Two CSE student startups have reached the finals of the San Diego Social Innovation Challenge. The companies -- Evocado, and Bystanders to Upstanders -- will participate in a final round of judging on April 28 along with three other teams from UC San Diego that are among the eight finalists in the San Diego-wide track of the competition (while eight teams from the University of San Diego are in a separate but parallel competition, because USD is organizing the Social Innovation Challenge).
Sneha Jayaprakash (left) is the CEO of Bystanders to Upstanders (B2U), to which she recruited six of her friends (all computer science majors) shortly after founding the company in 2013. Now a junior in computer science specializing in bioinformatics, Jayaprakash says her passion is social change. Her startup aims to revolutionize the way people view community service. The company is designing and developing the app to apply game design and social networking to community service, and she has found backers, including the Microsoft Imagine Fund (with a $10,000 award). Since founding B2U in 2013, Jayaprakash has shifted from a non-profit to a for-profit model focused on encouraging volunteer work in corporate settings, and the size of her team has doubled to more than a dozen people, most of them CSE undergraduates. The company aims to "start finalizing contracts with companies who want to license the app" by the end of 2015.
Daniel Kao (right) founded Evocado in December 2014 to create an online platform to intelligently connect grant seekers with foundations, and to simplify the grant application, review and management process. It's also a for-profit venture that is nevertheless focused on "funding and raising awareness for the social solutions the world needs," according to the team's overview impact statement. Kao is a computer science senior who leads product design and development for the company. Other team members include Edgardo Leija, a recent UCSD alumnus (BS '14) in cognitive science with a minor in computer science. Since graduation, he has gone to work as an interaction designer for Hewlett-Packard, but still leads user experience design for Evocado in his spare time. Leija was part of the founding team of UXSD, the student branch of the new Design Lab at UC San Diego.
Kao, Jayaprakash and other team leaders will deliver 6-minute pitches in the final judging. The pitch has to appeal to a broad audience, according to B2U's Jayaprakash. "It needs to make sense to the social good side, the business and marketing side," she told the Jacobs School blog. "Each sector has different things that they want to see, and crafting a pitch that apseaks to each sector is the challenge."
The recipients of the prizes (seed funding for winning startups) will be announced at an awards ceremony on May 1. At that ceremony, all of the finalists will present the 90-second "fast pitch" for their projects to the social innovation community members attending the event.