Posted by Gina Potthoff on June 16, 2017
More socially minded ventures than ever are enrolled in this year’s Polsky Accelerator, a 10-week intensive summer program for developing startups.
Three of the 10 accelerator teams were participants in the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), the social impact track of the university’s nationally ranked Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge. The SNVC is run by Chicago Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which launched its sixth annual summer accelerator on June 16.
Provide, 2017 SNVC winner; Flipside, 2017 SNVC second place; and KitcheNet, 2016 SNVC third place, will each receive a $10,000 investment from the Polsky Center, as well as mentoring, programming, and a headquarters at the Polsky Exchange.
The Rustandy Center sat down with Provide, a software-based, back-office solution for daycare business owners, for a look at the team’s summer plans.
Q: What problem does Provide work to solve in society?
The problems with our child-care system are complex and layered. Daycare providers work long hours for low pay that doesn’t match the social impact of their work or skills. The average family child-care provider earns $23,000 a year despite working 64 hours a week and having over 10 years of experience. On average, providers spend 10 hours a week doing administrative work and navigating complex government agencies, which takes valuable time away from educating children. They’re also leaving thousands of dollars a year on the table due to preventable administrative errors. It’s worse for providers who serve low-income families, who typically use government-sponsored subsidy programs.
Provide solves these problems by submitting and managing public funding applications, streamlining the licensing and accreditation process, and tracking expenses (providers send text message images of receipts) to maximize tax deductions.
Q: How did your team come up with the idea for Provide?
Two teammates previously worked at BeneStream, a social enterprise that enrolls working families in public benefits. After working with the union of family child-care providers in New York City and families across industries (retail, hospitality, home health care, etc.), we found that child-care providers faced major challenges managing their businesses, even as parents struggled to access care.
Q: What are Provide’s short- and long-term goals?
Short-term goals include proving our model and its social impact in Illinois and building the next version of our software to begin generating revenue.
Long-term goals include expanding nationally, connecting providers to ongoing advocacy efforts for fully funded, universal early childhood education in their states, and integrating with other software to serve as a one-stop shop for managing child-care businesses.
Q: What was your favorite part of participating in the SNVC?
Getting outside the building! The SNVC gave us the structure to approach customer research effectively. We hit the pavement, and in the process got to know some of the hardest-working entrepreneurs in Chicago: child-care providers.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in the Polsky Accelerator?
The SNVC helped us prove and understand the need for our services. This summer, we will focus on the solution by designing software that addresses these problems, starting with subsidy enrollment. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with our child-care provider users and other partners in the child-care space as we develop our product.
Q: What else should we know about Provide?
Provide took home $60,000 as this year’s SNVC winner. The team is made up of part-time Booth students Chelsea Sprayregen, Hannah Meyer, and Rob Seery, and Rebecca Karasik, a U/X designer at ThoughtWorks. Eve Poczatek, another part-time Booth student, assisted the team during the SNVC.
Provide has launched a pilot with help from local provider-led neighborhood associations, the Austin Childcare Providers Network, and others. The startup is also partnering with Raghu Betina, Booth adjunct assistant professor of operations management, and his team at First Draft to build its software.