SHIFT_DESIGN: FastFWD company makes pop-up buildings for vacant lots - Technical.ly Philly

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May 19, 2014 10:30 am

SHIFT_DESIGN: FastFWD company makes pop-up buildings for vacant lots

SHIFT_DESIGN is one of ten companies that recently completed FastFWD, the social entrepreneurship accelerator backed by a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant. Each company demoed last Friday at First Round Capital.

Licenses & Inspections inspects vacant lots.

(Photo by Flickr user @mikewebkist, used under a Creative Commons license)

Updated 5/19/14 1:41 p.m.: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified how much SHIFT_DESIGN is raising. It is raising $750,000.

SHIFT_DESIGN wants to turn Philadelphia’s 40,000 vacant lots into community spaces with pre-manufactured, reusable pop-up buildings. The Center City design firm is calling the project “Blank Box,” referring to the fact that it could be used as a classroom, a fresh produce shop or a temporary retail store.

SHIFT_DESIGN is one of ten companies that recently completed FastFWD, the social entrepreneurship accelerator backed by a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant. Each company demoed last Friday at First Round Capital.

The accelerator, focused on public safety, awarded $10,000 to each company, as well as mentorship, training and an opportunity to pilot their product in Philadelphia. That opportunity came in the form of an RFP that was due at 5 p.m. on demo day.

FastFWD is run by GoodCompany Ventures, the City of Philadelphia and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative.

In the weeks to come, we’ll highlight some of the FastFWD companies. See all our coverage here.

blank box

A rendering of SHIFT_DESIGN’s “Blank Box” project.

The business plan: SHIFT_DESIGN will work with customers (like schools, stores, community groups) to find a vacant lot, get the proper permits and install the customized box. The customers pay for the service and lease the box. It’ll run them $50,000 per box per year lease.

Staff: Three full-time, two part-time, led by founder Mario Gentile

Pedigree: SHIFT_DESIGN graduated from GoodCompany Ventures in 2010 and has since built green roofs and garden walls for Shake Shack, Urban Outfitters and 30th Street Station, as well as parklets, including the one outside First Round Capital’s University City office.

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The (investor) ask: $750,00 to build the boxes

Applied to RFP to launch pilot in Philadelphia?: Yes

Customers?: None yet but they’re in talks with Center City District, Philadelphia Water Department and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. They aim to launch a pilot as soon as fall.

Selling point: SHIFT_DESIGN will have to sort through city bureaucracy to get the appropriate permits to launch Blank Box on city-owned vacant lots. Luckily, they have experience working with the city when they installed parklets around the city.

Organizations: SHIFT DESIGN
Projects: FastFWD
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