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I fell in love with social business during my final semester as an undergrad at Georgetown University. During my social entrepreneurship class, I learned about how Bill Drayton pioneered the field, and how Muhammad Yunus’ work at Grameen Bank impacted millions of impoverished lives – the whole concept really clicked with me.

Flash forward to over two years later, and not only am I helping organize Startup Weekends in Washington, DC, but I’m also co-founder of a social business called MARK, where we are building tools to bring philanthropic giving to the 21st century.

Both organizing Startup Weekend and building MARK are really fresh and new experiences for me this year, and I’m so happy to be doing both because I’m putting my time into things I’m passionate about. Not only that, but the people I have met since I dove into the startup world in DC are incredible, and I feel inspired to continue on my current path because of their support and encouragement. These new experiences have challenged me to work harder and smarter than I ever have.

From June 12-14, those worlds collided at Impact Hub DC for the district’s first ever Social Impact edition of Startup Weekend. From my perspective, this was the perfect storm of meeting fellow social entrepreneurs, learning all kinds of lessons to share with my team at MARK, and having a lot of fun in the process.

MIssion accomplished!

Among the highlights from the weekend were an energetic round of “half-baked” startup pitches on Friday night (can’t wait for Unicorn Peanut Butter to hit the shelves), a star-studded lineup of mentors who shared insights and advice with the participants on Saturday, and a packed house on Sunday evening for 13 impact-laden pitches from our amazing teams.

When the last pitch was made and our judges returned the verdict, our top three winners celebrated their hours of hard work, and soaked in the applause from the crowd.

1st Place: Surplus Kitchen – provides food for the hungry by picking up your leftovers and delivering it to food pantries and soup kitchens in your community.

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2nd Place: Resilient – a platform for victims of sexual abuse to identify offenders and find support in a safe community.

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3rd Place: My Request – helps consumers find business services on demand by connecting them with skilled workers

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A big thank you to our event sponsors Impact Hub DC who provided free workspace for our winners as well as General Assembly, who provided free credits to the top 3 teams!

Special thanks to our judges: Kate Ahern, Amelia Friedman, Mark Newberg, and Nasir Qadree

Their unique experiences in building impact business was appreciated by the teams who left with tangible recommendations of how to continue building post the weekend.

As a first-time organizer, this could not have been a better edition of Startup Weekend for me to get involved with. My interest in social enterprise was sparked by a great class in college,  but the Social Impact edition of Startup Weekend along with my work at MARK keeps the fire burning strong today!

Thank you to the participants, mentors, judges, and fellow organizers who made this past weekend such a smashing success.


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John Balkam