Chicago’s accelerator for world-changing startups welcomes its first batch

OpenTable founder Chuck Templeton has launched ImpactEngine, a new Chicago-based accelerator to support for-profit businesses that aim to make a positive social or environmental impact in the world.

This week, ImpactEngine accepted its first class. These founders hope to become leaders of businesses doing social good and are tackling global problems like illiteracy in emerging nations, water filtration problems, and inequities in U.S. financial services.

Read more here about the growing number of for-profit startups that are trying to change the world.

Impact Engine has raised a $500,000 fund to invest in the startups. Templeton and the other founders, Jamie Jones, assistant director of social enterprise at Northwestern University, and Linda Darragh, executive director of Kellogg School of Management‘s Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice, will take a small equity stake of 7%, in exchange for doling out $20,000 in funding.

“Our mission is to show investors that they can invest in social business and still make strong returns,” said Templeton, in an interview with VentureBeat. The founder of OpenTable, an online reservations service, told me that he was inspired to support businesses focusing on social good when his daughter was born.

“I started to think about what the world might look like when she got older,” Templeton explained. “There are some deep challenges, but with those challenges are huge business opportunities.”

ImpactEngine is the first of its kind in the Midwest, and it takes its cue from Hub Ventures, a Bay Area-based accelerator program for socially-focused entrepreneurs. VentureBeat covered its Demo Day this month; seven companies attempted to build technologies to improve healthcare, education, civic engagement, and the environment.

ImpactEngine’s inaugural class will start in September with a demo day on December 5. Here is a list of the eight startups, as they describe themselves:

Azadi -  More than 300 million women living in rural India face financial, educational, and social challenges because they do not have access to hygienic menstruation products. Azadi creates biodegradable sanitary pads that are both accessible and affordable to this population.

Collaborative Group - Collaborative Group aims to provide sustainable employment to artisans in need around the globe, from Guatemala, Kenya, India, and beyond. It advocates for artisans and underserved populations by sourcing goods to socially conscious retail partners and distributors in the United States.

Effortless Energy -  McKinsey estimates that cost-effective residential energy efficiency measures constitute a $230 billion market, yet adoption has been extremely low. By addressing the financial, operational, and behavioral market barriers, Effortless Energy makes home energy efficiency a snap. Customers pay a reduced monthly energy bill while Effortless Energy does the work to analyze, coordinate, and finance smart home upgrades at no cost to customers.

Ithaca Education - Ithaca Education helps teachers deliver personalized and rigorous literacy curriculum to students through its web-based platform, CERCA. This tool aligns to the new Common Core State Standards by focusing on argument-based teaching methods. CERCA lets teachers build and share lessons, track growth, collaborate with students, and create academic portfolios online.

Light Up Africa - Light Up Africa (LUA) provides renewable energy to marginalized populations in Kenya through The Zoom Box, an efficient and affordable kinetic energy storage device. The Zoom Box easily attaches to bicycles, motorbikes, livestock, and boats in order to provide electricity for small personal devices, such as cellular phones and lamps.

POMS -  Approximately 80 million consumers in the United States lack access to a payment card (credit/debit) or do not have an official banking relationship. But traditional financial services for the underbanked population have predatory fees and limited reach. By integrating into existing retail terminals, POMS provides real-time payment transfer solutions to the underbanked that are significantly cheaper than today’s options.

Portapure -  Portapure invents, designs, and manufactures affordable, easy-to-use water filtration products for the nearly one billion individuals who lack access to clean drinking water.

Raise5 -  Raise5 (pictured, above) is a fundraising platform that lets people raise money for their favorite charities and non-profit organizations through micro-volunteering. Users can donate a small service or task — logo design help, copy editing, etc. — in exchange for $5 to the charity of their choice.

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