BNY Mellon and The Forbes Funds Name Winners of $1 Million Social Innovation Challenge

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

UpPrize has named Conversant Labs, Marinus Analytics and PHRQL as the winners of BNY Mellon’s $1 million Social Innovation Challenge. The winning ideas will expand digital access for visually-impaired people, help government agencies fight human trafficking, and ensure poor families have access to healthier foods. UpPrize, a unique collaboration between BNY Mellon, the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania and The Forbes Funds, combines impact investing with a research-based social innovation challenge.

The first-place prize is a combination of a $200,000 investment and $200,000 in grants. Each runner-up prize is an investment of $150,000, plus a grant of $50,000. All three UpPrize challenge winners, as well as the competition’s five other finalists received two months of personalized support during the competition, including $10,000 seed grants. In total, the BNY Mellon Social Innovation Challenge has awarded approximately $1 million in investments, grants and technical assistance.

UpPrize was developed to bridge the gap between the nonprofit and entrepreneurial communities as well as to increase the supply of investment-ready solutions targeted to address critical social challenges.

“We believe social finance investments are key to enabling positive change in society, and this year have formalized a firm-wide effort to help investors in their pursuit of social finance opportunities,” said Don Heberle, president, BNY Mellon of Pennsylvania. “UpPrize, the BNY Mellon social innovation challenge, encourages impact investing activity in southwestern Pennsylvania, a region that’s home to a robust nonprofit community and a growing technology sector. It links the private sector with the Pittsburgh region’s nonprofits to identify breakthrough innovations that address critical needs and service gaps, while also producing meaningful and measurable financial benefits.”

First-place winner Conversant Labs is led by Chris Maury, an entrepreneur who founded the company when he received a diagnosis of a degenerative eye disease. Conversant seeks to dramatically improve the quality of life for the visually impaired. The company’s most recent application, “Say Shopping,” has been licensed by a well-known national retailer as its exclusive voice-enabled retail app.

Second-place winner Marinus Analytics, led by Carnegie Mellon University alumna Emily Kennedy, has created a crime-fighting tool that enables law enforcement agencies, criminal intelligence centers, and victim services organizations to fight human trafficking through investigative, machine learning software and big data technology. Kennedy is actively exploring this technology for use in other areas of law enforcement, including the online resale of counterfeit goods.

Source: Press Release (link opens in a new window)

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