BNY Mellon and the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania are teaming up with The Forbes Funds to help local nonprofits solve social challenges through technology.
The bank is putting up $500,000 and its foundation is investing $550,000 in a competition that will bring together nonprofits and private sector entrepreneurs to develop technological innovations.
Matt Zieger, executive-in-residence for social innovation at The Forbes Funds, said the nonprofit community is often held back from technology adoption because of underfunding.
“If we can identify those collective needs and identify the kinds of challenges they face in serving the people that they’re trying to serve well and actually help connect them directly with entrepreneurs locally … then we’re really accomplishing two very successful things in one process,” Zieger said.
Over the next two months, Zieger and university researchers will meet with about 150 nonprofits to address their needs and challenges. He said he expects to see many organizations struggling to manage mobile technologies.
“It can be anything from a background check technology to a logistics and supply chain technology to the use of tech-based or mobile apps to better connect with the clients that they’re serving,” Zieger said.
In January, the competition will be open to the public, and Zieger said anyone can enter, as long as their idea addresses a specific social challenge.
“We think there may be mature existing companies that apply and there may be inventors and entrepreneurs that apply and there may be students that are just starting out in an early-stage company that apply,” he said.
The 10 best submissions will have the chance to pitch their solutions to a team of investors. Then, the top three contestants will advance to the funding, product development, prototype and implementation phase. The winners will be awarded a total of about $750,000.
Zieger said Pittsburgh has all of the necessary tools to solve these social and technological issues.
“One of the most important things is that we’ve seen local entrepreneurs want to solve great challenges,” he said, “and I think we’re giving them that opportunity through this process.”