For many, the way to strike change into a system is by running for office or joining a nonprofit. However, while still valuable, there’s a new wave of millennials looking to tackle civic problems from a different angle: business. And it’s these people that business accelerator Tumml is working to make big.
The origins of Tumml can be traced back to a meeting between founders Clara Brenner and Julie Lein at the MIT Sloan School of Management. While there, the two women became intrigued by businesses that had both a social mission and a profit motive.
As a result, the two moved to San Francisco after graduation and formed Tumml in 2012, a business that helps civic minded businesses get off the ground.
Headquartered in the South of Market neighborhood, the company has worked with 17 companies worldwide.
So what does Tumml do for its clients? Well, the purpose is to support “urban impact start-ups” who are looking to improve the functionality of civic systems — whether it is education, transportation or small businesses.
Once selected, Tumml provides each client with initial funding, workspace, mentors, help with managing and operating a business and the chance to meet and work with local government and nonprofit leaders who are addressing the same topics.
Chariot, founded by Ali Vahabzadeh, is one of the startups working with Tumml. Vahabzadeh was amazed by how inefficient the San Francisco transportation system was compared to those in London and New York City, so he started his own company, which services residents in the crowded community corridors of the city.
Tajel Shah is another entrepreneur working with Tumml. The mother of a preschool student, she was aggravated with the application process for private preschools, where a paper application had to be filled out for each individual school. Her company, KidAdmit, streamlines the process by working like the college common app: one online application that can be sent out to Shah’s network of 150 private schools in San Francisco.
For Brenner, these problems are exactly what they are trying to address: the small things that make life tick.
“If you want to solve a problem in your own community, in your own backyard, there isn’t really a place for you to go,” Brenner tells National Journal. “Where would you go find money to do that? I couldn’t have told you two years ago. So we decided an organization to try to change that.”
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