News: 10 startups accepted into FastFWD program for civic innovation

Members of Wharton Social Impact Initiative pose with Mayor Michael Nutter during FastFWD application launch on Oct. 30, 2013.
Members of Wharton Social Impact Initiative pose with Mayor Michael Nutter during FastFWD application launch on Oct. 30, 2013.

FastFWD, a public-private business accelerator designed to stimulate civic innovation, is pleased to announce its first class of entrepreneurs.

These 10 startups are focusing on solutions to urban public safety challenges, and will undergo a rigorous three-month program designed to kick-start their early-stage ventures.

FastFWD—a partnership among The City of Philadelphia, GoodCompany Group, and Wharton Social Impact Initiative—launched in 2013 through a $1 million grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition that inspires American cities to improve city life and generate innovative solutions to major challenges.

Following a public safety research phase led by WSII, today GoodCompany will kick off the second portion of FastFWD’s process: a 12-week accelerator designed to spur the growth of early-stage, market-based ventures with innovative approaches to issues such as recidivism, network analytics, neighborhood surveillance, and opportunities for at-risk youth, among others.

Meet the first class of FastFWD participants:

  • Algorhythm: Algorhythm leverages data to predict the likelihood of an outcome, identify solution options, and maximize success. Founded by Peter J. York, Kim Flores and Sally Munemitsu.
  • D8A: D8A’s products help cities, government agencies and civic organizations mitigate human risk by emerging patterns in online and offline activity. Founded by Jon Gocier and Bahiyah Robinson.
  • inLiquid: inLiquid aims to bridge the “resource gap” affecting at-risk Philadelphia youth by providing access to free juvenile record expungement services, resource awareness clinics, and art programs designed to encourage positive growth. Founded by Rachel Zimmerman and Catherine Sirizzotti.
  • Jail Education Solutions: Jail Education Solutions aims to reduce recidivism and increase employment opportunities for inmates through tablet technology that enables self-driven education. Founded by Brian Hill.
  • Legal Science Partners: Legal Science Partners aims to improve availability of data about public health laws, and enable better understanding, analyzing, visualizing and monitoring policy differences across geographies and time. Founded by Heidi Grunwald, Scott Burris, Margaret S. Lee and Robert Hornsby.
  • Media In Neighborhoods Group (MING): MING hires, trains, and collaborates with at-risk individuals to produce multimedia content designed to help find solutions for social problems such as violence and recidivism. Founded by El Sawyer and Jon Kaufman.
  • Safecity: Safecity is an online crowdmapping tool that collates personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse, to create awareness, educate people on their legal rights, and empower them to take action. Founded by Elsa Marie Dsilva and Saloni Malhotra.
  • Shift_Design: SHIFT_DESIGN designs and manufactures sustainable outdoor products, with an environmentally friendly strategy focused on local manufacturing, mass-customization and waste reduction. On a commercial scale, the SHIFT_DESIGN system promotes the creation of a newly skilled “green” labor force. Founded by Mario Gentile.
  • Textizen: Textizen is a mobile platform for civic dialog, using a powerful mix of offline outreach and digital engagement to allow anyone with a minute and an opinion to participate, via text. Founded by Michelle Lee, Alex Yule, Todd Baylson, and Serena Wales.
  • Village Defense: Village Defense provides a real-time alert system for communities, alerting entire neighborhoods to suspicious or dangerous activity simultaneously through text message, phone calls, and email. Founded by Sharath Makala.

Through a rigorous acceleration framework at GoodCompany, entrepreneurs will refine their solutions with subject matter experts and potential users from City government, and hone their business model with support from The Wharton School, University of the Arts, and other strategic partners.  The 10-week accelerator is based out B Corp-certified Impact Hub, a coworking and community space dedicate to social change.

Upon graduation of the program, each company will be ready to launch and/or receive funding, pitch their product to an international community of angel and institutional investors, and pilot directly with the City of Philadelphia. Each startup has access to world class mentorship and subject matter expertise, and receives $10,000 in non-equity stipends, selective introductions to an international network of private and venture based investors, and inclusion in highly synergistic innovation space.

In addition to weekly training sessions, workshops led by finance, legal and marketing students will help companies develop financial projections, legal documentation, and graphic presentations to accelerate their launch and viability as an investment prospect.

The FastFWD team is eager for entrepreneurs to graduate, equipped with the tools to make an immediate and significant impact on Philadelphia’s local communities.

“We’re excited to welcome a diverse, visionary and innovative group of entrepreneurs to Philly next week to launch our accelerator in tandem with the Impact Hub,” says Catherine Griffin, Program Manager for GoodCompany Ventures. “We’ve got an outstanding curriculum in development. With the partnership of the City, The Wharton School, UArts, and our legal partner, it will exceed in scope, talent and rigor any we’ve offered before.”

The FastFWD partnership among Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration, GoodCompany, and Wharton has already garnered considerable press coverage, including articles in ForbesFast CompanyNext City, and Newsworks WHYY, a broadcast segment on Fox Business, among others.

To learn more about FastFWD’s history up to this point, watch WSII’s video (above) featuring WSII Senior Director Jacob Gray and Social Impact Fellow Zachary Smith.