Four Bay Area Tech Startups Vie for $10 Million


Solving some of the world’s biggest problems in healthcare, education and sustainability aren’t, by any means, easy feats. Even cracking a tiny piece of the philanthropic puzzle can take millions of dollars, years of hard work and enormous leaps of faith by entrepreneurs. So when an opportunity comes along like Verizon Wireless’ Powerful Answers campaign, a startup competition which awards the best ideas in the aforementioned areas, we applaud those with the drive and dedication to answer the call.

Fortunately, we don’t have to go far to doll out our praises. Seratis, Mosaic, Zapitalism and Factor 14 -- all founded in the Bay Area -- have surpassed 1,300 other entrants to reach the final round of 15 in Verizon Wireless’ first-ever Powerful Answers campaign (five in each category: sustainability, education, healthcare). These startups will vie for $10 million in prizes. 

“Verizon created its Powerful Answers Award to encourage innovation, and to help uncover solutions in healthcare, education and sustainability that would leverage Verizon’s broadband, wireless and cloud networks and contribute to social good,” said Debi Lewis, Director on the Verizon Wireless Corporate Communications team. “Many of the ideas that came through the Powerful Answers Award address social issues, and use technology to make the world a better place.”

The winners will be revealed on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 1 pm PT at CES 2014 by Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.

But before Verizon makes its pick, let’s take a quick glimpse at these four local standout companies and why we should reserve some front page ink for their bright futures ahead. 

Seratis  - (Category: Healthcare) We like the idea of a healthcare app that focuses on patient care and expediting medical communication. But Seratis is making it a reality. The San Francisco-based patient-centric mobile platform allows doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers to communicate with each other via text, images and videos with real-time team transparency. Soon enough, we won’t have to deal with waiting around for faxed MRI results, lagging consultations with specialists, or anything of the sort. 

But still, many people have their doubts about whether messaging apps like this can protect people’s private and most personal medical information. Fortunately, Seratis is doing everything it can in order to help preserve your confidentiality and keep your medical records secure. 

“We follow HIPPA strictly,” said Seratis Co-founder Divya Dhar. “Technologically, that means we offer the best in line encryption services where all data in transit is encrypted, nothing is stored on devices and stored on secure servers.”

Mosaic - (Category: Sustainability) This Oakland-based solar company is the first of its kind to build an online marketplace where individuals can invest in solar projects. What makes this company so appealing is that people can actively take a role in their community by investing in the things that make it great, like the project at Youth Employment Partnership in Oakland, CA or an affordable housing complex in San Bruno, CA. Best of all, investors are actually seeing good returns. So why not make money and make a difference while you're at it. Isn’t that what conscious capitalism is all about?

Zapitalism - (Category: Education) If you were a college student, but weren’t an economics major, chances are you had to learn financial literacy on the fly. But Zapitalism wants to help. In fact, it wants to make it fun. The San Francisco-based startup has built a business simulation game that helps people around the world learn about financial literacy, business math, economics and entrepreneurship through one simple-to-learn game. Players can build small stores into business empires, invest in stocks and bonds, and even corner the market to outwit their competition. 

Factor 14 - (Category: Healthcare) At-home medical care is becoming a rapidly growing industry thanks in large part to the increase in baby boomers settling into their retirement homes. So when a startup comes along with an idea for home monitoring of patients on anticoagulation therapies, it can easily find financial sustainability with the right direction. So how does such a company get off the ground? Factor 14 is taking its expertise to the local community, first catering to homes in San Francisco and Palo Alto. But its only a matter of time before it expands statewide.

Still, the competition at Verizon Wireless' Powerful Answers campaign is stiff. But we see no losers here. Just a varied degree of winners. Because their ideas are more than just pipe-dreams, but legitimate chances at shaking up systems that are -- in all definitions of the word -- unsustainable. 

Follow @nicktrenchard for the latest in Bay Area tech news

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