Chicago Accelerator Impact Engine Equips Startups To Tackle Global Problems
I grew up near Chicago during the era of Michael Jordan, Walter Payton and Mike Ditka of Da Bears – legends who made lasting impacts on their opponents and sports. Chicagoans today may look in a different direction for a new source of superfandom: Impact Engine is a new startup accelerator that gives support to businesses intent on making legendary, beneficial environmental or social impacts on the entire world.
As a concerned parent, worry about the condition of the planet his daughter would inherit inspired Chuck Templeton (founder of OpenTable) to launch the startup. Impact Engine gives entrepreneurs added incentive to approach the difficult challenges stressing the globe. Jamie Jones and Linda Darragh, executives at the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University), helped found the project.
The 12-week program begins in September. December 5th is slated as a demo day, when some 200 investors will listen to the startups’ pitches at Chicago’s downtown Chase Auditorium. In exchange for a 7% equity stake, startups will receive an initial funding of $20,000.
Along with Templeton, notable entrepreneurs including Matt McCall, Cary Chessick, J.B. Pritzker, Nick Rosa and Scott Kluth invested $500,000 to kick-off Impact Engine’s inaugural class. Startups will receive training, workspace, and mentorship in addition to seed funding. Templeton and Arun Sivashankaran (Entessa Inc. and OhSoWe co-founder) will work daily with each company. Unlike other accelerators that have startups work with dozens of advisors, participants at Impact Engine will work with two or three hand-picked “super mentors” that will continue to provide tutelage when the program finishes.
“To see people building business models around water purification, sustainable employment, or services for the underbanked is seeing capitalism at its best,” Templeton said in welcoming eight startups to Impact Engine. Consumer demand for businesses to demonstrate social and environmental responsibility is on the rise, and more entrepreneurs are choosing to enter difficult markets that address global challenges.
Over 175 companies, representing 15 states and 9 countries applied to join the inaugural class, or “Impact 1.” Applicants ranged from solo entrepreneurs with not much more than idea to businesses already generating close to a million dollars. Templeton singled out Sanergy, makers of a sustainable and profitable sanitation system, as the kind of company he hopes Impact Engine will propel to success.
These 8 startups (with mention of their focus) were selected for participation:
- Azadi – Hygienic and affordable menstruation products for women in rural India
- Collaborative Group – Sustainable employment for struggling artisans. Partnerships with socially minded US retailers to sell artisan products
- Effortless Energy – Residential, home energy
- Ithaca Education – Web-based literacy platform
- Light Up Africa – Renewable energy in the form of The Zoom Box for marginalized Kenyan populations
- POMS – Affordable, non-predatory solutions for the 80 million underbanked US consumers
- Portapure – Filtration products user-friendly and low cost for the billion people without access to potable water
- Raise5 – A platform for fundraising built upon micro-volunteering