Investing in Good

All six Social Venture Coaching Competition finalists receive funding in 2022

May 24, 2022
MSSE students fight on
Members of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab's MSSE program. Students in BSEL study business solutions to social problems. 

Just before the end of the 2022 Spring semester, six finalists in the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab’s Social Venture Coaching Competition pitched their social impact startup ideas to investors and industry experts. These six were culled from 63 teams who applied from across 13 schools at USC. Twenty semi-finalists were chosen, and from there, six finalists.

But there the judges could cull no further. So, in a first, all six received funding.

“It’s been powerful to observe how this generous gift from the Rose Hills Foundation has influenced the social impact ecosystem at USC and supported a generation of social entrepreneurs in Los Angeles,” said Abby Fifer Mandel, adjunct professor of clinical entrepreneurship and BSEL’s executive director. “It’s an honor to coach the teams in SVCC and walk with them as they iterate and evolve to meet the needs of Angelenos. This year’s cohort was particularly terrific.”

Established in 2019, and in partnership with Rose Hills Foundation, SVCC is the only competition on campus that invests exclusively in social entrepreneurs who have developed a sustainable business model to the most pressing social needs in Los Angeles and beyond.  

The winners are:

  • Receiving $30,000, NextPlate a company that connects food insecure Angelenos with heavily-discounted meals from restaurants and grocery stores.
  • Receiving $20,000, TACO Inc. - a company that provides research-backed drug safety education and resources for young adults.
  • Receiving $20,000, Beamlink a company that provides internet connectivity for natural disaster survivors.
  • Receiving $10,000, L&F Project Management - a company that creates jobs and upward economic mobility for Black women through careers in project management.
  • Receiving $10,000, Architecture + Advocacy - an organization that equips young activists with architectural design skills in order to turn their vision of a better neighborhood into reality.
  • Receiving $10,000, Gifts for Good - a corporate gifting company that curates ethical and socially responsible premium gifts.

“We all know the feeling of being hungry, and during the pandemic, we saw how it impacted people around us,” said Garwing Lai, who studies integrated design, business and technology and is co-founder of NextPlate. “At the same time, we discovered the United States throws away nearly 40% of edible food, which is enough to feed the whole world. We started NextPlate to sustainably rescue the surplus food and provide affordable meals to food insecure individuals.”

“As a new startup, we joined SVCC with just an app and an idea,” said Andrew Yeh, who studies integrated design, business and technology, and who co-founded NextPlate. “With the guidance of Professor Abby Fifer Mandell and Don Loewel as well as feedback from our cohort, we learned how to ask impactful questions and learn about the pain points of our users. This helped us narrow our focus to the students who would benefit from NextPlate the most.” 

NextPlate and the five other winning teams will continue to receive support and guidance from the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab in the following months and join a community of past investees. 

 Prior to launching SVCC, the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab ran much smaller cash competitions with other USC partners and outside organizations such as Ashoka. In 2015, Kaitlin Mogentale pitched her upcycled snack food company Pulp Pantry.  Since she graduated, Mogentale has expanded her business, and earlier this month, pitched Pulp Pantry on Season 13 of Shark Tank. She received a $500K investment from Mark Cuban, underscoring how university competitions such as SVCC are just the beginning for many of these social enterprises.  

 To learn more about SVCC, visit the website and watch the recording of this eventful night on the Brittingham Lab Facebook page.