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Timeline & Deadlines

The SIPA Public Policy Challenge Grant Program consists of three rounds of increasingly demanding competition.  The rounds correspond approximately with the “concept,” “design” and “pilot” phases of enterprise development.  Winners of each round will receive progressively more robust and targeted support and mentorship.  

Timeline for AY 2018 Competition (September 2017 – April 2018)

May 2017 SIPA Public Policy Challenge Grant Competition Announced for Fall 2017-Spring 2018
September 25, 2017 Round One Deadline: Proposals Due
Open call for student teams to submit concept papers describing a problem, its significance and outlining a possible solution. (Please review the Round One Proposal section for full details and the application form.)
October 2017

Semi-finalists Announced
Semi-finalists selected by committee of Columbia faculty and technology entrepreneurs.

Semi-finalists develop proposals or business models and, if appropriate, prototypes over next 3 months. Each semi-finalist team will be awarded up to $5,000 in support funding. 

October 2017 through January 2018

Semi-finalists Bootcamp

Bootcamp sessions in starting new ventures, protyping, financial planning, legal issues and effective pitching will be available for semi-finalists.

January 2018

Round Two Deadline: Proposals or Business Models and Prototypes Due
Semi-finalists will submit proposals or business models and, if appropriate, prototypes. Round Two submissions (design phase) should show how initial hypotheses were tested and refined with different target audiences such as potential partners, funders/supporters, customers/users, and others – and how these results were used to refine the proposal/model. 

Round Two Deliverables (Budget Template)

February 2018 Finalists Announced
Finalists selected by committee of CU faculty and technology entrepreneurs.

Finalists refine proposals or business models and, if appropriate, prototypes over next 2 months. Each finalist team will be awarded up to $3,000 in support funding. 
April TBA, 2018 Round Three Deadline: Proposals or Business Models and Prototypes Due
The finalists will submit refined proposals or business models and, if appropriate, prototypes.  Round Three submissions (pilot phase) should integrate refinements based on field testing. 
April TBA, 2018 Winners of Total of $50,000 Announced
Winners of the AY 2018 SIPA Dean's Public Policy Challenge competition will be announced at Columbia University's #StartupColumbia Festival. Up to 3 teams will be selected by a committee of CU faculty and technology entrepreneurs.



A4Ed leverages mobile and block chain technology to ensure inclusive and secure learning for every refugee student using existing records software and standardized secondary completion exams. This centralized system makes it possible to store and transfer educational data and digital transcripts for students, educational institutions, employers and the UN. 

Students: Gemma Torras Vives, Shanna Crumley, Stephanie Doctor

Farmerce is a digital knowledge-sharing platform that leverages data-driven insights to aggregate stakeholders of the agricultural value chain in India. With lower yields, lack of access to high quality inputs and information asymmetries, farmers in India are limited in their agricultural productivity.  Farmerce is initiating the process of transforming agriculture into a sustainable and organized sector of employment using a human-centered design mobile platform. Our mission is to build the capacity of farmers to increase efficiency, reach new markets and ultimately increase their incomes and community livelihoods.

Students: Yuvraj Singh, Sophia Sunderji, Nadia Asgaraly, Robert Lehman

FutureFit: 25% of all CO2 emissions worldwide comes from buildings. To address this, FutureFit provides an all-in-one marketplace platform for building retrofits and energy efficiency upgrades. Using property information and energy consumption data input by users, FutureFit develops customized solutions that detail emissions reduction and cost savings tactics, government incentives, vendor options, and comprehensive financing packages. FutureFit connects property owners with easy, trusted, and customized energy solutions to reduce their building’s carbon footprint and save money.

Students: Elizabeth Font, Nathaniel Hoffman, William Xu

KLISI is an online marketplace system that connects electricity technicians with commercial and industrial, as well as residential, customers in Indonesia who require their services. We create value by providing a fast and expedient service at competitive price while helping the Indonesian power market in getting more qualified talents. Our value propositions for our stakeholders include a platform for commercial & industrial, as well as household, customers in procuring qualified electrician on a real-time basis; vast supply of field technicians and electricity operators with various skill sets; online training and certification for prospective electricians, in which the course materials are developed and provided by industry experts; and a channel for certified electricians to find a job that meets their unique talents.

Students: Akhmad Sani, Tasya Kamila, Sheldon Cheng

Learn2Earn is a communication tool that helps spread public awareness on crucial issues among millions of people outside the reach of the internet (presently about half the world’s population). Through the innovative use of technology, Learn2Earn allows content to go viral on the more widely available cellular network that is used for phone calls and SMS. Listeners are incentivized to understand infomercials on important public concerns such as spread of diseases by providing them with free mobile talktime if they successfully answer a quiz on the infomercial. To enable word-of-mouth growth of the network, listeners are provided with additional mobile talktime for every phone number they refer that also ends up passing the quiz. Our platform thus makes the dissemination of public information interactive, widespread and truly effective.

Students: Takanori Otsuka, John Shin, Audrey Misquith, Mohamed Zeeshan, Devansh Mehta

Mindr runs talks, workshops, classes and events led by global experts, where crying babies are welcome. Described as the 'TED talks of the parenting world' by Fox 5 and Time Out, Mindr is disrupting the experience of urban parenting by creating opportunities for professional, intellectual and personal growth in a baby-friendly environment. After developing a strong community and events base in New York and London, Mindr is now developing an app to take this concept global, connecting new parents in urban centers worldwide to like-minded groups and high quality content. 

Students: Sarah Lux-Lee, Fernanda Borges Nogueira

MONICA Energy brings urban energy consumers together with local, clean energy producers in a peer2peer marketplace platform. Imagine if you--an average Manhattan resident--are able to buy your electricity directly from a wind farmer in upstate New York. MONICA Energy's website and app-based platform will allow you to do this. We're addressing the problem of climate change and disrupting the dirty energy industry by encouraging more people to switch over to clean energy in a simple and engaging way. Like Airbnb presents personalized housing options to would-be travelers, MONCIA Energy provides energy consumers with clean energy options, all the while telling the personal stories of the producers, presenting competitive pricing, and offering transparent options for the consumers. MONICA Energy simplifies the energy choice option and makes energy use personal.

Students: Stephani Ullrich, Jeffrey Lepley, Faria Sami, Marisol Leos

Tibetucation is an online platform that provides Tibetan students aged 3-18 with courses of different disciplines and at all levels in Tibetan. Besides, it also includes language courses, like Mandarin, and other practical courses, such as career development, farming and herding techniques. With the use of Tibetucation, Tibetan kids will have more access to education and thus their academic performance will be improved.

Students: Qiansong Xu, Wei Wang

Unbias is a data-driven, mobile friendly platform that provides fact-checking services targeted at curious citizens, journalists and civic activists. To begin, will be used to verify campaign promises for current Members of Parliament in India and later expand to uncovering data-related inconsistencies across mainstream news media in multiple languages. Through this we hope to introduce accountability and transparency in India's political processes and discourse, and act as a tool to counter the proliferation of fake news. 

Students: Mahua Bisht, Atishay Sehgal, Debashree Poddar, Gayathri Vijayaraghavan

WeCare is aimed at creating individual philanthropy to solve some of the largest public policy issues in emerging and developed markets. Our initial geographic focus is Japan, given its unique culture where wedding guests pay some money to attend and receive a souvenir/gift in return. Our idea is to create a platform that will channel that money spent on the return gift to a pool of funds/organizations working on issues threatening the social fabric of Japan. Based on our success in Japan, we plan to expand the business to other life events like birthdays and funerals, and other countries that have elaborate celebrations for their life events and are simultaneously burdened by development challenges. Ultimately, the goal of this business is to create a stronger third sector and create a new way to showcase people's value to the society. 

Students: Yuko Teramae, Noopur Desai, Hisato Tamiya

WeServe.io is a crowdfunding platform that empowers activists and social entrepreneurs by channeling the power of their social networks to create sustainable impact. By breaking down big funding goals into small tasks and opening projects to public collaboration, WeServe.io turns social networks into grassroots task forces that are operational across borders. The platform can be used to kickstart a social enterprise, organize an emergency response operation, or even convert mere buzz into constructive action. 

Students: Eric Courier de Mere, Fatima Lucia Uriarte Caceres, Virginia Garcia

Team Advisors

Rohit Aggarwala works on cities, transportation, and the environment, from the perspectives of former public official, policy expert, and historian. He is adjunct professor at SIPA, Special Advisor to the Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and leads environmental programs for Bloomberg Philanthropies. He is also co-chair of the Fourth Regional Plan of the Regional Plan Association of New York. From 2006 to 2010, Aggarwala was the Director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability for the City of New York. In that role, he served as the chief environmental policy advisor to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and led the development and implementation of New York City’s sustainability plan, PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York. Mayor Bloomberg called him “the brains behind PlaNYC.” He serves on several boards, including that of the Regional Plan Association; the Urban Green Council; the advisory boards of the Eno Transportation Foundation and New World Capital (a private equity firm); and is a trustee of St. Stephen’s School in Rome, Italy.

Alveena Bakhshi is a Subject Matter Expert in Credit Risk. She has extensive experience in debt capital market transactions, structuring and financial modeling. As a Ratings Analyst at Moody's, she managed a portfolio of issuers and rated few billion dollars of debt from 2005 to 2009. Since, she has provided expertise to banking and financial services clients in credit scoring and model risk management. She has a solid base in data and analytics. At Brillio she advises clients on how to extricate value through digitally transforming credit risk for customer experience management. Alveena received her Master of International Economic Policy Management from Columbia University where she specialized in Financial System Stability, publishing research on the Asian Financial Crises and Capital Market Development in China. She is a mentor at the Seattle based incubator/accelerator, 9Mile Labs. She has been a lifelong volunteer and supporter of grass-root organizations that work on behalf of 'at risk' youth. She recently published 'Shot to Make Look Good' for Child Soldiers International for research based advocacy to stop the use of child soldiers.  

Shreyas Chityala is a financial services professional and experienced investor across various asset classes and has a passion for business strategy and investing. His past work experience includes working in investment banking (UBS and Nomura), corporate development (First Wind) and management consulting (Westpac Group). Shreyas has worked with companies across the financial services, energy, consumer and industrials sectors across North America, Asia and Australia. Shreyas is currently a Managing Partner and co-founder of Elevate Innovation Partners and Vedas Group. Elevate is an early-mid stage venture capital business focused on developing firms on the US east coast as well as India and Germany. Vedas is an angel fund and advisory business focused on east coast startups. Elevate makes investments focused on the fintech, payments, enterprise software, entertainment and digital media sectors.
Shreyas is also on the Evaluation Committee of New York’s ARC Angel Fund, Charlotte Angel Fund and also a Special LP and Advisor to North Carolina based IDEA Fund Partners. 
Shreyas is working with Columbia University SIPA to create a Social Impact Venture Fund, helping SIPA startup founders gain access to Grant funding and providing mentorship and strategic guidance. Shreyas holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and Economics from Columbia University, New York. He is a mentor and active alum of Columbia and a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Sridhar Chityala is a globally recognized leader in the financial services industry having held senior executive leadership management roles at JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wachovia/Wells Fargo, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank Australia. He has also served on the management committees of these institutions. Sridhar is presently a Founding Partner of the venture firm Elevate Innovation Partners – a venture capital fund focused on early stage investments in the fintech, entertainment, and enterprise software sectors. Sridhar is also Founding Partner of the seed fund Vedas Group; Executive Committee member of ARC Angel Fund; Senior Advisor to IDEA Fund Partners and Senior Advisor to SVX Group, Advisory Board - Singular Capital, Management Committee Exfinity Fund. He is an investor, board member and advisor to fintech firms that focus on product innovation, and also to private equity, venture capital and asset management firms making strategic investments in emerging technologies and financial services businesses. He has had over 15 years experience in investing, managing and monetizing VC/PE backed companies. Through senior leadership roles he has managed multi-billion dollar business lines. Sridhar is a Co-founder of the Global Payments Council, World e-money council, a board member of various payment networks and industry bodies and is recognized as an industry expert on retail distribution, payments and digital & mobile commerce through published articles and appearances at industry conferences.

David Dabscheck is a Visiting Scholar at Columbia Business School in innovation strategy and is the Founder and CEO of HMW Innovate. Through delivering his "G.I.A.N.T. Innovation Labs," David has helped clients from Fortune 500 businesses to global NGOs develop and implement sustainable innovation and creativity programs. David also founded the largest volunteer nonprofit security organization in the US, the Community Security Service (CSS), and served as Deputy Managing Director of a national advocacy project, the Israel Action Network, and an Advisory Board Member for several Israeli and New York technology companies. His writings have appeared in the Daily Beast, the Boston Globe, and Foreign Policy magazine among other publications, and he holds an MBA from Columbia University, an MA from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and undergraduate degrees from the University of Queensland, Australia.

Richard Fishman: After careers in law and finance, technology, and venture capital, Richard Fishman recently became senior counselor to Ashoka, the world’s largest organization of leading social entrepreneurs. Richard began his career as a civil rights and legal services lawyer and created the first housing and economic development law program in the Southern U.S. He subsequently headed the American Bar Association’s National Housing Law Program and its National Advisory Commission on Housing and Urban Growth. In private law practice, as a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, he headed the firm’s Structured Finance practice, representing major Wall Street investment banks in structuring complex financial instruments, as well as doing initial public offerings and bank M&A deals. He left the law to become president of Thinking Machines Corporation, which, at the time, used massively parallel processing to build the world’s fastest supercomputers. Upon the reorganization of TMC, he began investing in early-stage companies, initially through boutique VC firms and then heading venture capital investing for MacAndrews & Forbes Group (the diversified holding company of Ronald O. Perelman). Richard has served and currently serves on the boards of numerous publicly traded and privately held companies and non-profit organizations.

Hilary Gosher is an expert in growing and scaling global technology and software companies, and an active participant in the New York city start-up community. Hilary is a Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners. She leads Insight Onsite, the firm’s team of operations and growth experts who help drive scale and growth at Insight’s portfolio companies. Hilary founded this team in 2000 and has worked with more than 100 software and Internet companies, advising on strategy, sales, marketing and M&A. Prior to joining Insight, Hilary held management positions at The Monitor Group, where she consulted to companies in the healthcare, technology and infrastructure sectors. She worked at Marketspace, an e-commerce affiliate focused on start-ups and online retail businesses. Earlier in her career Hilary held finance positions at Reuters UK, and Sea Containers in London. Hilary has been an Adjunct Professor at NYU's Stern School of Business for five years teaching entrepreneurship to MBA students. She is a mentor to several start-up companies as part of NYU’s Summer Launchpad program. She serves on the Executive Advisory Board of TechWeek NYC, a two-day conference which brings together entrepreneurs and visionaries to foster New York’s evolving tech community. Hilary is a regular guest speaker on Fox Business News’ program, Risk and Reward, which focuses on alternative investing trends. In 2011 Hilary co-authored a chapter titled "Customer Lifetime Value: Methodology and Applications for Operating Partners", published by Private Equity International in “The Operating Partner in Private Equity” handbook. Hilary holds an MBA from INSEAD in France along with a BA in Economic History (first class pass) and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB), cum laude, from the University of Natal, South Africa.

Sarah Holloway has worked in the public and nonprofit sector for 25 years.  She is currently a full-time member of the SIPA faculty where she teaches nonprofit financial management and social entrepreneurship.  In addition to teaching, she runs the school’s Management Specialization – a set of courses and activities that support knowledge and skill building in non-profit, for-profit and social enterprise management.  Her areas of interest are social enterprise start ups, K-12 education and education technology with a particular focus on urban and NYC efforts.  She is founder or co-founder of 7 start up organizations including MOUSE.org and CSNYC. Sarah is a member the Boards of Directors of the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC), The Armory Foundation, Mission Restore and Columbia Entrepreneurship.  She is a former board member of The Institute of Play, LIFT Investments, the Ft. Tryon Park Trust (NYC Parks Department), Friends of Public School 187 and the New York City Workforce Investment Board. 

Jack M. Kaplan is an experienced well-accomplished serial entrepreneur, consultant to several companies in management organization and financial services, and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School. He also teaches the Entrepreneurship Law Start Up Class with Professor Davis from Goodwin LLC.He was the former president and founder of Datamark Technologies Inc. Ceridian, a Fortune 500 company. He has extensive experience in management organization, international marketing technology innovation, software and communications. During his career, Kaplan started and managed three successful companies, raised capital in excess of 12 million dollars from companies, venture capital, and wealthy angel individuals. He is the author of Patterns of Entrepreneurship Management, John Wiley and Sons, 2016 (5th edition) and Getting Started in Entrepreneurship, John Wiley and Sons, 2006. His previous book, Smart Cards: The Global Information Passport, Coriolis Group, 1995, and articles have appeared in Technology News, Crain’s of New York, and MIT Enterprise Forum. Kaplan’s professional seminar experience includes consulting for Fortune 1000 companies. He is also national and regional judge for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award Program.

Dennis Kwon is Founder and CTO of Scoutsee, the first social media affiliate marketing platform. He is also Founder and CEO of Crowdgoo Interactive. Previously, Dennis served in engineering roles at Apple, Palantir Technologies and Yahoo, just to name a few. He has experience in web and software development, product management, user experience and software engineering. Dennis received his MBA in Entrepreneurship from Columbia Business School in 2012. 

Sameer Maskey teaches Statistical Methods/Machine Learning for Speech and Natural Language Processing at Columbia University. He is also a CEO of Fusemachines Inc, a VC-backed company, located in New York City. Fusemachines provides a platform that allows users to ask questions against large sets of unstructured and structured data. He has published more than 20 papers in International Conferences and Journals, and has filed several patents. He has served as a Session Chair, a Program Committee member, and a Review Committee member of many International Conferences including ACL, HLT, ICASSP, NAACL and COLING. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Columbia University and Bachelors (Honors) in Mathematics and Physics from Bates College. He has worked on a wide range of topics that deal with a large amount of data and Machine Learning methods.

Debby McLean has extensive experience in the financial services industry. She maintains her professional expertise through her involvement with Circle Financial Group, a high net worth private wealth management membership practice, and Golden Seeds LLC, an angel investing group, where she is active in investment screening, due diligence and deal execution. For many years she has taught Corporate Finance at the graduate and undergraduate levels, currently at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and been engaged with a broad variety of not-for-profit and private company Boards. For the first 15 years of her career, Debby worked for Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated, where she was one of the first female Managing Directors. She earned broad transactional and management experience in Mergers & Acquisitions, Corporate Finance, Capital Markets and Product Development, Mortgage Backed Securities and Commercial Real Estate. She also developed substantial international business experience, having served in the New York, London and Tokyo offices of Morgan Stanley during her time at the firm. Subsequently, Debby was the President of an investment banking boutique, Meadowcroft Associates Inc., located in Connecticut, where, in addition to her management responsibilities, she provided financial advice in areas such as bankruptcy and reorganization, valuation, litigation support and mergers and acquisitions. Debby lived in London from 1998-2007, during which time she taught Finance at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at Richmond, The American International University in London, and was Chief Financial Officer of Kokua Communications Inc., a satellite based broadband start-up (2000-2001).

Adam Royalty is the Designer-in-Residence at Columbia entrepreneurship. He specializes in helping teams use human centered design to grow their ventures. Design methods and mindsets are especially useful for uncovering key insights from customers and rapidly iterating the core idea. Both of these together drive product/market fit. Adam will launch the **Columbia Entrepreneurship Design Studio** where he’ll guide entrepreneurs through interview techniques, rapid prototyping, and the art of developing empathy for one’s consumers — all in an effort to create human-centered solutions that win long term customer loyalty.

Genna Sankin is a Columbia Business School and SIPA alum who has been involved in the New York startup ecosystem for the last 3 years.  Most recently, she was an early and core part of the team that grew an early stage venture backed company ($120m raised as of 2016) into a CNBC top disruptor.  She has helped nurture early stage start-ups in New York as part of the House of Genius New York team, providing curated events to provide entrepreneurs with thought partners around opportunities or challenges for their businesses. Prior experience includes time on Wall Street covering consumer Internet and enterprise technology companies.

Lorna Solis is founder and CEO of Blue Rose Compass, a nonprofit which impacts conflict regions by identifying brilliant young adults – especially girls, and mostly living in refugee camps – and arranging scholarships for them to world-leading universities. In return for the scholarships and guidance through the required exams, scholars commit to return to their country or region of origin on graduation and help rebuild their communities. Founder and CEO of Lynke, a B-corp which engages the private sector as part of the solution to the refugee crisis through offering education and employment opportunities to refugees. After they have completed a six month customized app-building curriculum created by a leading tech company, we help secure gainful employment for the refugees and resettlement to a country that is open to hosting them. Previously, Lorna was Director for Latin America and Africa at Institutional Investor, focusing on increasing FDI for infrastructure projects. She also worked at IDEA on Wall Street, covering Latin America, and at Water & Air Research – an environmental consulting firm – on creating national parks in Honduras and Brazil. Graduated from the University of Florida and Harvard Kennedy School's Global Leadership & Public Policy Executive Program. Member of CFR (Council on Foreign Relations). Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum; also, member of the Young Global Leaders Group advisory board, and Women's Empowerment and Gender Parity (2011-2012). Echoing Green Semi-Finalist in 2012. Organizational Partner of Global Dignity Day. UNHCR Innovation Council Board member. Advisory Board member of the Humanitarian Innovation Project at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre. Lorna is also a figurative sculptor whose work has been exhibited in NYC and has won numerous awards.

Bruce Taragin is Managing Director at Blumberg Capital, with primary areas of interest in networking infrastructure, wireless technologies, and real time enterprise software. He has 23 years of experience as a venture capital investor, entrepreneur, technology investment banker and corporate attorney. Prior to joining Blumberg Capital in 1998, Bruce co-founded and held several senior management positions within technology companies including Charles River Computers. Bruce also structured and managed early-stage technology transactions at Hambrecht & Quist, Mayer Brown & Platt and Bankers Trust Company. A native of New York, Bruce earned his BA in Finance and Communications, cum laude, from Yeshiva University, and his MBA and JD from Fordham University. Bruce serves as a member or observer on the Board of Directors of Appboy, Arcadia Data, Coverhound, Lenddo, Revionics, Roam and Sigmod Labs. He also serves on the board and the investment monitoring committee of the Jewish Community Foundation of Northern California.

Deborah Zajac is a tech-focused new venture creator, strategist, and corporate development executive. For nearly 20 years, Deborah has launched, scaled, optimized, partnered with, and advised businesses in more than 25 countries on 6 continents in a range of industries including technology, healthcare, energy, aerospace, industrials, and consumer solutions across stage and lifecycle while at GE, SaaS start-up Celarix.com, and Andersen [Consulting]. Deborah specializes in leveraging intangible assets such as disruptive technology, new business models, platforms, brand, copyrights, and patents to unlock markets and opportunities. At GE Ventures and GE Corporate, Deborah worked with entrepreneurs from idea to IPO and realized commercial pathways for advanced R&D technologies alongside researchers, engineers, and counsel. Recently, she opened up GE’s patent portfolio to the everyday inventor through startup Quirky, partnered with Gates-backed Global Good on an infectious disease diagnostic platform in developing countries, and served as board member and scaling partner to GE tech-spinouts she helped launch such as Vadu, KemSENSE, and Vener8. Deborah earned her MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship at NYU Stern. She is a founding Advisory Board member of the nationally-ranked Baker Center for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation at Lehigh University, where she served two terms as a Trustee and earned her BS in Finance, BA in Asian Studies and coursework in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.