Serving Your Community, There’s an App for That: A Look at Five Forward-Thinking LA Startups

Think that the Internet is about sharing that epic GoPro surfing video of you in Costa Rica, buying designer shoes, or watching Justin Beiber YouTube videos? Think again.

There’s a new kind of entrepreneur on the scene. Startups are exploring how to use cutting-edge technology for social impact.

Today mobile apps are helping case workers work with refugee children in Africa, startups are building affordable solar powered houses in India, and a slick online campaign raised enough money to rescue 600 North Korean refugees from human trafficking. At “Beyond Yourself: Technology for Social Impact” an event hosted by Cross-Campus co-location workspace in Santa Monica on March 23, 2017 panelists discussed several different ways to use technology for good.

Here’s how five Southern California startups are making an impact:

Rise: Solving the world’s refugee crisis with a paradigm shift, using Cloud Computing App
Max Lansing from Rise says there are 65 million refugees worldwide. The problem is that the humanitarian coordination system designed to meet refugee needs is filled with outdated and inefficient tools. It takes two years on average for a refugee child to receive minimum core protective services.

Startup Rise is deploying a mobile technology platform to speed the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid to children.

“Today we are working with a Berlin social services agency, to help them identify faster how many refugee youth are living and Berlin and who needs help,” explains Lansing the company’s lead engineer. “Social workers are spending too much time filling out paper reports, now they can use a cloud database to launch a well-organized intervention”.

Starbucks with Wi-Fi hot spots are not easy to come by in East Africa. Rise’s tools are designed to work in Internet and infrastructure poor settings, relying on portable Wi-Fi, solar device charging, and technologies common in developing countries.

Funraise: the best online fundraising tools in one powerful platform
When it comes to the back-office side of technology non-profits are not known for being cutting edge or efficient in return on investment – enter Funraise and its team of consultants. Start with a pre-built template and build your brand into every aspect of your donation campaign experience. Whether it’s crowd funding, getting and keeping re-curing donors, or doing wealth screening Funraise has helped raise over 15 million in grass roots campaigns.

A slick donation site in no time that is on-message, ties in your branding, and keeps your loyal donors? Justin Wheeler thinks better technology and his team of front end developers and digital marketing strategists could be the secret weapons to help nonprofits maximize their impact.

GivSum: Connecting individuals and charities on a single platform to change the world
GiveSum is a one-stop source for volunteers, nonprofit organizations and corporations. Shawn Wehan started GivSum in 2013 after noticing how many nonprofits had technology issues. Nonprofits were using PayPay to manage donations, or Volunteer Match, or an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of volunteers or Sales Force.

The online platform gives charities an effective tool for fundraising. But the social media component Wehan says is key, because it allows people who volunteer to be role models and inspire others to do more.

Amped Innovation: Radically Affordable Energy
The world population will add 2 billion more people in the next ten years, says Amped Innovation’s Robert Woolery,  But the existing legacy power grid will cost too much to upgrade.

Enter Amped Innovation, an early stage startup that wants to put the power grid into people’s own hands Amped Innovation is building a prototype affordable solar home for people living off the grid. Designed as a high performing, low cost solar powered home Amped Innovation says the product is getting early traction in Africa and India. Unlike ordering a Tesla, an energy efficient amped house is designed for people making four dollars a day. Customers can start by purchasing a single solar panel and add as they go.

Teens Exploring Technology (TxT)
Founder Oscar Menjivar is on a mission to give inner city youth in the rougher neighborhoods of Los Angeles early exposure to writing code and computer science.

TXT gives young Latino and black youth an opportunity to express themselves through Computer Science and Entrepreneurship. Students in the program learn about leadership skills, programming, and UX design.

Menijvar’s hope is that by exposing teens to programming and UI design early, they can uplift themselves from poverty and get on the pathway to college. President Obama acknowledged Menjivar for his work helping LA’s low-income teenagers see careers in  science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) as possible.