EGAL’s 2023 Pitch Competition Underpins the Excellence of UC Berkeley Students
The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) hosted its sixth annual Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition on October 28, 2023. Five teams from UC Berkeley competed, pitching early-stage social ventures to an audience of community members, students, and judges. Each judge provided teams with feedback, ensuring they walked away with valuable insight regardless of their standing in the competition. This year, our team of judges consisted of Birgit Boykin, Managing Director and Global Head of DEI at BlackRock; Misty Gaither, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB+) at Indeed; Ronan Kennedy, Capital’s Vice President of Capital Advisory & Corporate Development; Mei Tao, Product Lead at Monte Carlo Data; and Nuhamin Woldemariam, Senior Global Program Manager on the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIBs) Team at LinkedIn.
The Investing in Inclusion Pitch Competition is an opportunity for graduate students to pitch innovative solutions to issues of exclusion and marginalization. The competition has been growing steadily since 2018. This was a particularly special year for the competition. EGAL decided on a Cal special and included teams from across the UC Berkeley campus. The profound innovation of each team highlighted the determination and wit of the UC Berkeley student body. It was a privilege to bear witness to the five talented groups that engineered business solutions with equality at the top of their minds. We challenge participants to think critically about not only business issues, but those affecting society as well, and the participants went above and beyond to do just that.
The five teams, all presenting a diverse set of solutions, included: Bay Area Wheelchair Tennis, Debunk Information Verifier, Tables Together, Techy Train Incubator, and WeRepresent. This year’s first-prize winner was Techny Train Incubator, with the Tables Together team coming in second place! Techy Train Incubator’s team is made up of Excellence Anurika Joshua and Christiana (Chrissie) Kayode. Chrissie is a visionary design strategist and advocate for women’s inclusion with a diverse background spanning finance, development, cleantech, and healthtech sectors. Excellence Anurika Joshua is a Master of Development Engineering Candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, and a devoted impact entrepreneur. With over four years of experience, she’s an advocate for gender inclusion in tech and a digital skills expert, focusing on empowering girls and women across Africa. As the founder and President of the Techy Train Incubator Foundation, Excellence and her team are dedicated to equipping African girls and women with digital skills and creating job opportunities, impacting over 8,000 individuals from 35 African countries since 2021. Her mission is to empower women, improve communities, and foster entrepreneurship through digital skills.
Tables Together provides a solution for businesses to reduce their food waste and provide meals to people experiencing food insecurity. It also includes crowdsourcing funds from restaurant patrons to help provide meals to people experiencing food insecurity.
Lauren Gamboa, one of the two minds of Tables Together, helped operationalize community-focused enterprises to enhance food equity and access in Los Angeles during the pandemic. She worked in partnership with the board of directors at Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the US. Additionally, Lauren has worked with philanthropic arms of tech companies and the city of Los Angeles to launch a commercial food operation utilizing shutdown kitchen spaces to feed food-insecure populations. As she conducted research and built the financial and operating model for the business, she learned about the vast inefficiencies in our food supply system barring many low-income families from accessing food. While 1 in 5 Los Angeles residents remain food insecure, over a third of food produced is wasted. She is interested in helping build solutions that tackle loss of food supply, which can be redirected to those in need.
For Marissa Maliwanag, the second of the Tables Together pair, food and sustainability have been top of mind for most of her life. In her teens, she volunteered at a local farm to pick surplus produce to donate to food banks. She later went on to work at an ocean-education non-profit teaching K-12 students in California about the ocean and climate change before pivoting to tech startups. What she noticed throughout all phases of life was how sharing meals with others was a way to connect and form deeper relationships. However, she also noticed that not everyone always had access to food or could afford to eat at the same restaurant even if we worked in the same office. In this next venture, she hopes to help create a solution that will allow people to eat together and reduce food waste.
Each team had 10 minutes to present, followed by 5 minutes of Q&A from the judges. After deliberating, the judges presented three teams with a total of $10,000 in prize money to support the continued growth of their ventures.