Business

$1 Million Competition For Budding ‘Social Impact’ Companies

Patricia Sabatini

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Patricia Sabatini reports, “Unlike most pitch competitions, where the goal is to make money for inventors, the [RK Mellon] foundation’s primary goal is to generate positive social impact. That’s why Mr. Reiman has dubbed the competition, “Shark Tank without the sharks.”

Pittsburgh

The Richard King Mellon Foundation announced Friday that another $1 million was up for grabs in a pitch competition to support businesses focused on creating a social impact.

The competition comes on the heels of the foundation’s first such competition launched in 2021.
“We know there are many more entrepreneurs out there whose business vision is to make the world a better place. And we want to invest in the best of them,” said Sam Reiman, director of the Pittsburgh region’s largest foundation

Three winning companies will be selected with help from prominent regional and national advisers. The winners will receive awards ranging from $250,000 to $500,000.

Unlike most pitch competitions, where the goal is to make money for inventors, the foundation’s primary goal is to generate positive social impact. That’s why Mr. Reiman has dubbed the competition, “Shark Tank without the sharks.”

Like last year, the foundation is seeking entrepreneurs whose business ideas address regional challenges in economic development, economic mobility, health and well-being or conservation.

Applicants can be located anywhere in the U.S., but the positive impact from the foundation’s investment must be felt in communities in Allegheny and/or Westmoreland counties. The one exception is the conservation category, which is national in scope.

“Our philanthropic goals are ambitious, and we need great ideas from the private sectors, along with our traditional nonprofit grantmaking, to achieve our goals at scale,” Mr. Reiman said.

“There is a new generation of compassionate entrepreneurs who are using their talents to create businesses designed to improve our communities,” he said. “Too often they are unable to obtain the financial support they need to make their dreams a reality.”

Last year’s first-place finisher was Fabric Health — a company that reaches underserved families during their idle time at laundromats to assess their health care options — which received $500,000.
The other top winners were Gus Gear ($300,000), a medical supply business for children, and Module ($200,000), which builds sustainable, modular homes.

Because there were so many compelling applicants last year, the foundation ended up approving an additional $2.4 million to invest in another 13 companies. Most of those second-tier winners received $200,000.

The deadline for submissions this year is Oct. 10. The foundation will select finalists who will be required to provide additional information. Three winners will be announced in December.

Applications can be made at the foundation’s website, www.rkmf.org/.

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