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9 November 2017

Johns Hopkins serves up impact incubator

Businesses dealing with beekeeping, cuisine and healthcare have all made the agenda of Johns Hopkins University’s 2017-2018 Social Innovation Lab.

Author: Callum Cyrus, reporter

Johns Hopkins University has unveiled the 2017-2018 cohort of 10 mainly US-based startups to take part in its Social Innovation Lab incubator for non-profit businesses.

The initiative, which is managed by Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, the university's venturing arm, backs impact startups with workspace, funding, mentorship and training.

Since 2011, the lab has graduated 62 businesses that have generated more than $13m in follow-on funding, and the number of teams applying in 2017-2018 rose to 84 from 53 one year earlier.

Of the startups selected for this year’s batch, eight are geared towards the community of Baltimore where Johns Hopkins University is based. The other two will tackle social issues in Tanzania and Trinidad and Tobago.

Darius Graham, director of student ventures at the Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, said: "The Social Innovation Lab has a tradition of bringing together ambitious, talented and – most importantly – compassionate people who have real-world experience with the problem they are attempting to solve."

The ten businesses were named as:

  • Distribution Health, which will seek to train personnel to improve the healthcare services around Baltimore.
  • Mera Kitchen Collective, a cooperative food kitchen in Baltimore staffed by recently resettled refugees or immigrants who cook up cuisine from their own cultures. One event on November 12 will serve guests a five-course Syrian dinner.
  • Pivot, which aims to train and empower women seeking employment who may have fallen out of the workforce previously.
  • Growing Minds Initiative, a sustainable farming business that would invest profits into education and healthcare for orphaned and vulnerable children in Tanzania. Growing Minds had raised crowdfunding of $14,500 at the time of writing.
  • Neighbour, Neighbour, an initiative aimed at providing better personal safety information in Trinidad and Tobago, where urban homicide rates remain extremely high. An app will provide tips to residents to help them avert danger.
  • BeeMore Cooperative, a cooperative venture intended to train urban beekeepers in Baltimore while teaching community members about keeping bees healthy. The rusty patched bumble bee was protected under the US Endangered Species Act in March 2017.
  • ClearMask, which wants to commercialise a full-face transparent face mask for the medical profession. The business is raising capital to obtain approval from US public health regulator Food and Drug Administration.
  • Active Bed Sore Prevention System, designers of a hospital bed cover with embedded sensors to track signs of bed sores, an ulcer that occurs when prolonged pressure from the mattress causes injury to the skin and underlying tissue.
  • Hosts for Humanity, a volunteer hosting community for families and friends travelling long-distance to visit loved ones awaiting or undergoing medical care.
  • HostHome, a short-term accommodation platform geared towards members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. 

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