it to win the $5,000 Black Founders Exchange Pitch Competition a week later.

Sponsors + Partners

Special thanks to our sponsors The Gathering Spot, Google For Startups, ATDC, Porsche Experience, Venture Atlanta as well as ecosystem partners like Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Social Impact Collaborative, Moxie, UrbanGeekz, Hypepotamus, Engage, HBCU.vc, Atlanta Influences Everything, Propellant Media, Butter.ATL, KTC, SOCAP, Startup Atlanta, and Atlanta Black Tech.

What We Learned

Total Applications: 125

  • Self-Identified as Diverse-Led Startups (No Social Impact): 46
  • Self-Identified as Social Impact Startups: 81
  • Self-Identified as Diverse-Led and Social Impact: 68

African/African-American Founder:

  • Applicants: 100
  • We Got Now inaugural Fall 2019 Cohort: 10

Latinx Founder:

  • Applicants: 7
  • We Got Now inaugural Fall 2019 Cohort: 0

Woman on Founding Team

  • Applicants: 54%
  • We Got Now Fall 2019 Cohort: 33%*
  • Global: 47%

*Note: Four (4) women-led startups that would have been in the Fall 2019 cohort were advanced to the next stage. Also, one other woman-led startup deferred to Winter 2020 due to startup-related travel commitments.

Strong-Potential* Applications: 56

  • Self-Identified as Diverse-Led: 25
  • Self-Identified as Social Impact: 8
  • Self-Identified as Diverse-Led and Social Impact: 23

Average Startup VIRAL Self-Assessment Score:* 2.28

Average Startup VIRAL External Assessment Score*: 2.24

VIRAL 3 Progress x Strong-Potential Applications: 29

  • Self-Identified as Diverse-Led Startups: 18
  • Self-Identified as Social Impact Startups: 4
  • Self-Identified as Diverse-Led and Social Impact: 7

Strongest VIRAL Business Areas:

  • Self-Assessment: Problem, Value Proposition, Product
  • External Evaluation: Team, Problem and Product

Weakest VIRAL Business Areas:

  • Self-Assessment: Investor Exit, Scale, Market
  • External Evaluation: Market, Scale, and Investor Exit

Business Areas With Largest Difference Between Startups Self-Assessment & Investor Evaluations

  • Team (-1.83)
  • Market (-1.67)
  • Value Proposition (-1.33)

Percentage of Applicants That Have Raised $ From 

  • Angel Investors: 11%
  • Family & Friends: 11%
  • Accelerators/Fellowship Programs: 10%
  • Business Plan Competitions/Crowd-Funding Campaigns/Other Individuals: 7%
  • Philanthropic Support: 31.3%

Fall 2019 Cohort Customer Relationship Breakdown

  • B2B: 7
  • B2BC: 4
  • B2C: 1

Prior Experience Founding Company

  • Applicants: 67%
  • We Got Now Fall 2019 Cohort: 82%
  • Global: 50%

Been Through an Entrepreneur Support Program

  • Applicants: 50%
  • We Got Now Fall 2019 Cohort: 75%
  • Global: 30%

Have Patents

  • Applicants: 17%
  • We Got Now Fall 2019 Cohort: 17%
  • Global: 12%

Started In Previous 36 Months

  • Applicants: 70%
  • We Got Now Fall 2019 Cohort: 67%
  • Global: 36%

Amount of Money Founders Have Invested in the Startup (Median)

  • Applicants: $8,000
  • We Got Now Fall 2019 Cohort: $45,000
  • Global: $2,000

Desired Financing Over Next 12 Months (Median)

  • Applicants: $500K
  • Cohort: $750K

Desired Financing Over Next 3 Years (Median)

  • Applicants: $2.5M
  • Cohort: $3.5M

Trends and What We Are Observing 

  • Ecosystem building/connecting for diversity and social impact in the startup space is hot as evidenced by the work of the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative, Kapor Center, Village Capital’s VilCap Communities, TechStars Impact, The Gathering Spot, and the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
  • Tech and the creative industries are on a collision course.
  • More diverse and social impact founders are accepting that they’ll be forced to bootstrap as opposed to raising investment capital, and the goal is to become cashflow positive as soon as possible.
  • Building $1 billion companies is no longer the standard. Now, the focus is on getting to $1M in revenue, and then deciding to try to get anywhere from $10M – $30M in revenue.
  • Startups will travel to where the resources (entrepreneur support programs and capital) are located.
  • More startups than expected participated in Y Combinator Startup School.
  • Applicants ranked awareness and credibility as the top benefit for being in an accelerator
  • The cohort ranked gaining access to a group of like-minded entrepreneurs as the top reason for the importance of accelerator benefits

Analysis

  • The time is now for this initiative.
  • Relationships matter. This all boils down to social networks.
  • The Atlanta Tech Startup Pipeline has leaks AND is backed up. May take a 1-2 years to flow smoothly.
  • Social capital is more expensive than financial capital until about $50,000 (estimate).
  • This framework also works for tech-enabled startups, e-commerce companies, and “main street” businesses.
  • More Atlanta startups have made progress along the VIRAL rubric than we originally thought.
  • The majority of social impact companies can’t get past VIRAL 2 in Investor Exit because there’s little-to-no evidence of their value proposition to acquirers.
  • Many black-led startups can’t get past VIRAL 3 in Investor Exit because serious companies haven’t made serious investments in their industries.
  • Pitch competitions funded by foundations are the primary source of capital
  • Some founders were not able to provide answers during the Evaluation Sessions and the evaluators challenged them to think about aspects of their business that they had not thought of before. The founders are being pushed and stretched to know every aspect of their business – not just the product.
  • Founders have been able to receive many points of feedback instead of just one-off conversations with mentors or advisors. These conversations also lead to relationship building, which is an added benefit of this program. It opens up the chance for the founder to make connections with other founders and advisors to aid in the growth of their company.
  • Fortune 1000 employees, many of whom are on the pathway to qualifying as accredited investors due to income, are engaged in this process. They see the evaluation sessions as a way to learn how to vet startups like seasoned angel investors and venture capitalists.
  • There is a disconnect between non-tech startup professional scene and tech startup scene – especially for African Americans.
  • There is a large opportunity to connect Atlanta startups, especially social impact startups, to non-Atlanta corporations, influencers, investors, and social networks.

What’s Next in Q4

Now that each startup’s three business areas to improve have been identified, the founders will begin working hard to make those areas strengths. We’ll also host four workshops over October and November where the startups will assess and score each other, develop their origin stories, and learn about advanced topics like B2B Sales, designing a pilot with corporations, working with influencers, and more.

In December, we’ll bring back all evaluators, sponsors, partners, mentors, and speakers for a dinner where the startups will present their progress since September. Also, we’ll open applications for the Winter 2020 cohort.

What We Need

We’re proud of how the ecosystem has responded and rallied, but there’s a ton of work to do moving forward:

  • The startups will have specific needs, and will need to access the social networks of corporate employee resource groups, university alumni associations, and professional organizations.
  • Angel investors, venture capitalists, corporate innovators, and influencers to serve as evaluators in January and February for the Winter 2020 cohort.
  • Donors and sponsors y’all.

Conclusion

We’re on to something big here. You can feel it in the air. This is tech done right.

Contributors: Raven Hinson, Brandy Nagel, and Joey Womack