The Ann Arbor Entrepreneurs Fund (A2EF) has partnered with the University of Michigan Social Venture Fund and A2 Startup Garage to launch the A2EF Social Impact Startup Pitch Competition.
Taking place online on Sept. 24 as part of Ann Arbor SPARK's weeklong A2Tech360 event, the new pitch competition is seeking applications from companies committed to promoting social change.
Applications for the A2EF Social Impact Startup Pitch Competition will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 31 through A2EF's website. Six finalists will be selected to pitch their businesses. The winner will receive $20,000 in funding and a handful of other prizes (including mentorship, free coworking space, and corporate legal services for 12 months).
Having a startup competition focused on businesses that design their models with equal weight placed on purpose and profit is "a no-brainer," says A2EF director Trista Van Tine.
The competition epitomizes two key aspects of A2EF's mission. The first is supporting a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in Washtenaw County by creating an inclusive and diverse space where entrepreneurs can engage and collaborate with one another. The second aim is to create a space that allows entrepreneurs to closely connect with the community.
Competition applicants must be able to show how their business is addressing a measurable social or community need in Washtenaw County or Wayne County. Additionally, companies must prove their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
"Company purpose can take a variety of forms, but our real goal is that the ultimate winner clearly demonstrates how they are going to enrich the lives of those in our community," says Van Tine. "There are a lot of talented people in the area and I anticipate we'll receive a lot of interest from some creative companies."
Van Tine notes that some local companies have recently pivoted to address social injustices and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Startups, not just in Michigan but around the country, are addressing new community challenges and needs. Some are creating automated workforce solutions [or] developing products to help people who were laid off. Some are now producing face masks, for instance," she says.
Van Tine hopes that the competition shows entrepreneurs that they can launch a new business that is intended to address community needs without sacrificing financial success.
"We're encouraging anyone with a passion for social good, who might be thinking that their business model can't get support, to have confidence and put their idea forward," she says. "No business idea that is designed with purpose is a bad one."
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at email@example.com.