Diversity & Inclusion
Accelerators / Events

SEED Spot demo day showed the future of social enterprise in DC

After 15 weeks of preparation and mentorship, Mia Learning takes home the top prize as Booz Allen’s Most Promising Innovation Award

SEED Spot's first D.C. cohort pitched at the Warner Theatre. (Courtesy photo)


On July 13, more than 500 supporters, potential investors and attendees gathered at the Warner Theatre to witness SEED SPOT’s nine social enterprise founders pitch their businesses. As members of the Phoenix-based incubator’s first full-time cohort, each entrepreneur was given three minutes to deliver their refined ideas and solutions.

Technical.ly caught up with Halona Foods founder Stephanie Westhelle right before she hit the stage.

“I’m excited to share with people the chips we’ve worked so hard to create!” the healthy snack company CEO said. Westhelle was inspired to apply and join SEED SPOT because she needed an extra push to bring her business goals to fruition.

“My favorite part of this entire experience has been the cohort,” she said. “Our ideas are all so very different, but there’s still synergy among us.”

To begin the evening, co-founder and CEO Courtney Klein provided opening remarks alongside National Director of Expansion C’pher Gresham.

“We’re so grateful for the resources, human capital and support from incredible brands and amazing foundations and corporations that have backed our work and made this possible,” Klein said. She also gave a shoutout to Booz Allen Hamilton, who not only serves as the accelerator’s premiere sponsor, but whose employees provided mentorship to all nine entrepreneurs.

“SEED SPOT is empowering change in the world – we are glad our doers, dreamers, and disrupters have served as mentors,” said Susan Penfield, Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton and SEED SPOT D.C. Board Member.

Immediately after the pitch competition, the awards ceremony began, which included both cash and office space as prizes.

Dr. Darren Cambridge, founder of Mia Learning, was the top winner of the pitch competition, bringing home the $7,500 Most Promising Innovation Award. He spoke with Technical.ly shortly after the awards ceremony.

“Mia Learning was inspired by the decade of work with educators, the Department of Education and the National Council of Teachers of English,” Cambridge said. “I’m inspired by teachers every day and I’m also a parent of two young sons who are the process of becoming readers themselves.”

Like many of the SEED SPOT entrepreneurs, Cambridge was inspired to join the accelerator because of its structure and support.

“I’m new to creating for-profit businesses, so SEED SPOT has been has been invaluable in creating a structure and give us confidence to pay attention to the details within our business plan,” he said.

Below are the nine entrepreneurs who presented and those who received awards for their businesses:

  • IMBY, a digital platform a digital platform that brings together citizens, real estate developers, and local governments to create more responsive communities. (3 months of dedicated desk space at DC’s newest coworking space, Alley powered by Verizon; Booz Allen’s $2,500 #GrowtheGood Award)
  • Empowered to Run, a non-profit organization whose mission is to, at large scale, empower people rooted in basic progressive values to run for state & local office successfully and govern effectively.
  • Halona Foods, a food company that provides healthy snack options for people on the go. (Impact Hub Collaborative Social Innovation Award for 5 months of office space)
  • Job IQ, a digital platform that provides career development and guidance in your pocket.
  • Mayla, a platform that uses compelling storytelling to instill hope, grow community, and inspire connection to nature.
  • AcademMe, a platform that works with potential students to find their best education options while simultaneously working with education providers to lower their recruitment costs.
  • i4Spy, a cybersecurity app protecting you from mobile spyware.
  • Mia Learning, puts machine learning and other AI technologies to work by helping kids make powerful choices, starting with books. (Booz Allen’s $7,500 Most Promising Innovation Award)
  • The Mentor Method, social enterprise that provides curated mentor matches, connecting the next generation of tech leaders with change-making mentors at the top of their game. (SEED SPOT’s $5,000 Audience Impact Award)

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