Making The Most of Your Time At SXSW: 20 Can’t Miss SXSW Sessions

The Case Foundation is heading to SXSW this month for five days of Interactive programming and events. While there, we will certainly dine on breakfast tacos and good ole’ Texas barbecue, but most importantly we will participate in and host a series of engaging can’t miss SXSW sessions and activations onsite designed to turn interest in to action.

In particular, the Case Foundation is excited to interact with SXSW participants at one of our sessions featuring our own Jean Case, Steve Case, Emily Yu, Sarah Koch as well as to debut our first-ever #GetInTheArena Lounge, in partnership with Oculus (at the JW Marriott from March 11th to March 15th). There, we invite you to “Get In The Arena” and share how you will turn intention into action on the causes you care about, learn about the future of social good and hear more about the important work the Foundation is leading throughout the year. A few highlights:

  • Record a short film in our 360-degree video OrcaVue that will capture your very own “Get in the Arena” video moment;
  • Check out the virtual reality videos courtesy of Oculus for Good;
  • Donate to a charity of your choice with GoodWorld as they bring the #donate phenomenon to attendees live on site;
  • Demo our soon-to-be-released Impact Investing Network Map;
  • Test your knowledge of the inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem;
  • Share what you are going to do to “Get in the Arena” in 2017.

Veterans of SXSW will tell you there are countless sessions and meet-ups on just about every issue you care about—from ocean exploration, to inclusive entrepreneurship, to tech for good platforms that are changing the way we champion causes. To make the best use of your time at SXSW, here are 20 sessions that we think you shouldn’t miss:

MARCH 10th


1. The Rise of Academic Incubators
11:00am – 12:00pm
Hotel Van Zand, Lady Bird Ballroom

Join Texas A&M, Harvard University and more as they share how universities are responding with pathways, such as curriculum enhancements, mentorship programs, and physical incubator space, to facilitate connections to students, potential investors and industry leaders

2. Funding Our Future: Investing in Diverse Startups 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Hilton Room 400-402

Valmo Ventures, Base Ventures and Connectivity Capital Partners share why the growing trend of more tech startups being founded by Women, Latino, Black and Asian founders, greater investment in these ventures is needed to ensure the innovation and economic growth across all communities that these founders represent as the global population becomes more diverse.

3. Convergence Keynote Photographer Cory Richards 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 pm
Convention Center Ballroom D

A climber and visual storyteller, Richards was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year (2012) and a National Geographic Fellow (2015). His photography has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, Outside Magazine, Man of the World, and The New York Times.

MARCH 11th


4. Navigating a Rapidly Changing and Connected World Steve Case and Beth Comstock 9:30am – 10:30am
Convention Center Ballroom EFG

Sensors that track a food’s temperature from source to store. Hospitals designed to avoid misdiagnosis. Traffic lights that actually respond to traffic. These are the changes we are likely to witness in the Third Wave: a period in which entrepreneurs will use technology to revolutionize major sectors—healthcare, manufacturing, education and food—and transform the way we live. Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and CEO of Revolution and Chairman of the Case Foundation, and Beth Comstock, Vice Chairman at GE, discuss how to adapt to the changes coming our way.

5. Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship with Jean Case 11:00am – 12:00pm
Hilton Salon C

Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Tech pioneer and investor Jean Case explores the journey of fearless entrepreneurs who are changing the way business is done. She sits down with Reena Ninan of CBS News to discover the wide range of dynamic pioneering founders who are closing the opportunity gap and scaling creative solutions to persistent global problems. Challenge the traditional notions that entrepreneurs are exclusively wealthy, Ivy League educated white men in this conversation on how a new breed of entrepreneurs from all walks of life are fueling economic growth and shattering the status quo.

6. How Elections Change Next Gen Cause Engagement 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Hilton Salon F

Fact: Millennials value cause engagement. But what happens during an election year? Could politics influence how this generation participates in social causes? Achieve, in partnership with the Case Foundation issued a special survey to answer this very question. The survey tracked the impact of the election on the way in which millennials from across the country engaged with social causes—both before and after the election. The final 2016 Millennial Impact Report identified what, if any, demographic factors are connected to engagement trends. The final report will be debuted exclusively at SXSW and reveal key shifts that will alter how we think about this generation of changemakers. Speakers include Emily Yu of the Case Foundation, Abby Philip of the Washington Post, Carolyn DeWitt of Rock the Vote and Amy Thayer of Achieve.

7. Payments Gone Viral: The Rise of Social Commerce 3:30pm – 4:30pm
JW Marriot Salon D

Augmented reality. Hashtag payments. Messenger bots. The payments space is fundamentally changing: cash and checks gave way to credit and debit cards, which are now being replaced by apps. In an era where social proof reigns supreme, how is social media shaping the future of commerce. Meet a diverse cross-section of companies pioneering social payments: the ability to buy, pay and give on social media. Moderated by finance veteran Hans Morris (Visa, Citigroup, Nyca Partners), this session shows how the latest technologies enable people to pay where they play. Speakers include Dale Nirvani Pfeifer of GoodWorld, Kahina Van Dyke of Faecbook, Hans Morris of Nyca Partners and Ambarish Mitra of Blippar.

8. Harlem: The New Tech Frontier 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Hilton Salon E

Join Jessica O. Matthews of Uncharted Play as she explores how the startup is democratizing energy access worldwide, and changing the face of innovation. With its core technology MORE, (Motion-Based, Off-Grid, Renewable Energy) – a scalable system of micro-generators that can sustainably power cities – the company is eyeing infrastructure opportunities in emerging markets.

MARCH 12th 


9. Keynote with Lee Daniels
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Convention Center room 18ABCD

Lee Daniels is a widely recognized director, writer, producer, and philanthropist in both the film and television space. He is perhaps best known for the 2013 critically acclaimed box office smash Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in addition to his 2009 feature Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, which was nominated for six Academy Awards including “Best Motion Picture of the Year” and “Best Achievement in Directing.” The film also made history as Daniels became the first African-American to be nominated for the DGA’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film Award.

10. Humanitarian Design In Action 11:00am – 2:00pm
Hilton Salon D

In recent years, universities across the country have been increasingly engaging with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, developing programming internally to cultivate entrepreneurial activities and working to bring entrepreneurs into the university. Join MIT, Rice Univesity, StartX and the University of Chicago as they explore what bridges are currently being built to facilitate flows of information and people between universities and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

11. Tech for Good: Solutions for the Refugee Crisis 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Westin Continental 2

When lives are at stake, it can be difficult to figure out how we can make a real difference. The Humanitarian Design Summit with Google, Facebook and Crack + Cider is about meeting the people who are using everyday design practices to prevent suffering and save lives. This workshop will task participants with rapidly designing responses to a real world crisis scenario. The goal isn’t to solve a difficult humanitarian problem, instead it’s an opportunity to test out the principles of Humanitarian Design in a risk-free environment with world-class designers.

* This session requires RSVP, and access will only be available to badge types listed under “Primary Access.” RSVP HERE.

MARCH 13th


12. How Tech Companies Can Give Back to Communities
12:30pm – 1:30pm
JW Marriot Salon D

Join Andrew Keen, Elaine Weidman-Grunewalk from Ericsson, Gary Shapiro of Consumer Technology Association and John Donovan from AT&T as they explore game-changing technologies and disruptive innovations and the sharing economy bring the power to improve our lives and what are the best practices that allow “Technology for Good” to authentically come into play with both the bottom line and corporate responsibility and community engagement.

13. Turning Inspiration Into Action on Instagram 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Hyatt Regency Ballroom 1

With over 600 million users, Instagram is the 2nd largest platform behind Facebook. From curated content to real life moments, Instagram is a place for inspiration and discovery. But how can marketers move inspiration and discovery to action? In this session, Instagram’s Michael Hondorp, the retail lead for the brand, will discuss the most innovative ways brands are driving impact with Instagram. From using ad formats in unexpected ways, to developing ideas customized for the feed, attendees will leave inspired to think differently about creating for the platform.

14. Interactive Keynote: Adam Grant 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Convention Center Ballroom D

Wharton’s top-rated professor, a New York Times writer on work and psychology, and author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World and Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Grant has been recognized as one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers, and Fortune’s 40 under 40.

15. Kimbal Musk on Trust: The Currency of Our Generation 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Convention Center Ballroom EFG

Musk sits down with Fast Company magazine’s Amy Farley exploring the ability of consumers to uncover truth and authenticity in seconds with the help of the Internet is creating incredible opportunities in the food industry. As cofounder of The Kitchen, a family of businesses working in tandem to bring #realfood to everyone, he will discuss how farmers, consumers, and companies are demanding and delivering trust back to the table.

MARCH 14th


16. Investing to Change The World
9:30am – 10:30am
Convention Center Ballroom EFG

This panel will offer practical and powerful solutions for people who want to generate positive impact on society through their investments. Join Ben Jealous and Karina Funk of Kapor Capital, with Dune Thorne from the Brown Advisory and Victoria Fram of Village Capital as they explore the forefront of impact investing and will explore opportunities that range from green bonds to public equities to private equity investments. You can generate profits AND progress by investing in companies with cutting-edge environmental strategies, in bonds that fund clean energy or support low-income communities, and in innovative private investments that seek to drive social change.

17. National Geographic Explorers Changing the World 11:00am – 12:00pm
JW Marriott Room 203-204

National Geographic pushes the boundaries of exploration to further our understanding of the planet and empower us all to generate solutions for a healthier and more sustainable future. Meet the Emerging Explorers—fearless young scientists, conservationists, storytellers, and innovators who are harnessing technology to expand the frontiers of exploration. Join a discussion about taking risks, being bold and failing forward to change the world through technology for good with National Geographic Explorers Topher White and Erika Bergman and CEO Gary Knell.

18. How to Fundraise Without Silicon Valley 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Hilton Salon C

We are witnessing a new wave of investment and entrepreneurship in the United States. How can we level the playing field for women-entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color to fund, grow and scale their thriving businesses? Learn both investor and entrepreneur perspectives on what it takes to build and back inspiring companies and bring the deal process to life for diverse founders. Join Earl Robinson of Consequent Capital, Sarah Koch of the Case Foundation, Nicole Sanchez of eCreditHero and Carolyn Rodz of Circular Board for this engaging discussion.

MARCH 15th


19. Nonprofits Get the Keys to the VR Kingdom
12:30pm – 1:30pm
JW Marriot Salon 3-4

Virtual Reality has been touted as the ultimate empathy engine, immersing viewers in experiences that can open their eyes and create personalized memories for important causes. To widen the reach of this unique immersive technology to deserving nonprofits, Oculus has created the “VR for Good” workshop that pairs budding filmmakers with veteran VR talent to craft powerful storytelling pieces for a variety of featured charities and causes. Participants in the inaugural launch of this program will discuss their process in collaborating with these nonprofits and how the program combats the pitfalls that worthy causes often face with innovative marketing approaches.

20. How Brands Do Well By Doing Good 3:30pm – 4:30pm
JW Marriot Salon D

Cynics believe a marketer’s biggest goal is to get a consumer to click on an ad and purchase a product. This is especially true when it comes to digital advertising, which is immediately measurable, both in its success and failure. That’s what we call short-term thinking. The best brands think about themselves—and their stories—in the long term. They consider how to connect with consumers in a way that feels authentic, and that communicates something about what the brand stands for, something that goes far beyond whichever product they’re currently peddling. Upworthy presents the brands that do well by doing good.

Have a session or event that the team shouldn’t miss? Tweet us @CaseFoundation. We look forward to seeing you there!

Behind the Scenes with the Judges of #FacesofFounders

As part of the Case Foundation’s work in catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, we launched the #FacesofFounders campaign last fall to change the narrative of who is and can be an entrepreneur. In October and November, over 3,000 people created a custom photo with a caption of what entrepreneurship means to them and nearly 750 founders submitted their entrepreneurship story. From our launch at the White House’s South By South Lawn festival, to Jean Case’s talk about unlocking the American Dream for all at TEDxMidAtlantic, #FacesofFounders has inspired and energized us all to join the movement for inclusive entrepreneurship. After some challenging choices and deep analysis by our guest judges, we’re excited to announce that the five winning stories will be featured on Fast Company starting February 27th!

In preparation for this reveal, we asked a few of our guest judges to share some behind the scenes insights and words of wisdom about the opportunities and challenges of being an entrepreneur. Thank you to all of our judges—we could not get to this point alone! We were joined by forty guest judges who are experts in entrepreneurship ecosystem building, investors or entrepreneurs themselves. Here is what they have to share with us as we all find new ways to #GetInTheArena and fight for meaningful inclusion in entrepreneurship.

What is a piece of advice you wish you had known when starting out in the entrepreneurship field?

Take action when you’re 80% ready. There are lots of people with great ideas, but the real traction is gained by those who take continuous action on those ideas.
– Carolyn Rodz, Circular Board

Surround yourself with a community of supporters. Ideas are born out of dreams for something new, different, and impactful. It takes a lot of time, nourishment, and most importantly a community of supporters to enable an idea to truly flourish into a venture. Every entrepreneurial success has taken hundreds of small and big connections to bring it to life.
– 
C’pher Gresham, SEED Spot

Entrepreneurs are explorers. Your adventure will have extreme highs and lows, but the journey will be worth the destination.
– 
Elizabeth Gore, Dell

As an intrapreneur, I wish I knew that you don’t have to be perfect to launch a new project or endeavor. It’s so easy to get caught up in making something absolutely excellent, but the important lesson is don’t wait to launch. When we interviewed Eric Reiss of the Lean StartUp, I started to realize the importance of letting go of being a perfectionist and launching. Some of my favorite accomplishments have come from a Lean StartUp approach.
– Gabrielle McGee, Tory Burch Foundation

I wish I had known that making an impact or doing meaningful work is not enough to build a sustainable, impactful venture. For social entrepreneurs, we must do the work that changes lives but we also have to constantly build and cultivate relationships with supporters and stakeholders as well as be compelling advocates for our cause. Making a measurable impact on someone’s life is the hardest and most meaningful part of social entrepreneurship, but it takes even more than that (like fundraising skills, management know-how, etc.) to be a successful social entrepreneur.
– 
Darius Graham, Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins University

Plenty of smart, dedicated, and passionate entrepreneurs with promising viable business ideas have lost out on opportunities or money due to horrible pitches. Here’s how not to be one of them—don’t try to tell your life story. These are the pitch perfect things to you want to convey: how the product, service, or technology you are offering solves a problem or pain that you are familiar with; how much of your own time and money are you willing to risk; who is your competitor because every business has one; how are you going to acquire new customers and keep any existing customers happy; and what is your business model and how it will make you money.
– 
Carolyn Brown, Black Enterprise

In every meeting, focus on the value you are providing—not the value of your company, but the value to the other person! If you’re fundraising, you should understand the problem the investor is trying to solve, and focus your conversation on how you help them solve the problem (not why you’re great!). If you’re talking to a customer, understand what their pain point is and focus on how you help them solve it (not why you’re great!). When talking about value, it’s better to be specific and wrong than vague and right, so try and be as specific as possible: not just “better” but “3x faster”; not just “cheaper” but “half the price”.
– Ross Baird, Village Capital

Hire slow and fire fast. When you’re starting up you might have a tendency to try to hire people quickly because it feels like momentum. The problem with that is that you may be compromising culture fit and you’re signing up for more as you’ve added payroll which means you now have to do more to sustain the team.  Additionally, in a startup every moment matters so if you find yourself with a hire that is not working out, make a change as soon as possible. Most likely the hire in question knows that they’re not the right fit – so it shouldn’t be a surprise.
– 
Frank Gruber, Tech.co

Remember, everything you see is just a thought manifested. Your job is hustle, manifest and hustle some more! – Talib Graves-MannsBlack Wall Street Homecoming

What do you think distinguishes a promising entrepreneur?

I always keep an eye out for founders who are personally committed to their mission, and who have engaged others in making it come to life. When it becomes more than a solo mission, entrepreneurs hit a point where failure is no longer an option, and that’s where the real magic happens.
– 
Carolyn Rodz, Circular Board

I look for evidence that the applicant has a deep, intimate understanding of the issue being addressed and the population being served. This can be shown in different ways such as through work experience, academic study, or – most often – life experience. In my years of work supporting social entrepreneurs, one of the key things that sets apart the highly-impactful entrepreneurs from the less-impactful ones is an extensive understanding of the issue being addressed and the population being served.
– Darius Graham, Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins University

Relationships matter, which means people matter. Successful entrepreneurs understand this and have fostered important relationships to propel themselves to success. As much as it might sometimes seem, nothing is an overnight instance success.
– 
Frank Gruber, Tech.co

What surprised you about the #FacesofFounders applications?

What surprised me the most about #FaceofFounders applicants was how diverse the businesses were. Innovation is alive and thriving! It’s exciting to learn about businesses that are disrupting, creating new ways, new products and many of them are making a difference in the world and their local communities.
– Gabrielle McGee, Tory Burch Foundation

The sheer size of the positive energy around problem solving for experiences each founder had all over the country! My hope is #FacesofFounders has helped diverse entrepreneurs feel a community around them and that it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, where you grew up, or your political beliefs, but that ANYONE can start a venture with enough passion, true grit, and belief in creating a better future.
– C’pher Gresham, SEED Spot

Thanks again to all of our guest judges and partners Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS who made this campaign possible. Because of these partners and the thousands that have committed to join the movement for a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship, we are opening doors to innovators everywhere to start and scale their businesses. Come back on Monday to read the featured stories of fearless, problem solving founders on Fast Company!

Biggest Trend in Social Good? Women in the Driver’s Seat!

I was recently asked to open up a dinner conversation with a room full of social innovators—a mix of foundations, entrepreneurs, impact investors and companies—by laying out what I saw as the top three trends in social good. These trends are important in that they inform our arenas for action and the clarion call we, at the Case Foundation, are making to all citizens to “Get in the Arena.” That night, I picked three distinct trends because I felt it opened up more conversation. In hindsight, I wish I’d gone with my original three: women, women and women. 

Trend 1: Women as Investors

You may recall an earlier blog I wrote about Trailblazing Women in Impact Investing where I talked about women emerging as a driving force behind the growth of the Impact Investing industry. From founding firms focused on impact investors, to creating tools and products to catalyze capital, to leading nonprofits and foundations focused on educating and activating a host of actors, women are spearheading and populating this sector more so than any other financial services sector.

A recent Calvert Investments report asserts that women, along with younger investors, will indeed drive the growth of the broader responsible investment industry. In a study of affluent women, 95 percent ranked “helping others” and 90 percent ranked “environmental responsibility” as important. And beyond driving the growth of Impact Investing, woman may be our greatest hope to unlocking the kinds of game-changing innovations required to solve the most persistent problems. Turns out that women wealth holders exhibit more risk tolerance toward new and innovative solutions, once they have met the financial security needs of themselves and their families. As Sallie Krawcheck wrote in her thought-provoking piece, women investors exhibit a slightly different values-based perspective. More women want their investments to not just generate excellent returns, but also have a positive impact on the world they live in. And they’re willing to make some big bets to deliver on that perspective.

This data reinforces the importance of ensuring that women continue to be aware of the momentum in the Impact Investing space. Remember, their purchasing power and, therefore, their potential social impact power is enormous—women control 39 percent of investible assets in the U.S. today. That number will continue to rise; women currently control 51 percent, or $14 trillion, of personal wealth in the U.S. and are expected to control $22 trillion by 2020.

Trend 2: Women as Consumers

Women represent the largest market opportunity in the world. Globally, they control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending. In the next five years, it is expected that this number will rise to nearly $30 trillion. For context, that is more than the two largest growth markets typically identified—China and India—combined! In the U.S., women control somewhere between $5-15 trillion, with estimates that they will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next 10 years.

Women handle the bulk of purchasing decisions for everyday items like groceries and clothing and are also heading up and/or highly influential in large ticket purchases like cars, homes and appliances. Here’s another kicker—they even purchase 50 percent of the products marketed to men!

Why is this a trend worth watching in social good? Because women often make purchasing decisions based on their personal and social values. The HBR piece on the “Female Economy” is a must-read on the role women will play as consumers, members of the workforce, productivity drivers and caregivers. On the women as consumers front, my favorite quote:

“Once companies wake up to the potential of the female economy, they will find a whole new range of commercial opportunities in women’s social concerns. Women seek to buy products and services from companies that do good for the world, especially for other women. Brands that—directly or indirectly—promote physical and emotional well-being, protect and preserve the environment, provide education and care for the needy, and encourage love and connection will benefit. And women are the customer. There’s no reason they should settle for products that ignore or fail to fully meet their needs, or that do so cynically or superficially. Women will increasingly resist being stereotyped, segmented only by age or income, lumped together into an “all women” characterization, or, worse, undifferentiated from men.”

Given the forthcoming wealth transfer predicted, many of these upwardly mobile consumers and asset owners are Millennial women. Millennial customers, employees and importantly—entrepreneurs—lead their lives and make choices with a more holistic worldview. They contribute to and support the things they believe in and they use their dollars to exercise those views and beliefs.

Trend 3: Women as Entrepreneurs

And perhaps the greatest trend of all to watch in terms of opportunity to drive social good is the rise of women in entrepreneurship.

American Express OPEN’s 2016 State of Women-Owned Business report is a must-read. The number of women owned firms and their economic contributions continue to rise at rates higher than the national average. As of 2016, this data shows 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues.

The report show that between 2007 and 2016:

  • The number of women-owned firms increased by 45 percent, compared to just a 9 percent increase among all businesses. That’s five times faster than the national average.
  • Their employment growth increased by 18 percent, compared to a 1 percent decline among all businesses.
  • Their business revenues increased by 35 percent, compared to 27 percent among all U.S. firms. That’s 30 percent higher than the national average.

And check out the growth of firms owned by women of color! Their numbers have more than doubled since 2007, increasing by 126 percent.

Now, let’s turn our attention to venture-backed companies in particular, given their potential for high growth. Less than 10 percent of venture-backed companies have female founders, despite the evidence that gender-diverse companies drive greater market returns and innovation; that VC portfolios show women-founded companies outperform those founded by men; and that funds declaring gender diversity an “investing factor” give higher returns with women at the leadership level.

I think we are going to see these dreadful statistics change over the next couple of years. Increased attention being paid to these numbers, including by our own #FacesofFounders campaign and others (UBS, Blackstone Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs, Kapor Center, 500 Startups, JumpStart, to name just a few) will help. Why is this a social trend worth accelerating? To put this into perspective, according the Economist, if women entrepreneurs in the U.S. started with the same capital as men, they would add 6 million jobs to the economy in five years—2 million of those in the first year alone.

As we ring in 2017, with all of its uncertainties, I for one commit to getting in the arena of investing in women with intention. For one thing appears pretty certain—our economy, as well as our social fabric, depends on them.

Jean Case at TEDxMidAtlantic: Unlocking the American Dream

Case Foundation CEO Jean Case took the stage at TEDxMidAtlantic: New Rules—a gathering of 45 prestigious leaders who came together to discuss and think about what kind of society and future we want to build, and how we get there. Jean’s talk noted the importance innovators have played in the history of the United States, examined the state of entrepreneurship today and promoted a series of changes we could make to open the doors of entrepreneurship to everyone.

Jean shared the true but often surprising statistics that show that women and entrepreneurs of color are too-often being left on the sidelines, but contrasted them with her vision of a world where all innovators and change makers were on a level playing field. While she recognized that there are still many challenges facing women and entrepreneurs of color involving unconscious bias, she called on investors to take a hard look at their portfolios and the opportunities they were missing by not tapping into the rich talent of diverse entrepreneurs. Standing on the iconic red TED carpet, Jean set forward a clarion call for all to join in on building an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem that would give everyone an equal chance at unlocking the American Dream.

Watch Jean’s TEDx talk below to learn more about the realities for women and entrepreneurs of color today, and how we can help change the face of who is and can be an entrepreneur.

 

Our Most Popular Blogs of 2016

As we kick off the new year, we are taking a look back at our most popular blogs from 2016 to revisit key moments that inspired us here at the Case Foundation. We’ve collected the 10 most popular pieces—as determined by our community of readers. These blogs represent our areas of work in catalyzing movements and inspiring ideas that can change the world. We hope thes will remind us all to be bold, take risks and fail forward together around the issues you care most about in the coming year!

  1. Our Fearless Journey From Mission to Movements, by Jean Case

2016 was a year of transition for many, and the Case Foundation was no different. In August, our CEO Jean Case wrote about the journey we have taken from mission to movements, and how—as we have taken a journey of self-exploration and come to better understand our work & DNA—the Case Foundation has reframed our work. We’ve always been in the business of transformative change, but have come to realize that our real “special sauce” is that we use a Be Fearless approach to catalyze movements around social innovation and tip the scales form intention to action.

  1. Words Matter: How Should We Talk About Impact Investing?, by Jean Case

In March, our CEO Jean Case joined partners from Omidyar Network, Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation, together with the Global Impact Investing Network and the Global Social Impact Investing Steering Group, to unveil research that tracked and analyzed coverage of the topic of impact investing in traditional and social media and shared insight into how the way we talk about impact investing can play a powerful role in informing, educating and activating people around the movement.

  1. Trailblazing Women in Impact Investing, by Sheila Herrling

2016 was a year of momentum for Impact Investing. From the Treasury Department and IRS’s release of new PRI regulations, to high profile new social impact funds like TPG’s $2 billion Rise fund, it’s evident that the movement is picking up steam. And another noticeable trend has stood out: women are emerging as a driving force behind its growth. In August, our SVP of Social Innovation, Sheila Herrling, wrote what would go on to become our second most popular blog post of the year, highlighting these trailblazing women in Impact Investing. We can’t wait to see the momentum continue in 2017.

  1. The 2016 Millennial Impact Report – Phase 1, by Emily Yu

One of the hottest topics of 2016 was the election, so it is not surprising that on of our top blog posts of the year was about our Millennial Impact Report, which looked at how Millennials were engaging with the election and how the election effected their cause engagement. Among our top blogs was also “Millennials Cast Their Vote For Cause Engagement,” another post on the Millennial Impact Report, this time about Phase 2.

  1. 2016 Conferences On Our Radar, by Jade Floyd

2016 was an action packed year for the Case Foundation, and much of the great momentum we saw this year was fueled by wonderful in-person interactions at conferences and convenings. From SXSW, to SOCAP, to crisscrossing the country for #FacesofFounders activations at the White House, the New York Stock Exchange, Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, Google’s headquarters and more, we loved getting the chance to reach beyond our bubbles and meet so many changemakers face-to-face. Keep an eye out for our upcoming list of 2017 Conferences On Our Radar.

  1. Twitter Lists:

We’ve loved the conversations we have and information we learn from the engaged social impact communities on Twitter. In 2015 we started a series of Twitter lists to help people join in these conversations and better know who to follow to find out more about topics we care deeply about. Several of these lists made it into our top blog posts of 2016:

  1. The Myth of the E-Word, by Sheila Herrling

Our Myth of the Entrepreneur series was started in the fall of 2015 to take a critical look at the common stories and myths told in startup culture, and as it continued into 2016, it was clear that the myths were striking a chord with our readers. The Myth of the “E Word” post contemplated the term “entrepreneur” itself as a possible barrier to expanding and diversifying entrepreneurship. “The Myth of STEM; The Only Way,” and “The Myth of the Coasts” also found their way into our top blog posts this year. We look forward to busting more myths in 2017 that are holding us back and breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship faced by women and entrepreneurs of color.

  1. One Fearless Question that Paved the Way for Women in Government, by Jean Case

On International Women’s Day, our CEO Jean Case shared a story about the fearless trailblazers Vera Glaser and Barbara Hackman Franklin. Vera Glaser’s #BeFearless question to President Richard Nixon questioning why more women were not a part of his cabinet set off an effort, headed by Barbara Hackman Franklin, that changed women’s access to high-level appointments in federal government. Our readers also enjoyed other Be Fearless examples that made it into our top blog post lists, such as our spotlight on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Jean’s blog post “Confronting Risk in Today’s Nonprofits.” You can learn more about how to Be Fearless in your pursuit of social good on our Be Fearless Hub.

  1. What’s Trending—Using Your Business as a Force For Good, by Sheila Herrling and Hardik Savalia

We are proud to partner with B Lab and their ground breaking work to help businesses identify and measure their social impact, and through the popularity of this blog post, it is clear that our readers are also excited about the potential of the B Impact Assessment. We’re excited that the Assessment can help all businesses, not just certified B Corps, to join the movement to redefine success for business, and measure their ability to build stronger communities, create environmentally sustainable operations or cultivate empowering employment opportunities.

  1. Innovation Madness: Elite Eight, by Jessica Zetzman

In conjunction with the NCAA Tournament, the Case Foundation decided to put our own twist on March Madness and introduced Innovation Madness, a celebration of Women’s History Month and the women who have been influential innovators in exploration, business and the STEM fields—yet are not recognized as often as their male counterparts. Our whole staff got in on the fun, chosing their favorite innovators, and we loved that hundreds of people voted and participated in Innovation Madness on social media. Check out the original bracket, the Elite Eight, the Final Four and the Champion.

We are thrilled that these blog posts resonated with our readers in 2016, and look forward to continuing great conversations on and offline in 2017. Tell us what you want to read more about by using #CaseBlogs on Twitter.

Be Fearless Spotlight: Jay Newton-Small and the Story of Her Father

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series curated by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Jay Newton-Small (@JNSmall), Cofounder of MemoryWell, TIME magazine contributor and author of Broad Influence.

A few years ago, I put my father into a home for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It was the hardest decision of my life, but he was a wanderer and I couldn’t care for him on my own following the death of my mother. I didn’t know it at the time, but that decision would be the start of a long journey that would change both of our lives.

The home asked me to fill out a 20-page questionnaire about his life. This made no sense to me: who would remember 20 pages of hand-written data points for the 150+ residents there? Instead, I offered to write down his story. I’m a journalist after all, story telling comes naturally to me. They loved the story I wrote, it transformed his care; MemoryWell was born.

Over the next 2.5 years, I worked with a partner, Ilan Brat formerly of the Wall Street Journal, to write more life stories of people like my dad. We knew that this tool could help change the lives of the more than 44 million around the world currently living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia and the many who care for them. And so, we developed a website called MemoryWell to host the stories and allow family members to add their loved ones’ favorite photos, videos and music—so that when caregivers or family members sit with them they have a whole toolbox of things with which to engage them.

My firsthand experience with my father and Alzheimer’s helped me to identify a critical solution and develop MemoryWell in response. The leap from daughter to entrepreneur was a big one, but a necessary one as I realized what this tool could do for families like mine.

We got our first clients earlier this year and, less than two months later, I let urgency conquer fear and left TIME Magazine to work on MemoryWell full time. Our CTO Andrew Fribush joined our team this fall and we got accepted into Halcyon incubator in Washington, DC, in November.

While all this sounds easy: let me assure you it was not! We are journalists, not entrepreneurs. In our newsrooms, taking a stand is always discouraged: we are impartial observers of the events around us. Most journalists are given assignments instead of making them. We are naturally skeptical of salesmanship and marketing/PR puffery; we work well with structure and want steady jobs (although the upheaval in the industry is changing that). But, in short, journalism isn’t an industry predisposed to innovation and that’s why you see so few journalism startups. But as I saw the impact that storytelling could have in the lives of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, I knew that I had to take a risk in the face of these obstacles.

Certainly, our road hasn’t always been smooth and surely there will be many more bumps ahead. However, we have learned from every experience and failed forward to get to where we are today. We lost our first pitch contest to NewU, a group that gives grants to minority journalists, in September 2014, and then we lost three more Aging 2.0 pitch contests after than until Ilan finally won the Chicago Aging 2.0 contest in 2016—and still we didn’t make it to the national convention. The White House Summit on Aging loved our idea and approached us to participate in their 2015 summit only to cut us weeks later because we were too unproven. We’ve been blown off by investors and our bosses took extremely dim views of our extracurricular activities.

I’m taking a huge risk and it may well fail—indeed more startups do than succeed. But we feel passionately that stories can be used not just to inform the masses in a newspaper or magazine, but to affect change on a personal level, to build community where none exists. So instead of writing about the president-elect, I might be writing about your grandma, or your friend’s grandma, and nothing would make me happier.

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading the Case Foundation’s free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.

The Myth of the Coasts

The ‘Myth of the Coasts’ is a guest blog post from Cathy Belk, President of JumpStart, Inc., and is the seventh blog post in the Case Foundation’s Myth of the Entrepreneur series. This series is intended to intentionally examine, and change, the stories our culture tells about entrepreneurship. For more information on the Case Foundation’s approach to the Myth series and Inclusive Entrepreneurship, please check out our introductory piece. We encourage you to join the conversation using #Ent4All on Twitter.

If I say the word “startup,” you probably think Silicon Valley, or maybe Boston or New York City. And that would be understandable, considering that, according to NVCA and MoneyTree PriceWaterhouseCooper Annual 2015 Report, roughly 77 percent of all venture capital investment last year went to either California, New York or New England.

But what these statistics don’t show, is that right now is also a great time to be a startup entrepreneur in the Midwest.

Here are just a few of the common myths about Midwestern entrepreneurship that are being debunked more and more every day. 

Myth One: The Midwest Doesn’t Have Great Talent

One of the founders of modern venture capitalism, the late David Morgenthaler, was fond of comparing entrepreneurship to a horse race consisting of the jockey (team), the horse (product) and the track (market). One myth I hear often is that the Midwest just doesn’t have the jockeys—entrepreneurs with a track record of success and failure, along with all the connections (investors, customers, board members, etc.) and experience that come with both.

But the fact is, we have plenty of great talent. In Cleveland we have successful entrepreneurs like Mark Woodka, Laura Bennett, Steven Lindseth and Charu Ramanathan as well as entrepreneur/investors like Doug Weintraub and Charles Stack, not to mention recent exits from companies like OrthoHelix, TOA Technologies and Explorys, whose cofounder and CEO Stephen McHale is also an active angel investor and entrepreneurial mentor in the community. And that’s just a few examples from one city.

Meanwhile, Midwestern universities are actively working to develop the kind of talent startups need, challenging their students to think more entrepreneurially and encouraging them to start their own businesses. In Northeast Ohio alone, all of the region’s 22 colleges and universities have collegiate entrepreneurship programs, many of which also include experiential learning components, such as Cleveland State University’s Startup Vikes program.

And let’s not forget the rise of Midwestern coding bootcamps such as The Software Guild, TechElevator and WeCanCodeIt; or the many talented young people—from entrepreneurs and web developers to the greatest basketball player in the world—who are boomeranging back to the Midwest and bringing their talents back with them. 

Myth Two: There’s No Capital For Entrepreneurs

Did you know that, according to the 2016 NVCA Yearbook, more than $2.2 billion in venture capital was invested in the Midwest in 2015, the highest amount since 2001? Capital is always a concern for entrepreneurs, but there is money available, and more and more investors are starting to see the potential of tapping into the region’s grossly underserved market.

In the meantime, local investors are stepping up to provide much of the early financial (and intellectual) capital to help local startups grow. In Ohio, 75 percent of the capital prior to Series B rounds comes from local (statewide) sources, and these investors are continuing to ramp up their activity.

Right now my organization, JumpStart, is in the process of investing $40 million dollars into Ohio entrepreneurs over the next three years through three separate venture capital funds. Ohio also has five organized angel groups, including two of the nation’s largest, North Coast Angel Fund and Ohio TechAngel Funds.

Myth Three: There’s No Diversity

Silicon Valley is a diverse place, and accounted for nearly 50 percent of U.S. venture dollars invested in 2015. And yet, less than ten percent of U.S. startups backed by venture capital are led by women, and only one percent are headed by African-Americans. In addition, nearly 90 percent of all venture capital professionals are still Caucasian men and only 7 percent of the partners in the top venture firms are women.

Meanwhile, some in the Midwest—a region often stereotyped as being homogenous—are seizing a valuable opportunity to be diverse and inclusive, building both fully inclusive organizations such as TechTown, as well as targeted programs such as PowerMoves, driving a more diverse pipeline of entrepreneurs and creating a major competitive advantage. At JumpStart, more than 30 percent of the companies we advise or invest in are owned or led by women or people of color, and we recently took this commitment even further by creating the Focus Fund—a $10 million venture capital fund supported by the Case Foundation that focuses exclusively on female founders and entrepreneurs of color.

Myth Four: The Lower Cost Of Living Isn’t That Important

Most people already know that the general costs to start or run a tech business in the Midwest are lower than they are on the coasts. This is especially true for real estate—both commercial and residential—where Silicon Valley prices aren’t just high, they are the highest in the entire nation (New York City is right behind). Consequently, average salaries are also much higher.

But to grasp the true entrepreneurial advantages that come along with lower cost of living, you have to think less about dollars and more about time—specifically, how much time you have to make your startup successful before your venture runs out of runway. An entry level programmer salary for a company with fewer than 25 associates in the software industry in the Valley is ~$71K, while in the Midwest the average is ~$58K. That differential (almost 25 percent) is almost three months of time.

As you can see, it’s a very good time to be an entrepreneur in the Midwest. But no matter where you call home, don’t let these kinds of myths keep you from chasing your goals. Focus on whatever key competitive advantages your location offers, and remember that success is mostly determined by hard work and strong business fundamentals—not geography.

Crisscrossing the Country to Lift Up Diverse Entrepreneurs

As part of the Case Foundation’s work in catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, #FacesofFounders launched this fall to search for America’s dynamic entrepreneurs, particularly entrepreneurs of color and women founders, who are key to driving innovation and job growth. Participants can upload their photos and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to tell their story for a chance to be featured in a sponsored series on FastCompany.com. Learn more at FacesofFounders.org.

At its core, entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Entrepreneurs around the world wake up every day asking themselves, “What problem does my company solve?” At the Case Foundation, we also ask ourselves, “What problems can we solve?”, particularly related to entrepreneurship. And we have seen the problems that entrepreneurs face in some very discouraging statistics.

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To address some of the barriers keeping women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color out of the arena, we partnered with Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS, along with Fast Company, to begin to change the narrative of who is and can be an entrepreneur in this country. #FacesofFounders is about highlighting those who can use their diverse experiences to see diverse problems and tackle them in diverse ways.

We launched #FacesofFounders at the White House South by South Lawn festival last month, surrounded by changemakers and entrepreneurs who are committed to using their time and talents to make the world a better place.This campaign has been a whirlwind of exciting new ideas and discoveries that have given us a greater sense of optimism for the future of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have shared stories of cutting edge innovation and genius new ways to contribute to social good.These narratives embody our value of investing in people and ideas that can change the world, and our commitment to ensuring that any person with an innovative idea can bring that idea forward, regardless of their background.

We have travelled around the country meeting founders and supporters of inclusive entrepreneurship at SOCAP and Forbes 30 under 30 Summit, snapping photos at Google Demo Day: Women’s Edition, and hearing energizing stories at the New York Stock Exchange with Project Entrepreneur. At TEDxMidAtlantic, Jean Case gave a talk about just how urgent the inclusion of female founders and entrepreneurs of color is to securing the future we want to see for the world. Many of these entrepreneurs have never had their story told, or seen a story of someone who looks like them in a major media outlet. We are here to change that.

We are committed to inclusive entrepreneurship and have been joined on FacesofFounders.org and social media by thousands of others showing their support for a more inclusive approach to fostering entrepreneurship. But don’t take our word for it. Here is what some of those who have come along side us have to say:

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Entrepreneurs are decidedly Fearless; they focus on the urgency of now and let that drive their business with a vision for a better world. Diverse entrepreneurs do that while also combatting cultural norms that tell them they can’t be an entrepreneur and unconscious bias in the investment process. Whether you are an entrepreneur yourself or a supporter of inclusive entrepreneurship, add your voice at FacesofFounders.org to join the movement to redefine who is and can be an entrepreneur.

A quick note to entrepreneurs everywhere: You are a source of awe and inspiration, motivating others around the nation with your resilience and enthusiasm. Your creative spirits make us hopeful for a brighter future in creating the world we want. The time is now to be loud and proud about the value of our differences and redefine the idea of who is and can be an entrepreneur. The Case Foundation is calling on you, with all of your business-savvy and entrepreneurial energy, to be an example of why inclusive entrepreneurship is so crucial. Share your story on FacesofFounders.org for a chance to be featured in a sponsored story on Fast Company.com; your story matters for all of our futures.

#FacesofFounders Puts Entrepreneurship Front-And-Center at Forbes Under 30 Summit

The #FacesofFounders campaign, designed to highlight the dynamism and diversity of the modern entrepreneur, is in full force. Entrepreneurs from all walks of life and perspectives are uploading their photos and telling their stories at facesoffounders.org. The stories and the photos bring to life the fact that there has been a redefinition of who is and can be an entrepreneur.

In addition to uploading photos and stories at facesoffounders.org, we are taking our #FacesofFounders campaign and photo booth on the road. Last week we were in Boston with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation where we welcomed guests to the Forbes Under 30 Summit. At the event, hundreds of entrepreneurs snapped their photos and shared their stories of innovation.

While the #FacesofFounders photo booth was working overtime, we met with hundreds of founders, hosted Facebook Live conversations and watched insightful discussions with entrepreneurs from across the globe geared towards the topic of inclusivity. While there were many standouts at this event, in our opinion, these were the all-stars who stole the show and are representative of the changing face of entrepreneurship.

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  1. Founders Hayley Barna of First Round Capital and Birchbox, along with Lisa Falzone of Revel Systems, Jennifer Hyman of Rent the Runway and Marcella Sapone of Hello Alfred are changing the narrative around who is and can be an entrepreneur. On stage, they joined Janey Whiteside of American Express in a conversation on the changing face of entrepreneurship and how, by unlocking more flow of social capital, financial capital and knowledge capital, we can cultivate more women entrepreneurs.
  1. Christopher Gray, co-founder of Scholly, sat down with us in a Facebook Live interview for a conversation on the challenges he faced as a young Millennial founder and how we all can engage to change the narrative about what it means to be an entrepreneur.
  1. Trevor Wilkins, co-founder of Küdzoo, built a free mobile app where students cash in their grades for rewards. He shared with us during Facebook Live how the brand is leveraging incentives to motivate and reward students, and his experience building the brand as a founder of color.
  1. Sir Richard Branson took the stage for a conversation on breaking records, barriers and borders. He was joined by other top entrepreneurs Tyler Haney of Outdoor Voices, Payal Kadakla of ClassPass and James Proud of Hello, Inc. in discussion around the best ways to cause disruption, create change and achieve game-changing success.
  1. Eric Delgado and Victoria Weiss, co-founders of Rope Lace Supply and students at the University of Central Florida (UCF), joined us for a Facebook Live conversation on how the brand has grown from $300 to nearly $1 million in revenue in just three short years. The founders are part of the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF, a program that provides one-on-one startup coaching, seminars and access to a mentor network and subject-matter experts and their story is a compelling reminder of how the entrepreneurs from all ages can succeed.
  1. Actor and investor Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary of Sound Ventures, and Peter Boyce II of Rough Draft Ventures hosted the $1 Million Forbes Under 30 Pitch Competition. More than 1,000 Under 30 entrepreneurs entered for the opportunity to pitch their project and the final four competed on stage at Faneuil Hall for the grand prize—an investment from Kutcher, Oseary and Rough Draft Ventures/General Catalyst, as well as an advertising campaign in Forbes. Atlanta-Based honorCode, founded by Jeffery Martin to teach the intersection of computer programming and entrepreneurship to our communities’ most vulnerable youth, walked away with the highly sought after prize.

Check out the faces of several of these entrepreneurs and their supporters who are joining the movement to change who is and can be a founder on FacesofFounders.org, and be sure to show your support for entrepreneurship for all by sharing your photo and stories there as well. Read more about the 600 entrepreneurs and changemakers who are part of this year’s 2016 Forbes Under 30 class HERE.

Disclosure: Steve Case has made a personal investment in Scholly.