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How can a small startup break down lingering barriers and help pave a pathway for success for those who need it most?


Points of Light Civic Accelerator

Innovative solutions are needed to reach some of the most vulnerable populations and tackle the complex challenges our communities face today. Knowing that urgent change is needed, social entrepreneurs aim to disrupt the status quo and start chipping away at big issues. When equipped with appropriate resources, ordinary individuals leading small ventures can scale their innovative solutions and amplify their impact. The Points of Light Civic Accelerator (CivicX) is the first accelerator and investment fund in the country focused on civic ventures – for-profit and nonprofit startups that solve social problems by tapping into human capital as part of the solution. The goal of the accelerator is to equip each startup to seek investments and scale their social innovations. This entrepreneurial bootcamp sends the early-stage startup teams to three cities over 10 weeks for mentoring, education, peer support, and networking, while also providing an in-depth virtual curriculum. It culminates in the two most promising ventures – as selected by the entrepreneurs themselves – each receiving a $50,000 investment. The Foundation supported the CivicX program and in FY18 helped three CivicX cohorts focused on addressing workforce solutions for the 21st century, bridging the digital divide, and helping veterans and their spouses transition to full, productive civilian careers and lives.

Progress highlights

CivicX has graduated 135 ventures since its launch in 2012 with the foundational support of the Foundation. The portfolio of ventures has generated $94.8 million in earned and philanthropic revenue and supports solutions ranging from civic tech and economic and community development to gender equity, access to education and youth development. CivicX is one of the most diverse national accelerators in the country with 56% of CivicX ventures led by women and 39% by racial/ethnic minorities.

Fall and Spring Cohorts

ReciproCare (for-profit) and La Cocina (nonprofit) were the two winners out of the 2017 fall cohort’s 11 startup teams with a mission to improve educational and workforce outcomes to prepare individuals for 21st century employment. ReciproCare is disrupting the senior care industry by connecting senior-care organizations to great caregivers, and helping caregivers find and sustain great, living-wage jobs. La Cocina generates social and economic change by preparing unemployed immigrants for culinary and entrepreneurial careers. Out of the 2018 spring cohort’s 12 startup teams focused on bridging the digital divide and filling the growing digital talent pipeline, Cell-Ed (for-profit) and STEM NOLA (nonprofit) each received a peer-investment. Cell-Ed offers a complete, accessible and flexible mobile solution to reach, train and upskill today's workforce on any mobile device, including flip phones. STEM NOLA designs and delivers engaging educational programs and events that bring exposure, inspiration and training in STEM to underserved communities.

“Since the recession, we have lost five million manufacturing jobs, with half of the jobs added being low-wage. Our fall cohort ventures provide solutions from education to workforce access, to help employers find talent and individuals find and sustain jobs in the innovation economy. Nearly 80 percent of middle-skill jobs require basic digital proficiency and we are not adequately preparing young people and adults for these jobs. The U.S. had 500,000 computing jobs open nationwide last year, yet we produced fewer than 43,000 computer science graduates. Our spring cohort ventures provide a wide range of solutions from K-12 STEM education and technical upskilling for working adults to affordable technology access and digital services. To truly unleash the talent across the country and transform our economy, we need these ventures to scale their bold solutions to tackle these issues.”

Ayesha Khanna, founder of CivicX

Rachel Fuller, co-founder of ReciproCare

“With this $50,000, we will be able to accelerate our impact and reach 10,000 caregivers by the end of 2018. By bringing more caregivers to full employment, we can increase their economic stability and help senior care providers deliver more care.”

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Paty Funegra, founder of La Cocina

“The opportunity to participate in CivicX has elevated and refined our model as a nonprofit and an evolving social enterprise. This investment validates the confidence our peers and mentors have in our product, impact and ability to scale. We look forward to implementing the tools and cultivating the networks CivicX provided as we build our kitchen incubator and programs for food-focused entrepreneurs."

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Jessica Rothenberg-Aalami, founder and CEO of Cell-Ed

“With this investment and vote of confidence, we will keep delivering literacy, language and job skills to working adults' cell phones so together we can bridge the digital, poverty and education divides in today’s workforce.”

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Dr. Calvin Mackie, founder and president of STEM NOLA

“CivicX equipped us with the tools to improve our business model, operations and financials to better serve our community. Being selected by our peer cohort to receive a $50K investment was humbling, affirming and inspirational. The investment will allow us to expand our development team and scale our efforts with a direct impact on the lives of children and families.”

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"There is no greater honor than to have served in our nation’s military, and we are grateful for the sacrifices of our veterans. Veterans are one of our nation’s most deserving – and underserved – populations when it comes to education, workforce training, and civilian transition assistance. Career challenges faced by service members and their families during the transition from military to civilian life are typically more difficult, leading to higher unemployment. While the unemployment rate for vets has declined, there are still over 50% that experience a period of unemployment during this transition. We are proud to continue helping veterans by supporting existing platforms and bringing innovative ideas to empower and equip them, their spouses, and children to discover personal and professional fulfilment in the civilian world."

Frank Gaudio, Foundation Trustee and Veterans Liaison

Veterans Solutions Lab Cohort

Dog Tag Inc. and Veterati were the two winners of the Foundation-sponsored 2018 Veterans Solutions Lab’s 11 startup teams focused on empowering and equipping veterans and their families with the skills and resources to succeed in the new economy and civilian life. Veterati (for-profit) enables on-demand conversations between veterans and industry insiders for critical advice, connections, and community to hyper-charge their career journeys. Dog Tag Inc. (nonprofit) empowers service-disabled veterans, military spouses and caregivers to discover professional fulfillment in the civilian world through a business fellowship program.

Daniel Rau, COO, and co-founder of Veterati

“It is truly a humbling honor to receive this award from my peers and Points of Light Civic Accelerator. Their investment in veteran founders serving the military community is a shining example of how institutions and corporations can make a real impact. With this support, Veterati is one step closer in our mission that every service member and military spouse, at every stage of their career journey, will be able to easily connect directly with industry insiders and successful professionals for the support to navigate their military transition and every transition beyond in their lives.”

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Jaime Lunny, Director of Finance and Operations for Dog Tag

“Dog Tag Inc. was honored to participate in the Veterans Solutions Lab with other dynamic and inspirational ventures. The Civic Accelerator and the Foundation, plus great coaches and mentors, helped challenge and further develop Dog Tag’s plans for expansion. Dog Tag will use the $50,000 grant to expand to a second location, so we can continue to serve and empower veterans, spouses and caregivers.”

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Charlotte Coker Gibson

Charlotte Coker Gibson

Executive Director, Charitable Foundation, PwC US