How might we create a future of work where all can succeed in the innovation economy?
Technology is rapidly changing which means the types of available jobs are changing as well. A 2017 Brookings report found that nearly two-thirds of new jobs created since 2010 require either medium or high-level digital skills, yet in the US, a 50% shortage of computer and IT graduates is expected by 2024. Individuals entering the workforce, without market-ready technical skills, face barriers to higher earning potential.
Our aim was to identify and support ventures increasing access to resources and jobs people need, helping employers more effectively tap into a diverse workforce, and addressing systemic barriers in the changing economy.
In September, the Acumen Civic Accelerator, presented by PwC Charitable Foundation, welcomed 12 ventures from across the U.S., each tackling a unique aspect of the future of work. Some of the ventures are focused on improving education in future-proof industries, others create products and services to move current workers up the income ladder, and provide support for diverse and dispersed workers in a gig, digital economy.
The teams spent 12 weeks working together and with experts to improve their business models and plans for scale. We traveled to Chicago, San Francisco, and New York to connect with local partners and eco-systems. Teams also worked in between sessions, as part of a virtual curriculum, to go in-depth around one another’s business and financial models, product demos, measurable results and hypotheses in order to rank each venture along seven core criteria. This process is an important component of the program because participating ventures decide who takes home the grant at the end of the accelerator!
In the final week of the program, ventures sat down to make a hard choice:
Who is best positioned to receive $50,000 in grant investment?
The Acumen Civic Accelerator enables ventures to rank and peer-select two teams, one for-profit and one nonprofit, for a $50,000 grant. We think peers are best suited to decide who has made the biggest strides in the program and who is most prepared to leverage this funding. The 12 ventures in our Future of Work program gathered on December 18, 2019 for a final ranking against the investment criteria to determine who is best set up for success, and who will make the biggest impact by leveraging this funding to catalyze their growth.
We are proud to announce that UPchieve and Shimmy Technologies were chosen by their peers!
UPchieve connects low-income high school students with live tutors any time they need it while Shimmy prepares the apparel industry for automation by upskilling garment workers. Whereas their approaches are vastly different, and represent the diversity of the cohort, both use technology to help solve the issues faced by current and future workers.
“I feel so grateful for my peers and how much I learned from them. UPchieve is a lot stronger now than it was at the start of the program! Also, I know everyone in the cohort is amazing, so it makes it an even greater honor to be peer-selected.” said Aly Murray, Co-Founder and Executive Director of UPchieve. The organization plans to use the funds to close our their 2020 fundraising cycle. “Now we can really focus on scaling our impact and helping more students access free tutoring in 2020. It feels great to have 12 months of runway for the first time ever!” emphasizes Aly.
“I feel really grateful. Being peer ranked in this cohort is so meaningful because I have so much respect for every person and company in here. Knowing I was selected by people who have similar experiences and businesses like mine is more profound than if it came from an impact investor. Furthermore, to have them say they think this money can help unlock something big in my business, when we all need operating capital, is humbling,” highlights Sarah Krasley, CEO of Shimmy. She plans to put the funds to use immediately, hiring a development and sales person to close on potential customers. Sarah states, “We have to bring in revenue now while we build to our long term goal of upskilling and reskilling factory workers to justly transition them in advance of automation. This person will be essential in helping us achieve that balance.”
We are so appreciative and inspired by of all 12 of our ventures and can’t wait to see what they do next.