Changing the world? You have until Friday to convince these angels

by Colin Morris
April 25, 2016

A SWAN Impact graphic mapping out the social impact organizations in Austin.

The

, or SWAN, is accepting applications until Friday for its second cohort of portfolio companies.

Like any sane investors, they’re looking for companies that have found a market fit by solving a real pain point with a good solution. But those things alone won’t get you a meeting.

Since starting the group in October, executive director Bob Bridge (pictured right) has sought for-profit startups making the world a better place to live. Whether their technology is for water conservation, counseling troubled teens or coordinating the care of the seriously ill, Bridge is firm on the criteria of profitability and legitimate social impact.

“If you’d tell your idea to a social worker and she would say ‘that’s cool,’ you’re probably on the right track,” he said. “We don’t want to help people get through their Gmail more quickly. That’s not a societal problem.”

Because SWAN is so new, Bridge and his team are looking for all the help they can get, which means partnering other groups with common goals.

“We’re a relatively smaller angel network, so a lot of our deals we need to syndicate to get enough money for these teams,” he said. “There are other social impact angel groups around the country. We have to be sensitive to what they look for in their criteria.”

“Though it’s in its very early days, I’m excited about the potential for SWAN Impact and other social impact-focused networks to connect startups to broaden funding sources by effectively bridging/translating to non-social impact angels,” said David Chao (, a founding CTO at multiple tech companies, a published physicist and a member of SWAN’s board.

But even when a company isn’t ready for investment from his group and partners, sometimes Bridge still can’t help himself. He’s been working closely with two Austin startups to help them over the hurdle to meet the angel group’s criteria for investment.

One such startup is

, whose mobile software monitors and screens skin infections in hospitals to spare patients and providers painful and costly setbacks in care.

“Social investments aim to generate both social and financial returns. I see healthcare as a natural extension of these goals,” said Revealix co-founder and CEO Adrianna Cantu (pictured right). “Bob has done a phenomenal job in helping drive and coalesce the social investment market here in Austin. Through SWAN, he’s helped companies like ours connect with new relationships, new prospects that may not have considered med-tech as a vehicle for social good.”

Another company Bridge advises closely is

, an ed tech company that has been fine tuning a tool since 2000 to make teens comfortable seeking professional help via text on a range of issues from sex to school discipline.

“No one should be pitching to anyone who isn’t a mission match,” said Amy Looper (pictured left), co-founder and COO of 

, which was accepted into the inaugural cohort of social impact incubator Tarmac TX, announced today. “When you go in to pitch, you only have a short period of time. People either get it in those first few minutes or they don’t. So being in the social impact space, there’s the added layer of having to explain what you’re doing and convincing people how you can make money.”

That hasn’t been a problem for

, which landed three contracts and made half a million dollars when it launched its beta product.

Which is exactly the kind of thing Bridge hopes to find — or at least help companies build.

“I want this angel network to really grow and put money out there for entrepreneurs doing social impact,” he said. “For that to happen, we need good outcomes. I want investors coming back. So our goal is the same or better returns than traditional angel networks. In the broader market, socially responsible companies are outperforming their peers.”

Bridge and his fellow angels at SWAN will review applications from May 2 to May 13 and invite selected companies for a pitch meeting on May 19.

Have a news tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Tell us or tweet @BuiltInAustin.

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