UpPrize Names Winners of Social Innovation Challenge

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PITTSBURGH, Oct. 11, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Today the UpPrize, BNY Mellon Social Innovation Challenge has named TalkMeUp, C.C. Busy and Sign Track as the winners of its Great Solutions Challenge at a Showcase held at The Carnegie Science Center. UpPrize was developed to bridge the gap between the nonprofit and entrepreneurial communities as well as to increase the number of impactful technology based solutions targeted to address critical social challenges. The challenge is organized by The Forbes Funds, a supporting organization of The Pittsburgh Foundation, in collaboration with the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

First place winner TalkMeUp received a $150,000 grant, second place winner CC Busy received a $100,000 grant and the third place winner Sign Track received a $50,000 grant. All three UpPrize challenge winners and two additional finalists received one month of personalized support and mentoring from UpPrize advisors during the competition, including $10,000 grants. Since its launch in 2015, the UpPrize, BNY Mellon Social Innovation Challenge has allocated more than $2 million in investments, grants and technical assistance to winners and finalists.  

“Since its launch, we have witnessed firsthand the direct impact UpPrize has made in our region, connecting nonprofits with start-ups and the innovation ecosystem,” said Kenya Boswell, President of the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania.  “This year’s winners have created transformational solutions to provide much needed support and services focused on improving the quality of life for residents in southwestern Pennsylvania.  I continue to be inspired by the creative solutions curated by innovators in our region and look forward to seeing them scale over time.”

First place winner TalkMeUp, led by Carnegie Mellon University alumna JJ Xu, MBA, is an artificial intelligence-based software company focused on communication training. Using a combination of learning management systems and personalized training tools, TalkMeUp provides individuals and organizations with on-demand, manageable and customized communication training solutions, reducing training expenses by more than 90%.

Second place winner C.C. Busy uses the power of voice assistants to help childcare providers deliver better care to children while meeting the requirements of increasing regulations. Led by Shimira Williams and Greg Quinlan, C.C. Busy provides automatic documentation that eases the delivery of information to regulators and parents, ultimately improving the care environment and better supporting a child’s development.

Third place winner Sign Track, led by Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Brandon Taylor, Ph.D, develops software for automatically interpreting American Sign Language (ASL), using depth cameras to measure the manual gestures and facial expressions used to articulate ASL in real time. Through its proprietary classification software, Sign Track recognizes the signs and provides English translations without extensive individual training.

Kate Dewey, Senior Advisor to UpPrize, said, “UpPrize is a significant competition that encourages local nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and companies to address difficult community issues. It has accelerated the development of a growing local social innovation movement that has garnered national attention. More than 450 entries have been received over the past three years and each winner’s accomplishments has been nothing short of remarkable. The success is in large part attributed to BNY Mellon’s affirmation of nonprofits, clearly evident from the time, talent and financial contribution to the sector.”

In addition to the winners, the UpPrize finalists included:

Hera Global Tech leverages current and emerging technologies to provide innovative solutions for personal safety. Led by Elizabeth LaRue, Ph.D, Poorvi Mathur and Brady Sheehan, Hera Global Tech has created a unique safety device that confirms and communicates an immediate threat to its user. Currently, the company is building its “Autonomous” system for individuals rehabilitating from substance abuse and victims of abuse and/or violence in the southwestern Pennsylvania region.

The Virtual Senior Academy connects seniors, many of whom are facing a decline in mobility and access to in-person activities, through an easy web-based platform that allows them to engage with peers, expand their social networks, stimulate life-long learning and increase their comfort with technology. Led by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation’s Mara Leff, MPH, the Academy enables seniors to participate from their homes, libraries and senior centers using a web camera to connect with fellow users and teachers.

The 2018 UpPrize competition received more than 100 applications from talented Pittsburgh-area entrepreneurs. Before selecting five finalists, 10 semi-finalists pitched solutions to subject matter experts representing the nonprofit, for-profit and investment communities. Each semi-finalist was paired with industry mentors to sharpen their business plans and advance their solutions. 

To learn more about the UpPrize winners and the overall competition, visit www.UpPrize.org.

About BNY Mellon
BNY Mellon is a global investments company dedicated to helping its clients manage and service their financial assets throughout the investment lifecycle. Whether providing financial services for institutions, corporations or individual investors, BNY Mellon delivers informed investment management and investment services in 35 countries. As of June 30, 2018, BNY Mellon had $33.6 trillion in assets under custody and/or administration, and $1.8 trillion in assets under management. BNY Mellon can act as a single point of contact for clients looking to create, trade, hold, manage, service, distribute or restructure investments. BNY Mellon is the corporate brand of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation (NYSE: BK). Additional information is available on www.bnymellon.com. Follow us on Twitter @BNYMellon or visit our newsroom at www.bnymellon.com/newsroom for the latest company news.

About The Forbes Funds
The Forbes Funds builds the management capacity and impact of community-based nonprofits individually and collectively. A supporting organization of the Pittsburgh Foundation, The Forbes Funds has more than 30 years of experience in providing technical assistance, research, and leadership to advance a more effective and sustainable nonprofit sector. Additional information is available at forbesfunds.org, or on Twitter @theforbesfunds and @UpPrize.

Madelyn McHugh                                       
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