UpPrize 2019–2020 officially launched on August 1, 2019!
For those who are not familiar with the program — UpPrize is BNY Mellon Foundation’s signature program dedicated to social impact. Through its annual pitch competition, entrepreneurs from startups, nonprofits, and for-profit organizations apply for assistance to advance their impactful technology tools that address the region’s most pressing needs. The 2019–2020 application officially launched on August 1, 2019. If you are interested in learning more and applying, please visit the UpPrize website.
In 2015, UpPrize was developed to bridge the gap between the nonprofit and entrepreneurial communities — and to increase the number of impactful technology-based solutions targeted to address critical social issues. The challenge is a signature project of and funded by the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Since its launch in 2015, the UpPrize, BNY Mellon Social Innovation Challenge has allocated more than $2 million in investments, grants, and technical assistance. The 2019–2020 cycle will continue UpPrize’s mission of creating impactful technology that improves nonprofit service delivery and the lives and experiences of people in the region.
As we eagerly await the 2019–2020 applications, let’s look back at the winners from 2018 — three local entrepreneurial ventures that shined a light on different populations in the region, each addressing the region’s most pressing needs.
The winner of the 2018 UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge, TalkMeUp, is an artificially intelligent chatbox that provides feedback to users on interviewing, pitching, and other communication skills. Since winning the UpPrize grant in October 2018, TalkMeUp has upgraded its system to increase its accuracy, delivery, and content. TalkMeUp has partnered with 10 organizations, several identified through the UpPrize network; some of these partners include Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Streetwise Partners, and
Partner4Work. UpPrize grant support also empowered TalkMeUp to expand its staff. 2018 was a banner year for TalkMeUp as, in addition to winning UpPrize support, the innovative company won Carnegie Mellon University’s IEA Venture Competition.
C.C. Busy, 2018’s second-place winner, is a voice-activated platform to automate documentation of daily activities for childcare providers. Since the UpPrize Challenge, C.C. Busy hired a development intern and introduced new features for users, including Everyone, Roll Call, and Family Arrivals. C.C. Busy is in the process of starting pilot cohorts with partner agencies to serve at-home providers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The C.C. Busy CEO and co-founder is now a full-time employee of Carnegie Mellon University, where she serves as an Executive in Residence, specializing in the Ethics Curriculum. C.C. Busy is under consideration for the Futurebound Accelerator in Colorado.
Third place winner Sign Track, is an automatic recognition software to assist deaf individuals and other users of American Sign Language. Since the UpPrize Challenge, Sign Track officially formed as a company and formed an Advisory Board of deaf/hard of hearing individuals. Additionally, Sign Track applied for SBIR grant funding and participated in the National Science Foundation I-Corp short course. UpPrize has supported equipment purchases and expanded data collection efforts as well. The Sign Track founder and CEO is now working full-time on the product.
As a reminder, applicants of ALL backgrounds from the southwestern Pennsylvania region are encouraged to apply to UpPrize. If you have a piece of technology that solves a social challenge, you should consider applying. The UpPrize application will be open until September 30, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. As in years past, applicants are competing for prize money that will help advance the mission of their impactful technology solutions. As a final prize, first place will receive $150,000; second place will receive $100,000; third place will receive $50,000.
To apply or learn more, go to the UpPrize website at upprize.org
By Erica Friedman, UpPrize Coordinator, Innovation Works