The Results Are In! Innovation Fund 5.0 Winners


By Julie Menter

In the categories:

We have just funded 6 great startups via the Innovation Fund! In our summer Open Call, we received a record 220 applications and we couldn’t be more thrilled about the work of the innovators who are joining our portfolio of changemakers.

We were lucky to work with an incredible screening committee of 10 experts, ranging from a program officer at the Open Society Foundations to a partner from the leading venture accelerator 500 Startups, who helped us evaluate the applications and choose the most promising ones.

Together, these 6 startups embody what New Media Ventures is all about: 2 startups are applying cutting-edge technology such as live video and virtual reality in new ways to advance social and environmental causes (Mobil-Eyes Us, Owlized), 2 are engaging and mobilizing underrepresented communities in creative and scalable ways (MPower Change, PushBlack) and 2 are equipping kids and adults to make more social and environmentally-conscious decisions (Buycott, Dreamrider Productions). Learn more about each of them below.

As many of you know, innovation is critical to advance the social and environmental issues we all care about. Contact us to join our growing network of investors, founders and thought-leaders to help build movements, tell new stories and accelerate civic engagement!

Without further ado, here are the latest winners of the NMV Innovation Fund in alphabetical order:

Buycott, a for-profit, helps consumers vote with their wallets to create change. Users select the causes they support from a list of NGO-sponsored campaigns (e.g. “End Animal Testing”). Then, when they scan a product barcode or search, they’ll discover where that product’s parent company stands on the issues that matter to them. Buycott also makes it easy for users to inform companies about their purchase decisions and find alternative products that better match their principles. For example, The Organic Consumer Association has used Buycott to apply pressure on consumer packaged goods companies who oppose GMO labeling. In the last year, consumer pressure has been strong enough for Campbell’s Soup Company and Mars, amongst others, to begin voluntarily labeling GMO content of all products.

Dreamrider Productions, a non-profit, trains superheroes of environmental protection through interactive media and live theatre. They use the power of “kids bugging their parents” to drive lasting, measurable change. They have reached over 900,000 young children in 62 cities across Canada since 1997, with a powerful mix of comedy, offline arts activities and games, video, gamification, kindness, story and fun. This transformative experience has inspired many of these children to become leaders in their communities and provides a fertile ground to advance environmental causes. They recently launched Planet Protector Academy, an online platform for teachers to scale their work and expand into the United States.

Mobil-Eyes Us, a project of the non-profit WITNESS, combines immersive livestreaming and task routing technology to connect “distant witnesses” – people watching via livestream, and who have capacity and inclination to take meaningful action – with activists on the front lines. Mobil-Eyes Us builds stronger empathy and solidarity and capitalizes on the skills and leverage of distant witnesses, who can help deter violence, rapidly share what happens, provide direct legal guidance, or take other timely, relevant actions to alter the outcome of situations. Their first pilot in Rio showed how a series of livestreams from a community at risk could engage a targeted group of distant witnesses in understanding the alternative reality of people affected negatively by the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

MPowerChange, a non-profit, is a Muslim-led digital organizing and storytelling project advancing social justice. MPowerChange uses organizing, campaigning, and storytelling to build the grassroots power of American Muslims and advances social, spiritual, racial, and economic justice for all people. MPowerChange debuted online in December 2015 and within weeks established collaborations with some of the country’s largest online activism groups (like MoveOn and ColorOfChange) and with leading American Muslim groups including the Council on American–Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America.

Owlized, a for-profit, produces tools for engaging public audiences on location with virtual experiences that are relevant, powerful, and meaningful. Owlized produces tools that harness the empathic power of virtual and augmented reality while delivering meaningful stories that facilitate deeper, more meaningful human interaction with the real world. Their flagship product, OWL®, is a revolutionary, 360-degree VR kiosk which enables public audiences to look forward or backward in time, interact with design options, or “step into” rich media content at a place. A recent study of the OWL by Stanford Research Fellow Dr. Susi Moser has shown its incredible effectiveness in building awareness and willingness to act on the issue of climate change.

PushBlack, a non-profit, is a mobile-first black civic engagement group that organizes black voters through mobile messaging. PushBlack attracts and engages black subscribers through weekly text news and history services and other text-based experiences. With that relationship, PushBlack is able to encourage members to register and vote, and stay involved in critical issues.