Not long ago we kicked off Brand Prize 2017, an evolved version of our branding agency’s annual contest for startups looking to win a new brand identity. This year, we’ve joined forces with RED Academy, a design and technology school, who will be bolstering the prize with the addition of a new web experience.
Since the contest launch, we received 90 applicants from across North America. Applicants were based in cities ranging from Vancouver and Toronto to Detroit and San Francisco. We read through a diversity of business ideas related to smart gardens, an educational program supporting youth entrepreneurship, an app that redirects food between grocery stores to eliminate waste, a crowdfunding platform for documentary films and a hiring program specifically for single parents, to name a few.
The task we faced next was incredibly difficult. We had to select a shortlist of applicants who could proceed to the next round. The chosen 5 had to stand out based on the qualifications we had set from the beginning:
1. Commitment to innovation - expressed through a product or service
2. Product/market fit - seen in the ability to attract the target audience
3. Social impact component - bonus points
We took the strongest applications and re-reviewed, deliberated and discussed. Ultimately, it was these five that best embodied the criteria and captured our imaginations...
What’s the idea? Affordable housing by 3D printing homes. As a high level concept, Blox would be the Tesla for homes.
What’s your unique value proposition? Magnitudes greater cost, time and energy savings plus a new model for proactive rehabilitation.
What’s your vision for the company?
Remove barriers for talent related to unconscious bias during the hiring process. HRx is building tools to limit the human and systemic biases that currently exist.
HRx believes that bias can only be overcome through addressing a combination of people, processes and technology. It’s our focus on technology that sets us apart.
Our feature offering, HRx Recruit, is a ‘blind hiring’ tool. It removes information that could introduce bias, such as name and place of origin, and ensures that candidates are evaluated on their skills and experience. Those candidates that match an employer’s hiring profile are recommended for an interview.
This process tackles the bias in our recruitment systems, delivering more diverse hiring pools and eventually organizations.
A centralized recruitment hub that makes hiring fair for candidates and efficient for organizations.
Over time, HRx wants to replace the current system of multiple Applicant Tracking Systems with a shared, centralized Applicant Management Hub. Candidates will be asked to enter just one profile to be considered by many organizations, and organizations will have access to a wider pool of blind, pre-qualified candidates.
This centralized hub will deliver efficiencies for applicants and organization alike. Run by HRx , it will continue to provide blind profiles, ensuring that hiring is fair.
We have developed a cloud-based, early wildfire detection system using crowdsourcing, digital volunteerism and machine learning.
Early detection and fire development monitoring are high-impact activities for modern suppression agencies. Detecting fires early provides suppression agencies the ability to most effectively contain wildfires before they grow into these giant, problematic infernos which have severe and legitimate consequences on people’s lives, communities and budgets.
Hummingbird Watch is a crowd-sourced/machine learning wildfire detection system that provides an unprecedented level of reliability, accuracy and detection confidence. Transitioning between Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, digital volunteerism and Watson’s Visual Recognition API, Hummingbird Watch has been designed to take advantage of the strengths of existing technology, human input and widespread manager access.
Hummingbird Watch provides decision makers the access required to make informed decisions and flags the early warning signs necessary to stem the growth of wildfires.
Hummingbird Watch is not just a local solution for early wildfire detection, but one that can affect communities on a global scale. Wildfires are only becoming more common and more destructive. Our solution can positively affect millions of people worldwide, while providing a platform for public engagement that offers high value detection solution for wildfire agencies.
Unused Terrain is working to map out and activate vacant lands in Vancouver for interim use (less than a year). These sites can be used to improve the community rather than detract. Communities and individuals have the solutions yet face barriers to activate change. They may not know how to start, where to get funding, or know how to connect with like-minded neighbours to initiate change.
Our work is in concert with the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan, from which we have established the criteria which all projects must fit within. These include: social, art, biodiversity, clean energy and environmental. There is no other organization that is doing what we do in Vancouver and the only other one we have come across in Canada is in Montreal. They are supportive of our work and wish to collaborate.
Our vision for Unused Terrain is to be leading the way for temporary uses of land in Vancouver, activating social change and supporting the good work already happening in Vancouver. We have been in many conversations with Lande Montreal to develop a national strategy around brownfield use. We would like to see hundreds of activations of sites in Vancouver and support other cities to do the same.
The Walking School Bus reduces barriers to education by improving literacy through a unique reading program.
1. Its symbiotic nature acts as an extrinsic motivator that incentivizes students to connect with their readings. We have further gamified the reading experience through unique strategies that encourage students to become better readers and provides them with a score as measured by our objected measure of literacy, words correct per minute (WCPM).
2. Using SiMBi, all content (books, poems, short stories, etc) are discrete units. This means that they can be read out loud by every user. As such, we accumulate many recordings for each book. This means that a student in rural Uganda can listen to a local, fluent Ugandan reading their favourite short story or a British accent. The choice is theirs and it improves motivation.
3. We save teachers time and money and improve their students’ motivation to do readings. Using SiMBi, teacher KPI dashboards are able to see which students have done their recordings and how accurate they are (using API’s). As such, we’re able to save teacher time, show student improvement and ensure students are doing their readings, which makes them better readers.
To expedite our transition to global literacy by 2040.
We’ll be jumping on a call with each startup to get to know the team (and their product) better. From here, we’ll choose a winner who best exemplifies our qualifications, along with the drive and knowledge to be a success. Check back on August 7th to find out who of these five will claim the Brand Prize!
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