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Friday, April 09, 2010

Sparkseed Funded Student Social Entrepreneurs

By Moses Lee

Last week, I had the privilege of having Sparkseed Founder Mike De Ponte virtually attend my Social Venture Creation course and give a talk to students about networking and making "the ask." It was a great working session and the students really took away some hard skill sets to build their social ventures.

Though Mike is extremely busy running Sparkseed, the reason he agreed to take the time to speak to my students is because of passion we both share: student social entrepreneurs. A few months back we had the chance to connect one-on-one in San Francisco and we instantly realized that we shared a kindred spirit. Sometimes you just meet certain people and you know you'll be partnering with them in the future.

With that being said, I want to share with the NextBillion community the recent winners of 2010 Sparkseed Social Innovation Competition.  The competition is designed to encourage and support student social entrepreneurs in their endeavors to change the world. 

My purpose in writing this post is to not only make you aware of the winners, but also connect you to these students.  Many of you who are reading this post have tremendous resources, skill sets, and networks that can be leveraged to support these student social entrepreneurs. I hope that you will take the initiative to reach out to these student teams and lend a helping hand.

The 2010 Sparkseed Winners

Creative Opportunity Gear: Paper-feet - University of Michigan: Founded by Jimmy Tomczak, Paper Feet makes the world's thinnest and most flexible flip-flop out of recycled billboard vinyl. Every year, 10,000 tons of billboard vinyl ends up in landfills. Paper Feet is addressing this problem by rolling out a line of hip products all made from up-cycle waste.

Eco Scraps - BYU: Founded by Daniel Blake, Eco Scraps recycles food waste and turns it into a 100% organic soil amendment. By converting commercial food waste into raw materials, the company is able to provide the cheapest garden soil product on the market, while also diverting food from landfills thus reducing methane gas pollution.

Elecar Inc. - Brown University: Founded by Andrew Antar, Elecar is working to provide the missing piece to the electric car puzzle. By developing a residential charging station and an online payment system, Elecar is laying a cost-effective framework to facilitate the mass adoption of electric cars.

MaloTraders - Temple University: Founded by Mohamed Ali Niang, MaloTraders specializes in the processing, storing, and marketing of rice for small-scale farmers in Mali. By making local production more competitive on the international market, MaloTraders is working to alleviate poverty.

Penda - Stanford University: Founded by Yin Yin Wu, Suril Shah, and Shazad Mohamed, Penda is intelligent software that sits on top of crowdsourcing services, allowing users to outsource complex business taks without sacrificing quality. This "Mechanical Turk 2.0" is designed to increase employment opportunities for individuals in developing countries.

PoverUP - Wellesley College, MIT: Founded by Hillary Clevenger and Cassie McGurk, PoverUP is a large-scale grassroots movement that empowers high school and college student to use microfinance to help lift over one million people out of poverty.

Scholar Initiative - Babson College: Founded by Diane Melville, Scholar Initiative is the first online search engine dedicated to increase the number of scholarships available. Through innovative web technology, Scholar Initiative allows any individual to donate, create and award his or her scholarship.

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