Photo courtesy of Yang Cheng.

UpPrize is down to five.

On Thursday, BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania announced the finalists in its UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge, a competition to find impactful technology that bridges the gap between the nonprofit and entrepreneurial communities.

  • BeamData integrates the power of data science with the depth of social issues to build accessible data tools that guide the impact work of nonprofits and local governments.
  • Civic Champs is an automated volunteer management software for nonprofits, which allows them to track their volunteers’ hours, activities and location of contribution.
  • Footbridge for Families introduced a technology platform that harnesses the power of community donors to support families facing short-term financial crises.
  • Homewood Children’s Village is a nonprofit that works to break down barriers through direct service work in in-school and out-of-school settings.
  • Honeycomb Credit is a crowdfunding website that connects small businesses looking for affordable loans with local investors seeking to support their community while making a return.

Each of the finalists will receive a $10,000 grant to help make their dreams a reality. They will pitch their ideas to a panel of local judges for an opportunity to secure grants totaling $300,000. Three winners will be announced live at the UpPrize Final Showcase on March 5 at the Carnegie Science Center. The event is open to the public.

UpPrize was developed in 2015 to increase the number of technology-based solutions addressing unmet societal needs. Since then, it has awarded more than $2 million in investments, grants and technical assistance. The challenge is administered by Innovation Works, which provides seed funding and business assistance, expertise and other resources to high-potential tech startup companies.

Between August and October 2019, BYN Mellon received 200 applications from individuals, nonprofits and startup companies. To qualify, applicants had to submit a prototype product, tool or service with a tech component that is both inclusive and accessible and could get off the ground in 18 months, says Erica Friedman, business development associate for Innovation Works.

Ten semifinalists went through an “entrepreneurial boot camp” where they learned the fundamentals of introducing a new product, tool or service to the public.

Past winners include TalkMeUp, an artificial intelligence-based software that provides on-demand, customized and cost-effective communications training for organizations, and C.C. Busy, a company that develops software and training to automate documentation for home-based child care providers.

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.