CHICAGO, August 8, 2012 — Impact Engine, a new accelerator that supports for-profit businesses trying to make the world a better place, welcomes eight early stage companies into the program’s first-ever class. From empowering women in rural India to improving education in the United States to providing renewable energy to the people of Africa, the 2012 class includes a diverse group of entrepreneurs tackling both domestic and global challenges.

Led by managing director Chuck Templeton (founder of OpenTable), Impact Engine launched last year as one of the nation’s few accelerators focused on impact investing. The organization is dedicated to finding solutions to today’s societal and environmental problems through market-based business ideas.

“I am excited to welcome these companies into the program. It is inspiring to be around entrepreneurs who use business principles to address the societal and environmental challenges we face,” said Templeton. “To see people building business models around water purification, sustainable employment, or services for the underbanked is seeing capitalism at its best.”

Impact Engine received more than 175 applications from 15 states and nine countries, including Canada, Uganda, and Spain. Companies participating in the 12-week program, which launches in September, will receive $20,000 in seed capital, mentoring from seasoned professionals, user-centered design training, office space at Chicago’s entrepreneurial hub 1871, access to investors, and more.

Impact Engine’s inaugural class, known as Impact 1, includes:

Azadi –  More than 300 million women living in rural India face financial, educational, and social challenges because they do not have access to hygienic menstruation products. Azadi creates biodegradable sanitary pads that are both accessible and affordable to this population.

Collaborative Group – Collaborative Group aims to provide sustainable employment to artisans in need around the globe, from Guatemala, Kenya, India, and beyond. It advocates for artisans and underserved populations by sourcing goods to socially conscious retail partners and distributors in the United States.

Effortless Energy –  McKinsey estimates that cost-effective residential energy efficiency measures constitute a $230 billion market, yet adoption has been extremely low. By addressing the financial, operational, and behavioral market barriers, Effortless Energy makes home energy efficiency a snap. Customers pay a reduced monthly energy bill while Effortless Energy does the work to analyze, coordinate, and finance smart home upgrades at no cost to customers.

CERCA – CERCA helps teachers deliver personalized and rigorous literacy curriculum to students through its web-based platform. This tool aligns to the new Common Core State Standards by focusing on argument-based teaching methods. CERCA lets teachers build and share lessons, track growth, collaborate with students, and create academic portfolios online.

Light Up Africa – Light Up Africa (LUA) provides renewable energy to marginalized populations in Kenya through The Zoom Box, an efficient and affordable kinetic energy storage device. The Zoom Box easily attaches to bicycles, motorbikes, livestock, and boats in order to provide electricity for small personal devices, such as cellular phones and lamps.

Pangea –  Approximately 80 million consumers in the United States lack access to a payment card (credit/debit) or do not have an official banking relationship. But traditional financial services for the underbanked population have limited reach and predatory fees. By integrating into existing retail terminals, Pangea provides real-time payment transfer solutions to the underbanked that are significantly cheaper than today’s options.

Portapure –  Portapure invents, designs, and manufactures affordable, easy-to-use water filtration products for the nearly one billion individuals who lack access to clean drinking water.

Raise5 –  Raise5 is a fundraising platform that lets people raise money for their favorite charities and non-profit organizations through micro-volunteering. Users can donate a small service or task—logo design help, copy editing, etc.—in exchange for $5 to the charity of their choice.

About Impact Engine
Impact Engine is a 12-week accelerator program in Chicago that supports early stage, for-profit companies tackling today’s societal and environmental challenges. Its 2012 sponsors include DeVry University, Coinstar Inc., Leo Burnett, Prosper PR, Quarles & Brady LLP, Synergy Law Group LLC, and True Partners Consulting.

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Riley
Program Manager