Ten contestants will present their business ideas at PitchNOLA 2015: Community Solutions, a live competition for $10,000 in seed funding.
The competition is designed to find solutions to local challenges, and this year it focuses on workforce development, children and families, social justice and the environment.
The semifinalists were announced by Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation and Tulane University’s Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching and A.B. Freeman School of Business.
The competition will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 28 at Tulane University’s Freeman Auditorium in the Woldenberg Art Center.
The event’s keynote features will be international social entrepreneurs Matt Flannery and Jean Claude Rodríguez-Ferrera Massons, founders, respectively, of KIVA and Puddle.
Since 2009, PitchNOLA has contributed more than $50,000 in seed funding to 15 early stage local ventures.
“For us, PitchNOLA is more than a competition,” said Propeller Executive Director Andrea Chen. “It’s a key strategy for expanding the pipeline of community members who bring viable entrepreneurial solutions to our city’s greatest challenges.”
Historically, the competition has awarded a single first-place prize. This year, $10,000 in seed funding from the Lang Family Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will fund three ventures. First place receives $5,000 and technical assistance from Propeller; second place receives $3,000; third place, $2,000. A text-in vote by the audience determines the Audience Favorite Award, funded by the sum of audience donations.
In the categories of workforce development and children and families, the contestants are:
- NOLA Code/Charlie Barnes: It is an initiative between nonprofits that connects community centers with science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, teachers to create after-school enrichment programs for underserved children in New Orleans.
- ProPath/Eric Lavin: It is a tool designed to help students attain in-demand middle-skill professions.
- Uncommon Construction/Aaron Frumin: It is a values-based construction- and character-skills development program to prepare high school students for the postsecondary path of their choice through hands-on training, certifications and scholarship.
In the environment category, contestants are:
- Disaster Map/Ezra Boyd: DisasterMap.net aims to provide users with real-time information as disaster events unfold.
- Gator & Crane/Emily Gaddis: It’s an incentive for healthy and sustainable living by exchanging food waste for nutritious groceries.
- Greenman Dan Inc./Dan Johnson: It captures rainwater to prevent urban flooding and simultaneously make rainwater a usable water source for landscape irrigation systems to help lower water bills.
- Grounds to Ground/Yvette Tablada: The startup recycles coffee waste into 100 percent natural pest repellents and soil conditioners for gardens.
In the category of social justice, contestants are:
- BE2T/Larry Irvin: Its mission is to close the achievement gap for at-risk students by getting men of color to choose education as a career, starting in New Orleans.
- Center for Restorative Approaches/Troi Bechet: CRA provides schools, neighborhoods and workplaces with training and consulting, and facilitates discussions to improve communication, build relationships, reduce violence and allow those most affected by conflict and wrongdoing to develop their own solutions for justice and wellbeing.
- Community Plates/Lauren Rudzis: It is dedicated to using technology and a volunteer platform to “rescue and directly transfer nutritious fresh food” to help end food insecurity in New Orleans.