The elegantly designed iPhone cases sold by one New York City startup don’t just raise awareness for prostate cancer. (The deadly disease will afflict one out of six men in their lifetime.) Seven dollars from the purchase of each case, priced at $34.95, will go directly to prostate cancer research, the company website says.
And it doesn’t stop there. CrowdCases connects nonprofit organizations with a community of graphic designers who can submit designs for smartphone cases to benefit the charity. The company has amassed a community of more than 300 designers who work on projects for many other causes.
The company’s website features weekly “design challenges” for iPhone and Samsung Galaxy cases. Other projects have included an anti-bullying campaign and a clean water campaign. A PDF gives non-profit organizations a guide for working with CrowdCases to create design contests of their own.
Winner of a Startup Competition
CrowdCases was the winner of a startup competition for budding entrepreneurs. The startup won first prize in the recent SmartPitch Challenge held by Baruch College. CrowdCases founder Dwight Peters is a junior at the college. He said the contest gives a tremendous leg up to young entrepreneurs.
“I can’t stress enough how valuable the co-working events were,” Peters explained. “Just having a comfortable environment where you can bounce ideas off of other people is so important.”
Baruch College started the SmartPitch Challenge 11 years ago to encourage entrepreneurship among New York City students.
Instead of a traditional contest, SmartPitch aims to be more of a social community that encourages all of the participants and gives them a way to help one another.
“We want to show them that entrepreneurship isn’t just a one-shot opportunity, it’s more of a growing process,” said Christoph Winkler, assistant professor in entrepreneurship at Baruch College. “So we try to just provide them with a supportive atmosphere where they can get some real feedback and grow their ideas, similar to some of the startup communities around New York City and the rest of the country.”
It is open to all students at schools in New York City, who can work on their business ideas either individually or in teams. Baruch hosts co-working events around the city so that students can get together to share ideas and support one another. There is also an online message board and social media community for the students to communicate virtually.
In addition, students have access to business mentors such as venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs throughout the challenge.
This year, SmartPitch had more than 80 new business submissions. On June 6, 2013 the college hosted the final event, which is meant to mimic a professional demo day.
Winkler said that some of the student entrepreneurs choose to launch their businesses before the end of the challenge, and others continue to work on them afterward. An official launch isn’t necessary to be considered. The top three individuals or teams received monetary prizes to further their businesses, while the top five teams also won the opportunity to participate in a Virtual Business Incubator.
Runners up included a specialty brand of Greek yogurt and a website that helps users find Kosher food for delivery.