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.
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.
2nd Place: Resilient – a platform for victims of sexual abuse to identify offenders and find support in a safe community.
3rd Place: My Request – helps consumers find business services on demand by connecting them with skilled workers
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.
On July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, PA, Thomas Jefferson and some of his buddies, including Ben Franklin, Roger Sherman, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and others, signed a parchment to found a new country, declaring their spin-off as a new entity wholly separate from its parent, Britain. These men came from different walks of life – ranging from lawyers and doctors to businessmen and inventors – and they hustled, strategized, and innovated passionately on a startup that became the United States of America. It’s not common to think of these men as entrepreneurs, but they are quintessential examples.
Washington DC has been and continues to be home to people who have both the desire and capability to change the world. When big problems need to be solved with the big levers of governments and institutions, you find the nexus of power and people here, in the District of Columbia. Not only the seat of the US government, Washington is the home to the World Bank and other international development banks, the IMF, and some of the most significant and influential non-profit and double bottom-line organizations in the world, as well as countless advocacy and non-government organizations seeking to make change.
That change can sometimes be slow, messy and difficult. The institutions of Washington are complete with large bureaucracies that are sometimes allergic to innovation and bogged down in red tape, so those from Washington sometimes get painted with the same brush. But under the hood, there’s much more to Washington than the apparent bureaucracy. Washington DC has a vibrant startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem that is growing by leaps and bounds, driven by highly-educated and motivated technologists.
Imagine what could happen if we merge these mostly separate and independent ecosystems? What if we could bring together a motivated group of people with skills and experience in policy, business, design, development, and entrepreneurship, with a common passion to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the world? The possibilities are endless.
We’ve been observing the lay of the land and see the time is ripe to plant and incubate seeds of ideas and mentorship to harvest new fruit and engage a community hungry for change. We saw a potent concoction waiting to happen, that may make a lasting impact on the world and create something special that no regular Startup Weekend could inspire.
We are doing this because we realize how hard it can be to simply start and get connected to other changemakers. But more importantly- We, the Startup Weekend DC organizers, come from such said separate and independent ecosystems sparking change. Together we are seizing the opportunity to break barriers to help others get started and connected.
Through the Social Impact Edition, changemakers in Washington DC will finally have an opportunity to come together to learn new ways to solve problems, rapidly test, validate, and execute concepts, and launch companies with a social impact component. They’ll also be able to tap into a vast amount of resources, such as mentors who are Presidential Innovation Fellows and impact investors such as Village Capital. This Startup Weekend can be the catalyst for true innovation to make the world a better place and build excitement to do so.
It’s time for the rise of the impact entrepreneur, and there’s no better place than Washington DC and no better time than now.