Winter Recap

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Winter Recap

Happy 2017! We have been heads down supporting the Tumml portfolio of companies, and authoring some articles on issues facing urban innovator. Check out our story for Fast Company about how startups can build trust with their investors, as well as a three-part series on fundraising for mission-driven startups (you can read parts one, two, and three on the Living Cities blog). And we're excited about Julie's profile as one of the "25 Disruptive Leaders" improving economic outcomes in America's urban areas.   

You can read more updates from Tumml here, as well as stories we're following. For example, Bloomberg published an interesting piece about the "survival economy" and how Detroit's neglected poor rely on time banking, skill-sharing, and giveaways to get by.

Photo credit: Onasill ~ Bill Badzo

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The One Email Every Founder Should Know How To Write To Investors

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The One Email Every Founder Should Know How To Write To Investors

As first published in Fast Company.

So you raised your first round of funding. Good for you! Seriously, it takes a tremendous amount of work to close a round, so you should feel great about that. But regardless of the size of your round or the stage of your company, the hard truth is that you’re probably going to have to fundraise again.

Right off the bat, that's potentially bad news. Fewer deals are getting done right now than just a few years ago. According to the National Venture Capital Association, "8,000 deals were completed in 2016, representing a 22% year-over-year decline and the lowest count since 2012, a clear indication that venture investors are being much more critical of their investment opportunities." It’s particularly tough for entrepreneurs trying to make it from seed stage to Series A (the dreaded Series A crunch). So how do you compete for dollars?

The short answer: by email.

The slightly longer one: by figuring out how to engage your existing investors right now—when you’re not actively raising money. This way, when the time comes, they'll not only invest in you again, but they'll connect you with other investors and serve as glowing references in the process.

And pulling that off may come down to writing one simple email—continuously.

Why You Need Regular, Standardized Email Updates
To be sure, there are multiple strategies you can (and ideally should) use to keep your investors engaged. But one of the most important and low-effort things you can do is send out a standard group update email in a consistent format. This should happen regularly, on a monthly basis. There are startups that send quarterly investor updates, and that’s okay, but monthly is better.

Here's the thing, though: If you wait until you need to raise again to talk to your investors, they won't be happy. Investors probably won't be paying attention to your every move. And they may not respond to your update emails even if you send them regularly. But more likely than not, they are reading them. This information is how they evaluate your performance—and whether you're worth pouring any more money into.

When it comes to investor communication, put one person in charge, ideally a founder. Founders are busy too, but they should never be too busy to talk with investors. And the information you should be tracking for them should already be at your fingertips.

To marshal it into a quick, effective monthly email update to investors, you just need to follow a few basic rules:

  • Keep the format consistent. Use the same subject line so it's easily searchable.
  • Longer isn't better. You want an email short enough for an investor to read in the car from one meeting to another.
  • Stick with the same categories and metrics. Identify the ones that matter most to your business, then compare this month's stats with last month's.
  • End with one or two "asks" at the bottom. Investors are always saying they want to be helpful—let them prove it.

This is a rough template of what this type of email looks like:

Hello all,

[One-paragraph introduction sharing whatever your focus has been over the past month.]

Top priorities:
[Priority #1]
[Priority #2]
[Priority #3]

Product:
We've made [summary of latest product updates]. See them at this link.

Money in bank:
We have $[_____] in the bank. This gives us a runway of [__] months at our current burn rate.
[Any other relevant funding updates.]

KPIs:
Revenue last month: $[_____]
Revenue this month: $[_____]
[Other important metric last month]
[Other important metric this month]

Other updates:
[Big win #1]
[Press coverage #2]
[Other update #3]
[One ask for investors—in bold.]

Best,
[Name]

Still Send The Email When Things Are Going Badly
When things are going poorly, you may be tempted to skip the email updates. Don’t! Investors will know something is amiss if you stop communicating with them, and that may affect how much they trust you. Also, you waste an opportunity to engage them in finding a solution to your problems—for instance, by connecting you with a strategic hire, bridge financing, etc. If things are going badly, now is the time to fix it.

A second caveat: Don’t deviate from your structured email format when things go wrong. You may be tempted to write a long explanation for what's happening, what corrective actions you're taking, and why it’s all going to be okay. Don’t! You want to be transparent with your investors, but you don't want them to think you are becoming unhinged. And a long, rambling email will send that signal.

You Need Investors' Trust All The Time, Not Just While Fundraising
If you wait until you need something to reach out to your investors, you've already screwed up. You've just shown them you aren't capable of maintaining even your basic business network, so they should stop investing any more time and money into you. Here's how Julian Counihan at Red Sea Ventures put it: "Startups that are not speaking to their investors are throwing away a free call option. You don't know if you'll need it, but it costs nothing and is extremely valuable."

This is particularly true when it comes to bridge financing, short-term funding to tide you over until you can find longer-term investments. Bridge financing only happens on the basis of trust—and often when things are going south. At times like that, you need an investor who will take a risk on you when every sign indicates they shouldn't. To win that leap of faith, there's no substitute for regular, forthright communication.

So take the time to build trust with your investors now. It’s never too late to start writing those update emails, and sometimes a clear-cut formula is exactly what you need.

Image source: Fast Company

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Mapping The Money (Part 3)

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Mapping The Money (Part 3)

As first published in the Living Cities Blog.

Structural Barriers to Raising Capital for Early-Stage Purpose-Driven Businesses
In yesterday’s blog post, May Samali described two types of challenges preventing purpose-driven businesses from accessing money. In the final part of this three-part series, she provides a window into two additional structural barriers that constrain purpose-driven entrepreneurs during capital raising—namely, the dearth of impact deal data and the “slow no” dragged-out due diligence process. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series on our blog.

Last year, I met with an entrepreneur who recounted a story about pitching his business at an event for impact investors. “I was told by everyone there would be an impact investor. But of the 100 people sitting in the room, only five were actually impact investors and 95 were there to learn about impact investing.” His story is not uncommon – rather, it is indicative of a broader trend and reflects the results of a survey of early-stage, purpose-driven companies and funders I conducted at Harvard University last year. Entrepreneurs running purpose-driven businesses are often subject to a fundraising process that lacks transparency and accountability, and is long and laborious.

Dearth of Impact Deal Data: No Guidance For Entrepreneurs As They Search for Funders
As was discussed in Part 2 of this series, funders willing to seed purpose-driven businesses are few and far between. So how does an entrepreneur go about finding the needle in the haystack? It isn’t an easy process due to a lack of access to impact investment deal data and capital networks.

Of the purpose-driven entrepreneurs I surveyed, 80% rely on personal and professional networks to raise capital. However, compared to the tightly networked world of technology startups and venture capital (VC), the world of purpose-driven business and impact investing is very dispersed. This is partly because the social impact field is younger than the technology startup sector. In addition, purpose-driven entrepreneurs are not generally connected to wealth networks, including angel investors and family offices. This is a problem – it’s been proven time and time again that networks get deals done.

In the absence of strong networks, these entrepreneurs resort to investor databases and other online sources to connect to funders and answer questions such as: Which funds invested in purpose-driven businesses last year? How many investments did each fund make and on what terms? Unfortunately, traditional investor databases are not as relevant to purpose-driven businesses – for instance, a list of the most active impact investors is not available via CB Insights, CrunchBase, Mattermark or PitchBook.

To make matters worse, the few impact-oriented platforms in existence – such as Enable Impact– are underdeveloped and insufficient. Although Enable Impact provides a list of self-identified funders on its platform, being listed does not necessarily mean funders are active or have any investments. Instead, a listing merely indicates a willingness to identify as an “impact investor.” In reality, very few of the investors on Enable Impact have made actual investments in purpose-driven businesses in recent years, despite professing support for impact investing. A good case is IMNPACT Angels, Minnesota’s first impact angel investing network, which made only one investment within its first two years of operation. It is currently on hiatus.

This lack of transparency around finalized deals in the impact space is a big problem – it creates a situation in which early-stage, purpose-driven enterprise founders do not know which funders to target.

Dragged-Out Due Diligence Process: The “Slow No”
Fundraising is a very resource-intensive activity requiring significant amounts of research, networking, pitch practice, and waiting for answers on the part of entrepreneurs. But the process is made even more difficult by many funders who are notorious for taking months to say “no” to purpose-driven entrepreneurs – sometimes up to a year or more. Therefore, given this context, it is no surprise that due diligence is a major pain point for purpose-driven businesses.

To add insult to injury, funders often provide euphemisms for “no,” giving these entrepreneurs the impression that there is still a chance, albeit minuscule, of successfully raising money from them.

So why does this happen? There are three main reasons:

  • Pain aversion. Funders prefer to postpone letting down the hopes of purpose-driven entrepreneurs. Many funders see themselves as benevolent creatures in the ecosystem and do not like to say “no’” and, as a result, they can inadvertently string along these entrepreneurs.
  • Different time pressures. Most funders do not face the same time pressures as entrepreneurs and therefore have little incentive for speeding up due diligence. This is especially the case for the earliest stage investors in purpose-driven businesses – that is, individual angel investors, many of whom are retired or investing as a hobby, and do not feel the same urgency about getting the deal done as investors with a fiduciary responsibility.
  • Opportunity preservation. Many funders avoid giving conclusive responses to early-stage entrepreneurs in order to preserve their opportunities and options later down the track.

What Can Be Done To Overcome These Barriers?
Collectively, these two structural barriers hamper the ability of purpose-driven businesses to raise money and grow into companies that can change the world. Improving fundraising for purpose-driven businesses requires increasing deal transparency, which in turn leads to shortened fundraising cycles and an awareness of who is actually doing deals. Increasing transparency of deal information also makes funders more accountable for their deals or inactivity. Ultimately, information is the great equalizer!

This blog post draws on original research conducted by May Samali and published in a Harvard Kennedy School Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government Associate Working Paper No. 59 titled ‘*Mapping the Money: An Analysis of the Capital Landscape for Early-Stage, For-Profit, Social Enterprises in the United States’. Full citations for the data and statistics throughout this blog post are available online.

Image source: Thomas Galvez

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Mapping The Money (Part 2)

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Mapping The Money (Part 2)

As first published on the Living Cities Blog.

Fundraising Challenges Faced by Early-Stage Purpose-Driven Businesses
In this second blog of a three-part series, Tumml's May Samali delves into the fundraising challenges faced by purpose-driven entrepreneurs in their earliest stages of development. In yesterday’s blog post, May mapped the capital landscape for early-stage, purpose-driven businesses in the U.S.

Convincing funders to part with their money is hard – just ask any entrepreneur that has attempted to secure external seed capital. But the fundraising process is especially difficult for early-stage, purpose-driven businesses facing a “pioneer gap.” Why is this the case?

Over the next two blogs, I will explore the four main challenges entrepreneurs face when trying to raise money for their purpose-driven businesses. My insights are informed by the results of a survey of early-stage, purpose-driven companies and funders I conducted at Harvard University last year. This week’s blog post focuses on the first two difficulties confronting businesses when pitching to funders – the “goldilocks phenomenon” and the “chicken and egg” problem.

Goldilocks Phenomenon
Financial Returns Are “Too Little” or “Too High”… But Never Quite Right
By definition, purpose-driven businesses contribute to solving social problems while generating profit. But, too often, purpose-driven businesses are forced to respond to funders’ discomfort with their projected level of financial returns. These early-stage entrepreneurs face a “goldilocks phenomenon” – they are accused of either making too much money or not enough money.

“Too Little” Returns
Purpose-driven businesses face an additional hurdle when pitching to traditional venture capital (VC) firms and angel investors. The dominant thinking among this group of funders is, “If you’re doing good in the world, you must be compromising my profits.” While there are some funders that are an exception to this rule, many VCs believe that purpose-driven investments cannot produce the “hockey stick returns” they are looking for. Similarly, most angel investors overlook purpose-driven businesses, believing there are inherent tradeoffs between social and financial returns. The data speaks for itself—only 5% of U.S. angels listed on AngelList are interested in “mission-driven markets.”

As a result of this bias against purpose-driven businesses, many enterprises intentionally avoid using the “social enterprise” label or terms such as “mission-driven,” “purpose-driven” or “impact-oriented” when pitching for funding. This reality is captured in a comment made by the Vice President at Core Innovation Capital, a Los Angeles-based VC firm focused on financial technology: “A company catering to underserved consumers that emphasizes its strengths as a financial technology company, rather than emphasizes the mission that informs its product or strategy, is more likely to receive traditional VC funding.”

“Too High” Returns
On the other side of the spectrum, some purpose-driven businesses with strong financial projections are dismissed as “too profitable” by funders.

Some impact investors do not fund businesses that can tap into mainstream venture capital – even though, in reality, hardly any purpose-driven businesses can access VC. As for foundations, many of their charters contain a blanket rule against providing capital to for-profit entities (including purpose-driven businesses). Foundations’ resistance to for-profit models persists, despite the creation of special financial vehicles – namely Program-Related Investments (PRIs) and Mission-Related Investments (MRIs) – that authorize foundations to provide grants or equity investments to “commercial ventures for charitable purposes.”

However, because foundations can only directly invest in for-profit entities qualified as PRIs, many foundations refrain from doing so. Foundations are hesitant to invest in for-profits due to the uncertainty of whether they would qualify as PRIs as well as unwillingness to use resources to acquire a Private Letter Ruling from the IRS. In reality, foundations underutilize PRIs and MRIs due to fear and a lack of understanding of these vehicles.

The bottom line? When it comes to financial returns, for-profit, purpose-driven businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The Chicken and Egg Problem
Entrepreneurs Need Proof Points To Get Funding, But Need Funding To Get Proof Points

The second challenge leaves entrepreneurs equally stuck. To access capital, entrepreneurs must overcome a double standard that exists in early-stage, purpose-driven financing. My conversations and survey results show that early-stage funders require more proof points from purpose-driven businesses than traditional investors require of other startups – including strong market traction, a fully-fledged business model, and revenue. These entrepreneurs must prove that social impact and financial returns can actually coincide. The frustrating result is that many funders reject purpose-driven entrepreneurs on the basis that their businesses are “promising, but too early.”

These funders overlook the fact that it takes early-stage, purpose-driven businesses significant amounts of money and time to reach the requisite number of proof points in order to receive investment dollars. As a result, most entrepreneurs cannot get past the chicken and egg problem of how to create a large enough dataset to prove their business model really works. As one entrepreneur put it, purpose-driven businesses “have to figure out a way to get one million dollars in order to raise one million dollars.”

Ultimately, there is a shortage of risk-adjusted catalytic investment capital from investors that are willing to provide the first $1-5 million to prove a concept. Given this situation, purpose-driven companies should target impact-agnostic investors in the near-term and work to build a strong business case for impact investors in the longer-term.

Check out tomorrow’s blog for a window into the third and fourth challenges constraining purpose-driven entrepreneurs during the capital raising process.

This blog post draws on original research conducted by May Samali and published in a Harvard Kennedy School Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government Associate Working Paper No. 59 titled ‘Mapping the Money: An Analysis of the Capital Landscape for Early-Stage, For-Profit, Social Enterprises in the United States’. Full citations for the data and statistics throughout this blog post are available online.

Image source: Kevin Dooley

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Mapping the Money (Part 1)

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Mapping the Money (Part 1)

As first published on the Living Cities Blog.

The Capital Landscape for Early-Stage Purpose-Driven Businesses
Popularized by business pioneers such as Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s, Jessica Alba of The Honest Company, and Blake Mycoskie of Toms Shoes, purpose-driven businesses leverage the power of the marketplace to create social, economic and environmental value. In this three-part series, May Samali, Director at Tumml, an urban ventures accelerator in San Francisco, explores the challenges facing early-stage purpose driven businesses. Her first post provides an in-depth look at how these businesses are raising capital, and highlights the “pioneer gap” they face in their startup phase.

Throughout my career, I have witnessed the power of purpose-driven businesses to address pressing challenges such as unemployment and climate change, all while producing financial returns. But I have also noticed that purpose-driven businesses struggle to access funding, especially in their earliest stages of development. For example, I have encountered entrepreneurs who have been strung along by impact investors, only to be turned away after 12 months. I have also heard the complaints of founders who had to pay $4,500 just for the opportunity to pitch to an impact angel network. These stories are not uncommon, yet there is very little research on the funding challenges early-stage, for-profit purpose-driven enterprises in the U.S. face. In response, over the past year at Harvard University, I surveyed 60 companies to better understand the capital landscape and challenges facing entrepreneurs in this space.

The “Pioneer Gap”
When a purpose-driven business is in its startup phase, its ability to access seed capital is critical. Without that initial funding, promising startups cannot grow and realize their full potential. However, there are fewer documented exits in the purpose-driven entrepreneurship space, so funders gravitate towards later stage businesses where the risk of failure is significantly lower than the earlier stage.

As a result, these businesses face a “pioneer gap” – a financial burden shouldered by new companies in their early stages of pioneering new business models for social change. According to JP Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) Impact Investor Survey in 2016, impact investors allocated only 4% of their available capital to seed and start-up stage businesses. Similarly, on Enable Impact – an online platform connecting purpose-driven entrepreneurs and impact investors – the overwhelming majority (84%) of the for-profit, purpose-driven businesses in the U.S. are “early-stage”, but only 8% of all self-identified impact funders in the U.S. are interested in early-stage businesses.

Capital Landscape for Early-Stage Purpose-Driven Businesses
So, given the “pioneer gap”, how are purpose-driven entrepreneurs capitalizing their businesses at the earliest stages? My conversations and survey results reveal five key insights:

1. Purpose-driven businesses choose a variety of legal structures
Company legal structure is important as it affects the ability of companies to access capital. The findings demonstrate that for-profit, purpose-driven businesses adopt a variety of legal structures. The most popular legal structures are C corporations (48%) and limited liability companies (25%). Interestingly, 12% of companies I surveyed are structured as public benefit corporations, a new legal denomination enabling companies to build “purpose” into their legal DNA. Given the variety of legal structures used by purpose-driven businesses, the “purpose-driven” label is a not a legal delineation.

2. Purpose-driven businesses raise less money than traditional technology startups
The size of seed fundraising rounds for purpose-driven businesses varies greatly. For the majority of companies (60%), the seed round is half a million dollars or less, with more than half raising less than $50,000. Only 14% of companies I surveyed have raised seed rounds of more than $1 million. In comparison, the average seed round for traditional technology startups is much larger – in the first half of 2016, the average size was $1.14 million.

3. Friends and family are the top source of capital for purpose-driven businesses
The companies I surveyed receive capital from 175 different sources – which fit in 12 main categories (see graph below). This diversity in funding sources is indicative of the democratization of seed funding and the lack of large institutional seed funders of purpose-driven businesses.

The three most common sources of external capital for purpose-driven businesses are friends and family (67%), angel investors (52%), and incubators and accelerators (40%).

sixteen_large.jpg

Notably, despite the ascent of early-stage venture capital in the U.S. in recent decades, only 7% of purpose-driven businesses surveyed actually receive venture capital. Similarly, only 20% of companies receive capital from impact investors. Impact investors demonstrate a strong preference for investing in the later stages – certainly after commercial viability has been established and preferably once market conditions are well prepared for sustainable scaling.

4. Convertible notes are the most common type of capital raised by purpose-driven businesses

The three most common types of capital raised by entrepreneurs to fund their businesses at the earliest stages are convertible notes (59%), equity (43%), and grants/donations (39%). Equity is almost three times more common than debt (16%). This result is not unanticipated, given the need among early-stage companies for longer-term capital without short-term repayment commitments.

5. Purpose-driven businesses rely most heavily on networks
The three most common categories of resources used by purpose-driven businesses to identify and connect with potential funders are personal and professional networks (80%), incubator and accelerator networks (42%), and pitch and business plans competitions (38%). Less than 10% of companies I surveyed use impact investing intermediaries and platforms such as GIIN and Enable Impact to identify potential funders. These results demonstrate a significant reliance on networks as part of the fundraising process.

Want to know more about the difficulties purpose-driven businesses face during fundraising? Check out tomorrow’s blog to learn about the various challenges these businesses encounter in raising capital.

This blog post draws on original research conducted by May Samali and published in a Harvard Kennedy School Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government Associate Working Paper No. 59 titled ‘Mapping the Money: An Analysis of the Capital Landscape for Early-Stage, For-Profit, Social Enterprises in the United States’. Full citations for the data and statistics throughout this blog post are available online.

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

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Tumml'ing Into 2017! Our Year In Review

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Tumml'ing Into 2017! Our Year In Review

With the holidays approaching, we at Tumml wanted to take a moment to thank you for your continued support!

2016 was a big year for our urban innovators. Chariot was acquired by Ford and is now expanding to five cities in 2017. Valor Water Analytics raised a $1.6M seed round, Neighborly announced its Bond Challenge winners, and ArtLifting launched a partnership with Starbucks. Most recently, Hive Lighting absolutely crushed its Kickstarter fundraising goals (raising $329K of a $35K goal with over a week still to go – yes, you read that correctly). 

Collectively, Tumml's 38 startups have created $190M in enterprise value, created 448 community jobs, and impacted 102 major urban areas. 71% of Tumml's startups have a woman or person of color on the founding team.

Tumml recently completed its Tumml Clean Energy Prize, where we supported five awesome startups tackling some of the toughest clean energy challenges in our cities. We hosted a number of community events (a fundraising bootcamp, SPUR panel, etc), and spoke at events/judged pitches everywhere from DC, to Aspen, to Oakland. Tumml and its entrepreneurs have also gotten some great press along the way (in outlets like The Today Show, NBC, Stanford Social Innovation Review, The San Francisco Business Times, and The Wall Street Journal). You can read more about what we've been up to and the stories we've been following here.

We're wishing you a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year!

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A Tumml Company On Kickstarter!

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A Tumml Company On Kickstarter!

Tumml company Hive Lighting has introduced its new ultra efficient LED light, the WASP 100-C. And it's available now on Kickstarter! The Wasp 100-C represents the next generation of energy-efficient lighting – whether you're an aspiring indie filmmaker, a video blogger, or a news photographer, the WASP 100-C offers the lighting you need to take your work to the next level.

And don't forget to join us at SPUR on December 5th for a roundtable on The Future of Clean Energy in Cities. The panel will feature the five startup winners of Tumml's Urban Clean Energy Prize, and an in-depth discussion about launching innovative solutions to urban problems. Reserve your tickets here!

You can read more updates from Tumml here, as well as stories we're following. For example, The Washington Post evaluates the merits of "tactical urbanism."

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Urban Clean Energy At SPUR

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Urban Clean Energy At SPUR

From reducing electricity consumption to creating energy-efficient lighting, Tumml's most recent batch of startups is tackling tough urban problems. Want to learn more about them? Join us at SPUR on December 5th for a roundtable on The Future of Clean Energy in Cities. The panel will feature the five startup winners of Tumml's Urban Clean Energy Prize, and an in-depth discussion about launching innovative solutions to urban problems. Reserve your tickets here and help us spread the word!

Also, check out an article Tumml Director May Samali recently co-authored for the Stanford Social Innovation Review about catalytic collaboration for nonprofits. You can read more updates from Tumml here, as well as stories we're following. For example, our co-founder Julie Lein was quoted in a San Francisco Business Times story about impact investing.

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Meet The New Tumml Cohort

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Meet The New Tumml Cohort

Last night we had a blast celebrating the five urban innovation startups to receive funding through the Tumml Urban Clean Energy Prize! A big thank you to our event sponsors The 11th Hour Project, Codigo Del Sur, Esri, Hanson Bridgett, IBM, Nixon Peabody, Presidio Graduate School, Verizon, and Vodafone Americas Foundation.

During a three-month program, each startup will receive $15K, as well as hands-on mentorship to help them pilot (or expand) their services in US cities. The winners are:

During the review process, Tumml was looking for startups advancing renewable resource adoption and efficiency in urban areas – water, solar, wind, green building materials, etc. Renewable resources are critical to the future of our cities, helping us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our power and transportation sectors; achieve better health outcomes because of lowered air, water, and land pollution; encourage responsible relationships with natural resources; and support community energy resilience.  

As a nonprofit with the mission to empower entrepreneurs to solve urban problems, Tumml is excited to support these startups tackling clean energy challenges in our cities.  We're thrilled to welcome the new batch!

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Tumml Alum Chariot Is Crushing It

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Tumml Alum Chariot Is Crushing It

Chariot recently announced its acquisition by Ford Smart Mobility. As one of the company's first investors, we couldn't be prouder!  Chariot's crowdsourced commuter shuttles provide a reliable transit option for city residents. We invested in Chariot in the summer of 2014 –  when the company had just launched its first route in San Francisco. Now Chariot runs 28 routes in the Bay Area, served by 100 vans.

Chariot is a great example of urban innovation in action. Chariot founder Ali Vahabzadeh identified a problem that he experienced every day (trying to get to/ from work) and built a company to address that challenge. We were impressed with his determination – in the span of a few weeks, Ali launched a scrappy pilot and made his solution a reality. From the beginning, he was out in the street, talking to commuters about their pain points.  We're excited to continue supporting entrepreneurs like Ali and hope that Chariot's success will inspire other entrepreneurs to tackle our toughest urban problems.    

PS Want to meet the next generation of urban innovators? Attend our reception on September 19th where we'll announce the winners of our Urban Clean Energy Prize.

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Let's Party! Tumml Urban Clean Energy Prize Reception

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Let's Party! Tumml Urban Clean Energy Prize Reception

 We've selected five urban-focused startups to receive grants through the Tumml Urban Clean Energy Prize! Don't you want to know who the winners are?? 

We're hosting a reception on Monday, September 19th at 6pm where we'll announce the winners. We hope you'll join us! Please RSVP here.

Also, check out Tumml alum Chariot in this San Francisco Business Times story about its direct shuttle service for commuters. You can read more updates from Tumml here, as well as stories we're following. For example, social network Nextdoor is moving to block racial profiling on its platform.

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Announcing the Urban Clean Energy Prize

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Announcing the Urban Clean Energy Prize

Calling all clean energy startups! Tumml is looking for entrepreneurs to apply for its Urban Clean Energy Prize – a three-month program where we will support startups with clean energy solutions for our cities. The program will run from September 19 - December 16, 2016, and the selected startups will each receive:

  • A $15K grant
  • Hands-on consulting services and mentorship from the Tumml team and Mentorship Board to help you pilot (or expand) your product/ service within a municipality
  • Free office space in downtown San Francisco through the duration of the program (if desired) 

We are interested in startups advancing renewable resource adoption and efficiency in urban areas – water, solar, wind, green building materials, etc. Renewable resources are critical to the future of our cities, helping us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our power and transportation sectors; achieve better health outcomes because of lowered air, water, and land pollution; encourage responsible relationships with natural resources; and support community energy resilience.  

Click here to apply! And help us spread the word! Applications are due July 1, 2016. Feel free to reach out to us at info@tumml.org if you have any questions.

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