The Newest Best Venture Winners

Isaac Mkalia, 20 years old, a teacher by profession is checking his mobil phone.

Curo, by Haedrian Labs, brings mobile banking to developing countries

Hours of preparation, planning, and prototyping comes down to a single pitch for student entrepreneurs in the Ballard Center’s Social Venture Academy (SVA), which hosts competitions for socially minded business plans. After a fierce showdown on 2 October, SVA announced the two newest winners of its Best Venture Competition: SimpleCitizen and Haedrian Labs.

SimpleCitizen aims to provide an accessible, affordable, and online solution for immigrants pursuing US citizenship. CEO and MAcc alum Sam Stoddard, along with his brother, Brady, and team member Ayde Soto, worked hard to perfect their social venture for the competition.

“It was a lot of work to take it from initial idea to launched product,” Stoddard says. “It took all three of us working night and day to get it to the point that it was a product that the market needed.”

SimpleCitizen, say its founders, can save families an average of $18,000 during the process of applying for citizenship. These savings can help them establish themselves more easily in their new communities.

Student startup Haedrian Labs also came away victorious with its mobile app, Curo. What started out as a class project for Austin Harrison, Kenna Ison, and James Rowe became a much more meaningful venture. Now available for download, Curo is a digital-currency banking platform that acts as a mobile wallet for people worldwide who don’t have access to banking.

“We realized that around three billion people in the world don’t have bank accounts, but a lot of them have mobile phones,” says Harrison, a computer science junior. “So we decided we would create the software to empower them to save, take out microfinance loans, and send money anywhere in the world.”

After preparing and presenting top-notch pitches, both SimpleCitizen and Haedrian Labs were awarded $5,000 for best venture. The Best Venture Competition is the last of three designed to make socially forward businesses a reality.

“It was awesome to pitch our company, especially at the early stage we are at,” Harrison says. “We’ve heard ‘no’ a lot, and it was nice to finally hear a ‘yes,’ from people who believe in us.”

For SimpleCitizen and Haedrian Labs, participation in the SVA has offered valuable resources and mentorship to help their ventures take off.

“It was fantastic to get validation from the judges who are experienced in social impact, business, and investing,” Stoddard says. “Getting their seal of approval let us know that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Sam Stoddard, Brady Stoddard, and Ayde Soto of SimpleCitizen