Kate Dewey takes the podium at the UpPrize Social Innovation community showcase. Photo by TC.

Last Thursday, a crowd of more than 400 guests gathered at the Heinz History Center to see who would win this year’s UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge. During the community showcase event, five of the 10 finalists came away with a chunk of the total $550,000 in prize money. That’s on top of the $10,000 gift and six months of mentoring that the candidates already received.

Created through a partnership between The Forbes Funds and BNY Mellon of Southwestern Pennsylvania, UpPrize calls on local startups and innovators to find solutions to issues faced by Pittsburgh-area nonprofits and vulnerable populations. While the competition previously focused on tech, they added a Healthy Food Access category to address food insecurity across the region.

“The Pittsburgh region has everything needed to lead the world in purpose-driven community innovation,” said The Forbes Funds president Kate Dewey in an official statement, citing resources ranging from UpPrize partners like BNY Mellon, Bridgeway Capital and Comcast to a “robust nonprofit sector that employs 10 percent of the workforce.”

She adds, “Leveraging our region’s collective strength offers exciting new ways to solve entrenched challenges facing nonprofits and to improve the region at a neighborhood level. UpPrize can help make this happen in a way that everyone wins.”

412 Food Rescue goes bananas at the UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge community showcase. Photo by TC.
Finalists go bananas at the UpPrize community showcase. Photo by TC.

Winners in the Impactful Technology category represented a diverse array of software and hardware. BlastPoint received $150,000 to improve and deliver its data gathering tools to small nonprofits and organizations. The medical company Rubitection took home $100,000 to help develop its bedsore detection device, while the startup Hibersense won $50,000 to put towards its smart thermostat system.

In the Healthy Food Access category, the $140,000 grand prize went to Economic Development South, and 412 Food Rescue won the $110,000 second-prize purse. 412 Food Rescue will use its winnings to turn wasted food into affordable prepared meals, while Economic Development South will open a much-needed corner store in the distressed community of Clairton.

To learn more about the winners and the finalists, read our Meet the UpPrize Impactful Technologies finalists and Meet the UpPrize Healthy Food Access finalists features. See below for a video about UpPrize, courtesy of Comcast:


Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.