The competition to win the 3rd annual CommonBond Social Impact Award was intense, with over 100 applicants gunning for the award this year. Three of the nation's top social entrepreneurs pitched their ventures to an expert panel of judges on Thursday, May 5th, at CommonBond's SoHo office for a chance to win $10,000.
Manal Kahi, CEO and co-founder of Eat Offbeat, a startup that delivers authentic ethnic meals that are prepared and delivered by refugees in New York City.
Saumya, co-founder of Kheyti, a company that produces low-cost greenhouses that help small growers in India increase the yield and predictability of their produce.
Blesson John, co-founder of Nyweza, a company that aims to make motor taxis safer for women in Uganda.
An expert panel of judges, which included CommonBond CEO and Co-Founder David Klein, Pencils of Promise CEO Michael Dougherty, FuturePerfect Ventures Founding Partner Jalak Jobanputra and Mogul CEO and Founder Tiffany Pham, evaluated the finalists.
After a presentation to the judges and the standing-room-only crowd, each entrepreneur was ranked on the uniqueness of their business models, the scale and scope of the impact their businesses will have, and the results their businesses have already produced.
"At CommonBond, we believe that business can and should be a positive force for change," Klein said. "The CommonBond Social Impact Award is meant to empower and encourage the long-term success of social entrepreneurs, who use for-profit principles to drive positive social value."
CommonBond's 2016 Social Impact Winner
Ultimately, the judges awarded $10,000 to Saumya, co-founder of Kheyti. The company's "Greenhouse-in-a-Box," an affordable, 2,500-square-foot greenhouse, has the potential to impact 500 million small farmers in India. Greenhouses are critical given India's climate because they protect farmers' crops from the environmental risks, such as bad weather and pests.
Here's what made Kheyti stand out:
- Uniqueness of business model—Kheyti's greenhouses costs 60% less than existing products. Its technology to manage the crops in the greenhouses can boost crop yields sevenfold and increase the profits of the average farmer by twelvefold. A farmer pays 10% of the cost of the greenhouse upfront with the rest of the cost financed. The greenhouse pays for itself in 5 years as the farmer is able to grow more food and produce a steadier income while paying back the loan.
- Scale and scope of impact—100 million farmers are living in poverty in India alone. The world will need a 60% increase in food production to feed more than 9.6 billion people by 2050.
- Results to date—Kheyti has conducted field research, raised seed funding from Northwestern University and +Acumen FundersCircle, and developed partnerships for the financing, manufacturing and marketing of the greenhouses.
Kheyti's Saumya plans to use the money from the CommonBond Social Impact Award to further develop the company's greenhouses and build technology partnerships that make the greenhouses more affordable.
"The CommonBond Social Impact Award will help Kheyti make every small farmer a smart farmer," Saumya said.
In addition to receiving $10,000, Saumya also will receive mentorships from Klein as well as other members of CommonBond's executive team.
"This year, we were blown away by the quality of the finalists," Klein said. "We are thrilled to recognize Kheyti and look forward to watching these special entrepreneurs deliver tremendous social value through their companies."