Partnership for Inclusive Innovation Announces Two New Innovate for All Projects

By mordavis | February 23, 2022, 12:02pm EDT

ATLANTA — The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation has selected two projects to be funded in 2022 for the third cohort of its Innovate for All program: Retaaza’s Fresh Food Forward and Startup Runway Georgia. These two projects aim to impact Georgians across 9 of the state’s 12 economic development regions.

Innovate for All supports a portfolio of projects that scale essential innovative programs, services, and technology deployments across the state. Through these efforts, selected projects help empower and sustain access to resources that create economic opportunities for Georgia’s rural, suburban, and urban centers, with a focus on the people and places that are often overlooked as innovation hubs.

“These two selected projects address two longstanding challenges that exist not only in Georgia but across the country: food insecurity and waste, and underrepresented communities’ access to capital in the startup sector,” said Debra Lam, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation’s executive director. “Our Innovate for All awardees are dedicated to increasing and improving access, growth, and entrepreneurship all over Georgia. What they do here could serve as a blueprint or model for other parts of the country facing similar challenges.”

Retaaza’s Fresh Food Forward
Kashi Sehgal and Casey Cox of Retaaza met during the Georgia Innovates Taskforce, an initiative of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor that led to the Partnership’s creation. Sehgal, a serial entrepreneur, and Cox, a farmer, were inspired to change the local food system model across Georgia. Fresh Food Forward — a woman and minority-owned social enterprise — strives to make local food more accessible and affordable. It directly supports community farmers and feeds families that are struggling with food insecurity through partnerships with community organizations. Kashi Sehgal stresses agriculture is Georgia’s top industry yet one in eight Georgians experience food insecurity. “It’s estimated that more than 2 million tons of food from farms is wasted in Georgia every year. We directly support our communities’ farmers, reconnect consumers to their food, and feed families struggling with food insecurity. What makes us different is that we bring security and stability to both ends of the supply chain by buying, selling, and donating fresh local Georgia food.”

Over the course of the project, Retaaza aims to rescue 100,000+ pounds of food waste while donating nearly 20,000 pounds of food through Fresh Food Forward. With the Innovate for All funding, Fresh Food Forward will expand operations from Southeast Georgia to Atlanta, Savannah, and Southwest Georgia.

Startup Runway Georgia
Based off the successful Startup Runway out of Valor VC, Startup Runway Georgia aims to connect underrepresented Georgian founders to their first check. The focus is on tech founders outside of Metro Atlanta. Over the course of the next 24 months Startup Runway Georgia will host six local pitch competitions for startup founders to learn how to raise capital and connect them to investors. Startup Runway aims to award 12 grants to underrepresented founders and connect with 250 underrepresented entrepreneurs in Georgia. Startup Runway Executive Director Mecca Tartt said her mission with the organization is to create opportunities to connect underrepresented founders to their first check writers. “The time is now to create a more inclusive ecosystem through collaboration with VCs and more grants to underrepresented founders. ’Diversity and inclusion’ is not a trendy phrase — creating an inclusive ecosystem for all entrepreneurs is a necessity to the success of all businesses throughout Georgia,” Tartt said. “Women and minority founders still receive less than two percent of funding. Creating a more inclusive ecosystem for all entrepreneurs is not just the right thing to do, it’s a necessity. Startup Runway Georgia is doing the work, day in and day out to impact change and move the needle forward.”

About the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation
The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (The Partnership) is a public-private partnership that launched in 2020 to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the Technology Capital of the East Coast. Dedicated to advancing innovation, opportunity and shared economic success across the state, the organization’s focus on community research, student engagement and pilot programs is a powerful combination that establishes Georgia as a living lab for inclusive innovation. Under the guidance of board chair G.P. Bud Peterson and executive director Debra Lam, the Partnership seeks to help foster access, growth, entrepreneurship, and innovation throughout the state. For information about the Partnership and these two Innovate for All projects, please visit pingeorgia.org.

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