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SIS 2015: These Startup Tech Solutions Are Making the World a Better Place

From solar-powered notebooks to crowdsourced career advice, innovations were plentiful at this year’s Tech for Good session at the Social Innovation Summit.

While business continues as usual for most companies around the world, pioneers are on the front lines of innovation.

On Wednesday, many of those pioneers gathered for the Tech for Good roundtable session at the 2015 Social Innovation Summit, in Washington D.C.

At the session, moderated by Paul Arnpriester, national business development manager for CDW nonprofit, 10 innovative startup companies pitched to investors during brief, rotating sessions similar to speed dating.

“This is about having a conversation with companies that are using technology to improve social causes,” Arnpriester said. “We want to discover where technology can help make social change.”

WeWi Democratizing Computing Access in the Developing World

One company at the forefront in bringing technology to developing countries is WeWi Telecommunications Inc. WeWi’s latest device combines computing and power generation in one device, as cost-effectively as possible, said WeWi's CFO Patrick McGuinness.

Developed by WeWi, the SOL notebook is a two-in-one device — a notebook with a rugged, external, solar-powered battery built into the back of a notebook, all for the price of an iPhone. A two-hour charge can run the device for up to eight hours.

The solar cell solution democratizes power usage, and makes sense for places where power can be expensive and difficult to access. WeWi is being distributed in countries such as Ghana and Nigeria and others in Southern Africa, with plans to reach out in other countries, including Peru and Papua New Guinea.

The device currently offers Wi-Fi and Ethernet Internet connectivity, and cell network connectivity is coming soon, said McGuinness.

"Our biggest challenge is getting it out into the field, because there's a global demand here for the product," said McGuinness. "

Moneythink Makes Finances Make Sense to Students

Students no longer have an option to play it safe in the world of finances. The best defense against predatory practices is educating students on how to stay safe.

Moneythink is a Chicago-based financial mentoring program for low-income young adults who need sound financial advice. The service goes to great lengths to prevent youths from investing badly and falling prey to predatory financial products.

The spearpoint of the company is its MoneythinkMobile app, which allows users to share photos of their recent financial activities and complete digital challenges that help build financial awareness and good spending habits.

Moneythink co-founder and CEO Ted Gonder called it a gamified Instagram for finances.

"Just by paying attention to how they're spending, [students] are saving about $10 per post" Gonder said of the app.

Moneythink has also launched a program that helps war veterans learn more about the current market and dodge financial pitfalls.

Mentoring the Future at Career Village

In a world where the careers seen on TV are often those students aspire to after high school, CareerVillage is helping students connect with crowdsourced career advice from experienced professionals.

“Every high school student with a career plan — that’s our goal,” said company founder Jared Chung.

The online company is in its third year and recently surpassed a milestone: 500,000 learners. Chung made the pitch that students today need to have more in-depth conversations about what they’re going to do once they finish their education.

Through the site, students can ask career questions about the kinds of jobs they want after school. These questions are then sent to professionals, who provide relevant career advice.

The company has been targeting high-performing charter schools and plans to broaden its reach by approaching large public school districts in the future, says Chung.

Explore all of BizTech's Social Innovation Summit 2015 coverage, including articles and video interviews with industry leaders, on our SIS landing page.

almir1968/Thinkstock
Jun 10 2015

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