The Social Innovation Public Service Fund is raising its on-campus profile through several initiatives, including a business idea pitching competition and a summer fellowship program.
On Feb. 27, SIPS, Startup Hoyas, Global Social Enterprise Initiative and the newly launched Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation co-sponsored a Social Innovation Competition, which an opportunity for 10 teams of student entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas related to social impact and innovation. The competition drew around 110 people.
“We wanted to design an event that was entirely focused on students who have the creative drive and the capability to produce lasting effects for disadvantaged communities, and we wanted to channel that through entrepreneurship,” Startup Hoyas Chair Derek Embry (MSB ’15) said.
This is the first time that the SIPS Fund co-sponsored the competition, which is in its second year.
“SIPS was there to promote different projects that didn’t receive grants or funding or prizes there. They could go to SIPS potentially for funding in the future,” SIPS Fund Director of Development Kyle Rice (SFS ’16) said.
A panel, made up of eight judges, evaluated teams based on their presentations, the feasibility of their ideas and the social impact that their proposals will have. The judges consisted of entrepreneurs of the McDonough School of Business, local entrepreneurs and local professionals.
The judges selected Team Fresh Start, helmed by Shilpa Chandran (MSB ’15), Jack McCabe (MSB ’15), Phil Wong (SFS ’15) and Ann Yang (SFS ’15), to receive the $1,000 grand prize sponsored by Sweetgreen.
The team pitched an idea for a food truck business that sold juices and smoothies and that would also help combat the issues of food waste and neighborhoods lacking in fresh food.
The team intends to donate one pound of produce to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for every pound of produce that it sells as juice or smoothies.
“The innovation part is looking at how we can do something creative for a problem that’s been around for a really long time. … We thought about how we could combine the problems of both food waste and food deserts into one business idea,” Chandran said.
The team plans to utilize the prize money to purchase an industrial juicer and to begin sourcing fruit to launch its business.
Team WaterLily received the SIPS Fund People’s Choice Award. The team was selected by popular vote of the audience to receive a $250 prize from the SIPS Fund.
Nicolas Walker (SFS ’16) and David Burton (MSB ’15) presented for WaterLily. Christian Sparacino (COL ’14) and Frans Beerkens (COL ’14) are also members of the team but did not attend the competition.
Walker and Burton pitched an idea for a water desalinization method known as capacitive deionization, which is an efficient and environmentally friendly method for removing salt from water. This process was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The team is working to obtain an evaluative license from MIT, which would allow them to experiment with the technology, develop a prototype and have exclusivity in the humanitarian market for as long as they hold the license.
This technology can be utilized to provide clean drinking water to people that currently cannot access it because of natural disasters or environmental constraints.
“The social innovation side of it is that we’re trying to make a backpack-sized device to be deployed in humanitarian work,” Walker said.
The team plans to utilize its prize money to offset the cost of its endeavor. Obtaining the evaluative license from MIT for six to 18 months will cost between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on the amount of time for which it will hold the license.
“$250 isn’t that much money, but we’re looking to apply it any way we can … and just really make that money stretch as far is it can,” Burton said.
At an Executive Board meeting on Tuesday, the SIPS Fund, in an effort to expand on-campus presence, decided to grant $7,500 to Hilltop Microfinance Initiative to enable the provision of small loans to businesses and the development of its marketing team. The fund also gave $2,300 to the Georgetown Global Microfinance Initiative to help them strengthen its presence on campus through marketing.
This year, the SIPS Fund also launched a new summer scholarship program that will offer grants to students who are working on causes that align with the SIPS mission of social innovation and public service.
“We’d like to see applications from students who are volunteering abroad … who are doing research in environmentally friendly technologies, who are interning in a nonprofit on [Capitol] Hill,” Rice said.
Students can utilize these grants to fund travel, housing and other expenses over the summer.
It has yet to be determined the size of the grants or the number of students that will receive funding.
“A lot of it depends on what the average demonstrated need per student might be,” Rice said. “We do have a set amount to give out.”
Within the first week of the application going live, the SIPS Fund received about a dozen applications, which Rice said was an indicator of student interest in the SIPS Fund.
“SIPS really exists as a resource for students and alumni at Georgetown, and we really want to make sure that every student has heard our name,” Rice said.