Chicago startups aim to make impact on social issues

Impact engine graduates
PHOTO: Laura Furr

By Laura Furr

Chicago’s premiere social entrepreneurship program, Impact Engine, on Wednesday unveiled its new crop of startups aimed at resolving issues from student safety to the demand for recycled electricity.

For the third time since 2012, the 16-week accelerator program, partnered with the city’s tech-incubator, 1871, mentored entrepreneurs driven to create social change and a profit at the same time.

Jessica Droste Yagan, the program’s new CEO, said since Impact Engine’s start it has graduated 15 companies, which have earned $2.5 million in revenue.

“Impact investing is a real thing. It has a presence in Chicago,” Yagan told 275 community members and investors who had gathered. “We have really built a sizeable and energizable community.”

Community members and investors at Wednesday’s demo day said they felt this energy.

Jaclyn Schiff, the communications director for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, attended the event and said she was excited by the potential impact.

“I didn’t realize that there was such a dynamic and vibrant social enterprise sector [in Chicago],” Schiff said. “I think some of these companies are really tackling some very big social issues and can potentially knock it out of the park.”

To learn more about each company, click through the interactive StoryMap below.