UnLtd USA, an Austin-based nonprofit that operates a twelve-month fellowship program for entrepreneurs tackling pressing social and environmental challenges, has graduated its first cohort of 5 entrepreneurs. The organization is also recruiting for its third cohort, which will start in January 2016.
Compost Pedallers, a bike-powered compost-recycling program that makes composting simple and rewarding.
GirlsGuild, a marketplace for apprenticeships in creative fields. GirlsGuild’s collaborative community provides opportunities for girls and women to learn one-on-one from women in their chosen field, building confidence and creative voice.
Mentegram, a platform that improves the decision-making of mental health professionals through more robust and more engaging daily tracking tools.
PelotonU, a nonprofit, web-based university platform which provides at-risk college students a pathway to graduate from college debt-free by blending online education and in-person mentorship.
Ten Acre Organics, working to build the most sustainable and productive ten-acre farm in the world, capable of producing 20x more food per square foot with 90% less water than conventional agriculture.
For Hudson Baird, the Executive Director of PelotonU, the team’s participation in the UnLtd USA program was pivotal:
“Participation in UnLtd USA was the single best decision our team made in 2014. Their curriculum, mentor network and encouragement have been instrumental in helping us grow from nascent startup to focused organization. As I chat with industry peers I become increasingly convinced that they have the clearest roadmap in Austin for scaling the social impact of a growing organization. I encourage every young founder I meet to apply for the program.”
During their year with UnLtd USA, PelotonU was able to raise funding from an additional four local institutional funders and increased the number of students served by 5 times.
Ten Acre Organics, another organization from UnLtd USA’s first cohort, leveraged a partnership between UnLtd USA and Texas Venture Labs to sign a letter of intent with their first institutional customer; they also raised enough investment to fund the expansion from their 1/4 acre beta-site into a 10,000 square foot facility, which will save over 7 million gallons of water in its first year of operations.
UnLtd USA opens applications for Cohort 3
On Sep 2, UnLtd USA opened applications for its third cohort, which will start in January 2016. “Through our network of friends and partners, we’ve already identified over 40 potential applicants for this application round, and we are eager to continue meeting more,” said Venture Partner Mark Hand, who is leading UnLtd USA’s recruitment efforts. “Those 40 come in addition to another 130 applicants from our previous two application rounds. Austin really is one of the world’s leading cities in social innovation.”
UnLtd USA is looking for entrepreneurs building for-profit and nonprofit organizations, which have both a strong business model and a clear social or environmental mission. “We’re looking for entrepreneurs that have found what we call a ‘problem-solution fit,’ says UnLtd USA founder Zoe Schlag. “We want entrepreneurs who have identified a pressing social or environmental problem, and have a solution that could make a meaningful dent in that problem.”
Background on UnLtd USA
UnLtd USA exists to find the most promising entrepreneurs tackling pressing social and environmental challenges, then back them with seed funding, ongoing venture support and strategic connections to accelerate their progress toward further impact.
With sister organizations operating in 14 countries around the world and having supported over 20,000 social entrepreneurs to date, the UnLtd model has built a global track record of success. UnLtd USA opened its first chapter in Austin, TX in February 2014, selecting and funding its first cohort in August 2014. To date, UnLtd USA has run 2 cohorts in Austin, funding and supporting 10 Austin-based social entrepreneurs with $5,000-$10,000 of seed funding, ongoing venture support, strategic network-building and peer learning.
Support for UnLtd USA in the Austin Community
Along the way, UnLtd USA entrepreneurs benefit from UnLtd USA’s advisors and mentors, which include investors such as Jason Seats from Techstars Ventures; successful entrepreneurs such as TED Fellow Erine Gray from Aunt Bertha; and community leaders like Robin Bruce, CEO of Acton School of Business. Among UnLtd USA’s funders is Washington D.C.-based The Hitachi Foundation: an independent philanthropic organization that seeks to discover, demonstrate and expand business practices that both measurably improve economic opportunities for low-wealth individuals in the U.S. and enhance long-term business value. Philip Berber, founder of the Glimmer of Hope Foundation and Enable Impact, is also a core supporter of UnLtd USA. In the spring, Enable Impact and UnLtd USA hosted an impact investing dinner keynoted by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who called for a redoubling of efforts to make Austin a social innovation capital.