AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new social enterprise, Verb, has spun out of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin (UT). Verb operates massive global entrepreneurship competitions in partnership with conscious companies and foundations.
The company, which expects to produce at least five themed competitions in 2014, is focused on solving global problems by supporting early-stage social entrepreneurs with training, mentors and seed funding to grow their enterprises.
Verb evolved from the Dell Social Innovation Challenge program, which began in 2007 as the RGK Social Innovation Competition under the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Following a sizeable grant from Dell, the competition was renamed the Dell Social Innovation Competition (DSIC) in 2009 and expanded to include students from around the world, bringing the program international recognition.
“The LBJ School and the RGK Center take great pride in having served as the incubator for this new venture,” said Robert Hutchings, Dean of the LBJ School. “Having seen the competition portion of our social entrepreneurship program grow dramatically over the past 6 years, we recognized that it needed to operate independently to achieve its greatest impact. We are very pleased to have achieved a successful spin-off of the competition to Verb, enabling the LBJ School to focus on expanding research and education related to social entrepreneurship and social innovation. We look forward to collaborating with Verb on projects in the future.”
In the seven years while it was led under the university, the competition engaged student social entrepreneurs from 100 countries and awarded more than $800,000 to over 90 ventures.
“I am very proud that Verb will truly embody UT’s motto of ‘What starts here changes the world.’ Over the past seven years, we engaged over 25,000 young entrepreneurs who are creating real global impact, including electricity for rural India, education for girls in the slums of Nairobi and dignified jobs for US military veterans,” says former RGK Center Associate Director and now Verb CEO, Suzi Sosa, “Now we will expand our impact by partnering with other companies to create new competitions focused on other key global issues. Our goal is to engage over 100,000 early-stage social entrepreneurs and to connect them with the resources they need to grow. The support and partnership of UT and Dell have been invaluable to get us where we are today. I am extremely proud to be leading the next phase of this exciting initiative.”
Over the past six years, Dell invested more than $4 million into the DSIC program. In addition, the company supported the competition through an innovative global employee engagement program in which more than 1,000 Dell team members from around the world volunteered as judges and mentors.
“We are proud to have partnered with UT to develop a groundbreaking program that combines our passions for entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Trisa Thompson, Dell vice president of corporate social responsibility. “And we are excited to see the DSIC evolve into a new business focused on enabling people and organizations to develop new ideas and innovations that ultimately make the world a better place.”
In 2013, Dell partnered with Verb to produce the Dell Education Challenge and the Dell Empowering Women Challenge. Together, these two new competitions attracted more than 1,200 entrepreneurial teams who are currently competing for a combined prize purse of $65,000.
Tom Meredith, former CFO of Dell and Austin philanthropist, co-founded the original RGK Social Innovation Challenge in 2006 and has now co-founded Verb with Austin social entrepreneur Suzi Sosa. “The exponential growth of the Dell Social Innovation Challenge reflects the rising trend of social entrepreneurship in the world today,” says Mr. Meredith. “Entrepreneurs are making use of new business models to create highly innovative solutions to pressing social problems, like energy, education, women’s empowerment, housing and more. What is needed now is a platform that can help these early-stage ventures get access to the tools, resources, talent and capital they need. That is what Verb will provide.”