Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and First Round Capital Invest $3 million in Bail Reform Startup

Nationwide, 62 percent of the jail population accounts for people who can’t afford bail, according to the Vera Institute of Justice. A lot of these incarcerated individuals are behind bars because they allegedly committed crimes at the misdemeanor level or lower. This is a significant statistic from a human rights perspective, as well as an economic one. It costs about $38 million a day to keep these largely nonviolent people behind bars, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute.

This is where Promise, a de-carceration startup that just raised over $3 million in a round led by First Round Capital with participation from Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, 8VC and Kapor Capital, comes in. Last Father’s Day, Jay-Z penned an op-ed about the bail industry and pre-trial incarceration. He noted how every year, $9 billion is wasted incarcerating people who have not been convicted of crimes.


Promise, which is part of Y Combinator’s  current batch of startups, offers counties and local governments an alternative to holding low-risk people behind bars simply because they can’t afford bail.

For each participant, Promise provides counties with a comprehensive intake procedure and then sets up each participant with a care plan specific to them. Promise will then monitor and support participants by helping them ensure they know when they’re supposed to appear in court, and remind them of obligations like drug testing or substance abuse treatment needed. The app also helps participants access job training, housing, counseling and referrals.

Instead of a county paying to incarcerate someone simply because they can’t afford to post bail, they can use Promise to monitor compliance with court orders and better keep tabs on people via the app and, if needed, GPS monitoring devices. Counties, courts, case managers and other stakeholders can also access progress reports of individuals to monitor compliance.

Already, Promise is onboarding one county this week and is in talks with another three counties. Instead of a county jail paying $190 per day per person, Promise charges some counties just $17 per person per day. In some cases, Promise charges even less per person.


John Legend Unlocks Futures

John Legend and his nonprofit, FreeAmerica, teamed up with New Profit and Bank of America to scan the country for the most impactful returning citizen social entrepreneurs. This partnership resulted in, Unlocked Futures, a 16-month accelerator for social entrepreneurs impacted by the criminal justice system.

After analyzing hundreds of applications, eight were selected including Flikshop, an app that allows you to send postcards to an inmate from your phone, tablet, or the web.

“Though 1 in 4 Americans has a criminal record, too often are formerly incarcerated individuals locked out of job opportunities because of their past. I have seen that entrepreneurship is a viable way for formerly incarcerated individuals to build sustainable livelihoods and contribute to their communities and neighborhoods,” said Legend in a statement. “We hope Unlocked Futures will serve as a powerful tool to break through the barriers to opportunity that exist for so many who have criminal records.”

Legend seems incredibly hopeful when it comes to these entrepreneurs and assisting in the process of giving them an opportunity to grow their businesses. “It’s clear that we’ve got a long way to go but, with people like you working tirelessly to change the system, I’m optimistic.”

Check out the video below, showcasing highlights from the entrepreneurs.

Ad Love: Apple’s The Human Family

Building on Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” the company recently released,”The Human Family,” a new spot with Maya Angelou narrating.

The structure is simple, and reminiscent of a wedding montage against a white background, photos and videos of different faces and families—of all colors, sizes, ages and orientations—flicker by, with the credit of each iPhone photographer underneath.

The spot debut last Friday during the Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Olympics. It’s already gone live across Apple’s social media channels and on the website, where a full subsite is devoted to the “Shot on iPhone” campaign.

I *heart*:

Volunteer and Pay Your Debt.

I won’t get into how vicious school loans can be. We all are aware of that. And if you aren’t, lucky you!

*rolls eyes*

The great news is now there may be a solution of sorts to help pay them down and make the world a better place.

Recently, a small nonprofit called SponsorChange.org received a community service award for finding a way to help college graduates battle student loan debt by volunteering.

Here’s how it works: Graduates with student loan debt sign up to volunteer at organizations that need manpower. The grads help their community by putting in hours toward that organization’s goals. Then donors who have also signed up at SponsorChange reimburse volunteers by paying down their student loans. So the donors help the nonprofit get free manpower rather than making a traditional donation. The volunteers get help with their student loans—and gain useful work experience along the way. sponsorchange_logotransparent

Raymar Hampshire, cofounder of SponsorChange.org, sees that work experience as a key to his organization’s power. Earning money toward loan payments is hugely helpful, especially for recent graduates who are underemployed. Many are also hungry for leadership opportunities, tangible work experience, and the chance to impress leaders in their community or industry.

Hampshire started SponsorChange in Pittsburgh in 2009. The organization is now based in Washington, D.C., with satellite offices in Pittsburgh and Chicago. Graduates who aren’t in those cities can sign up if they connect with a nonprofit organization in their area that has signed up with SponsorChange. Or, Hampshire says, some grads who already are volunteering with an organization in their area have invited that organization to join SponsorChange, so that they can turn a basic volunteer gig into one done for student loan assistance.

Hampshire is working on a program of “virtual volunteering” that he hopes to launch later this year—using digital technology to help graduates battle their crushing debt. Participants would contribute volunteer hours doing work that could be accomplished remotely—such as grant writing or web design—for a nonprofit in another city.


Good CSR – Tech Giant Symantec Supports NYCHA Residents

Earlier this week, Symantec Corp. announced that it is collaborating with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the largest public housing authority in North America,  to provide discounted Norton security software specialist training and internships to NYCHA residents, as part of its ongoing commitment to building strong community relationships.

Symantec will provide job readiness and training initiatives to the more than 400,000 eligible NYCHA residents, who will receive a discount on Norton security software, as well as opportunities to receive specialist certification on software security and participate in Symantec’s internship program. symantec-logo-2011

“Symantec is committed to creating a positive social impact, and we aim to empower people to pursue their career goals through providing access to our products and technical training services,” said Gigi Schumm, vice president and general manager of Symantec’s Public Sector organization. “Providing our products and training solutions to NYCHA residents will open up career opportunities for the underprivileged residents of New York City and provide much needed highly trained employees to the marketplace.”

Symantec donates $19 million in retail value of software each year, globally. Through its Resident Purchase Program, Symantec will provide Norton AntiVirus and security products at a 40 percent discount to NYCHA residents with proof of residency.

“We welcome this strong commitment from Symantec, which will greatly benefit our residents and help reduce the digital divide that impacts our communities,” said NYCHA Chairman, John B. Rhea. “This commitment also assists NYCHA in its efforts to connect our residents to opportunities that will support them in achieving economic stability and success.”

Beyond donating security products, Symantec will offer specialist certification credentials for several security products as a means to validate participants’ technical skills, knowledge and competence. Symantec will also consider NYCHA residents for its internship program.

Have You Heard of Beremedy?

Beremedy is attempting to revolutionize the way you give. Have you heard about it?

It’s an online charity that takes advantage the likes of Facebook and Twitter to spread people`s needs in their community. When you sign, up you will get an email alert or social media post telling you which neighborhood needs your help.

At present, Beremedy is testing the platform  in Atlanta and Oregon.

“It`s a really simple concept. I believe that you would help your neighbor if you knew they needed something. You just don`t know they need it,” said founder Blake Canterbury.

Canterbury and his organization will expand across the nation in a few months, but you can sign up now. Take a look and learn more:

What a Bright Idea!

So, earlier in the week I wrote about NPOs taking on the mindset of Wall Street. Bear with me as I continue on with that theme.

Here’s a bright idea:  Bright Funds, a San Francisco startup takes a “mutual funds approach” to charity donations. Bright-Funds

Donors choose a broad cause – poverty, education, health, water, or environment – and then Bright Funds allocates that money to a variety of nonprofits working on different aspects. For example, “water” includes organizations tackling clean water, sanitation, hygiene, and infrastructure. Your return on investment is not money, they explain, but “the knowledge that your charitable contribution is changing lives, saving resources, and discovering breakthrough technologies.”

You’ll also get updates on how the nonprofits are doing.

Ty Walrod, the cofounder of OutServe for LGBT equality in the military, started Bright Funds with startup veteran Rutul Davè, chief of products and marketing.

Bight Funds seems like a better way to give. What do you think?

Challenge Slavery. Win $5K.

Tech is being used to solve some of humankind’s most pressing problems. I am always impressed when it’s used for good.  That’s why my interest was piqued when I discovered The Challenge Slavery Community’s Campus Challenge.

The competition has been opened since last November and includes a contest for students to propose the best technological solutions to help end trafficking in persons in the developing world.

The  Challenge also includes a research grant competition for graduate students, professors, and scholars at think tanks in the U.S. and overseas to conduct innovative and rigorous research on trafficking in persons. The research grant competition will be held in the spring of 2013.

Last October,, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah launched the Challenge at Pepperdine University, where a panel of experts convened to share insights on the role technology can play to prevent trafficking in persons and provide assistance to victims and survivors. The event was live streamed online and publicized globally with the goal of ending human trafficking. ChallengeSlavery

What’s in it for contestants?

Well, in addition to  the cash prize,  winners will receive an invitation to showcase and discuss ideas with USAID, other donors and organizations focused on combating trafficking.

Interested? Enter here.

Hurry, you’ve only got six days!