CivicX Invests in Digital Inclusion Ventures

The Points of Light Civic Accelerator (CivicX) announced today that it will invest $50,000 each in Cell-Ed (Palo Alto, California), a for-profit enterprise, and STEM NOLA (New Orleans), a nonprofit enterprise. Both ventures are focused on bridging the digital divide and filling the growing digital talent pipeline.

Photo of peer-selected investees
Pictured above left to right: Dr. Calvin Mackie (STEM NOLA), Jessica Rothenberg-Aalami (Cell-Ed), Shantell Bolden (STEM NOLA), Ayesha Khanna (CivicX)

The Civic Accelerator is the first accelerator and investment fund in the country focused on civic ventures – for-profit and nonprofit startups that solve social problems by tapping into human capital as part of the solution. The goal of the accelerator is to equip each startup to seek investments and scale their social innovations.

The investment came at the end of the Civic Accelerator’s 2018 cohort – it’s 11th bootcamp-style program. The spring 2018 program convened 12 startups over 10 weeks for three in-person, week-long sessions in San Francisco, New York and Atlanta, in addition to an in-depth virtual curriculum. Using vetted investment criteria, the program peer participants selected the two ventures that received $50,000 investments.

Cell-Ed offers a complete mobile solution to reach, train and upskill today’s workforce on any mobile device, including flip phones. “One of Cell-Ed’s greatest achievements must be this one: being honored by the awe-inspiring community of entrepreneurs who make up CivicX,” said Jessica Rothenberg-Aalami, founder and CEO of Cell-Ed. “With this investment and vote of confidence, we will keep delivering literacy, language and job skills to working adults’ cell phones so together we can bridge the digital, poverty and education divides in today’s workforce.”

STEM NOLA designs and delivers engaging educational programs and events that bring exposure, inspiration and training in STEM to underserved communities. “CivicX equipped us with the tools to improve our business model, operations and financials to better serve our community. Being selected by our peer cohort to receive a $50K investment was humbling, affirming and inspirational,” said Dr. Calvin Mackie, founder and president of STEM NOLA. “The investment will allow us to expand our development team and scale our efforts with a direct impact on the lives of children and families.”

Now in its sixth year, the Civic Accelerator has committed $950,000 in investment and has paired 135 startup teams with more than 150 mentors, partners and strategic advisors. The graduated teams have generated more than $94 million in revenue to date, and have reached more than 18.7 million individuals as they solve the most critical social problems facing communities across the country.

“It’s inspiring to work with our corporate partners and mentors to help accelerate these entrepreneurs who are increasing digital skills and access to new economy jobs,” said Ayesha Khanna, founder of the Civic Accelerator. “Nearly 80 percent of middle-skill jobs require basic digital proficiency, which is critical to the 2/3 of Americans without a college degree. We had 500,000 computing jobs open nationwide, yet we produced fewer than 43,000 computer science graduates last year. And 1 out of 6 people still lack access to basic internet. These ventures provide a wide range of solutions – from K-12 STEM education and technical up-skilling for working adults, to affordable access and digital services – as they bridge the digital divide and prepare the workforce of the future.”

The gradated ventures in the spring 2018 cohort are:

Cell-Ed For-profit (Palo Alto, California) – offers a complete mobile solution to reach, train and upskill today’s workforce on any mobile device, including flip phones.

ELiTE Education Nonprofit (New York) – increases public schools’ capacity to integrate rigorous and engaging computer science and engineering programs as a part of their culture and curriculum.

Haven Connect For-profit (Berkeley, California) – allows low-income applicants to easily find and apply to affordable housing through streamlined leasing and waitlist management.

honorCode Nonprofit (Atlanta) – coalesces educators and local business communities to build future workforce ecosystems within K-12 schools.

Neture Inc. For-profit (New York) – provides free and low-cost broadband internet access to underserved communities and disconnected households.

Noirefy For-profit (Chicago) – is a digital platform connecting diverse professionals from under-represented backgrounds to corporations for career advancement opportunities.

Sparrow For-profit (San Francisco) – is a U.S. wireless company bridging the digital divide and connecting people with purpose by donating to someone in digital poverty for every new customer.

STEM NOLA Nonprofit (New Orleans) – designs and delivers engaging educational programs and events that bring exposure, inspiration and training in STEM to underserved communities.

Tech Exchange Nonprofit (Oakland, California) – generates equitable technology access by providing community members refurbished computers, internet, training and tech support.

The Mentor Method For-profit (Washington, D.C.) – is an all-inclusive system for better diversity and inclusion through mentorship.

Unloop Nonprofit (Seattle) – enables people who have been in prison to succeed in careers in tech through intensive software development training, re-entry support, and career opportunities with tech employers.

Young Creative Agency Nonprofit (New Orleans) – connects under-represented young talent to real-world work and support networks that increase inclusion in the creative economy.

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