A Misk session in progress
A Misk session in progress
Ullmann Wealth Partners and the Ullmann Advised Fund has donated $40,000 to the USO Jacksonville to expand the services offered through its Healthy Military Families Initiative.
The donation was a match for funds raised by the USO from various donors in the community.
“We are pleased to support the USO and our military families,” said company president and financial adviser Glenn Ullmann. “This match demonstrates the big impact small business owners and individuals can have to help those military families in need in our local community.”
Ullmann said his wife, Lisa, suggested he find out more about the USO after returning from a Beaches Fund tour that included the charitable organization. The Beaches Fund is a group of 30 local families, including the Ullmanns, who perform philanthropy solely at the Beaches between Mayport and St. Augustine. In the last four years, the group has given away about $1.1 million to address housing, food and transportation issues that challenge those in need.
The USO, which receives no federal funding, started the Healthy Military Families Initiative in 2018 to provide the young families of active duty personnel with critical resources, such as food, diapers and baby formula.
Ullmann recalled that in the early 1980s when he was a junior officer in the U.S. Air Force, the enlisted personnel were always on food stamps.
“Now, fast-forward 40 years, and guess what?” he said. “They’re still on the poverty line.”
He pointed out that COVID-19 has made the situation worse. Where the non-military spouse might have been employed before, the second income has often gone away as the pandemic impacted local businesses.
He asked USO representatives what they needed, and they said they would like to hire a full-time operations person to help run the food bank. The obstacle: It would cost about $80,000 a year.
So, Ullmann offered to donate $40,000 a year for two years if the USO could raise the rest. And people responded.
A successful business owner who married into a family with a notable philanthropic history – Lisa Ullmann’s father was Henri Landwirth, the man who founded Give Kids The World and Dignity U Wear – Ullman said anyone can be a philanthropist.
“Even if you are putting money into the Salvation Army pot, that’s philanthropy,” he said. “If you are giving to the Red Cross when there’s a hurricane, that’s philanthropy. It doesn’t have to have $10 million behind it. There’s a lot that businesses can do.”
He suggested that people seeking a place to start should contact The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. Those interested in doing some charitable giving specific to the Beaches can contact The Beaches Fund. In fact, Ullmann said people looking to help can call him at his business.
For further information, go to the Community Foundation’s website at jaxcf.org.
Digital financing is key to getting the #SDGs back on track from the social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. New #PeoplesMoney report from the @UN Secretary-General’s @UNDFTaskForce outlines solutions to #RecoverBetter: https://t.co/SBIQl5qb9Epic.twitter.com/CdJoNNydTl
— UN Development (@UNDP) August 26, 2020
The report, “People’s Money: Harnessing Digitalization to Finance a Sustainable Future”, was released by the UN Secretary-General’s Task Force on Digital Finance on Wednesday.
The Task Force, led by UN development chief Achim Steiner, and made up of senior figures from the tech sector, financial institutions, governments, and UN bodies, was set up by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in 2018, to improve understanding of the benefits and risks of the fast-moving financial technology (fintech) and digital finance sectors.
The initiative is part of the UN chief’s strategy to support financing for the 2030 Agenda, the UN’s blueprint for a better future, for people and the planet. The financing needs for the Agenda, Mr. Guterres said in 2018, are in the order of between $5 and $7 trillion per year. The shift to digital, conclude the authors of the People’s Money report, could provide the means to meet those projected costs.
“Digital technologies, which are revolutionizing financial markets, can be a game-changer in meeting our shared objectives”, said Mr. Guterres in response to the launch of the report. “The Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals provides leadership to harness the digital revolution.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the popularity of digital tools has grown rapidly, and demonstrates the potential of digital finance to provide relief for millions around the world, support businesses and protect jobs and livelihoods.
Speaking to UN News, Mr. Steiner outlined the acceleration effect of the pandemic. “Things that we anticipated would happen over the next few years, have happened in weeks. The pandemic has allowed governments to see the importance of overcoming traditional limitations, and identifying and reaching the most vulnerable.”
Examples include digital cash transfers, which have helped millions of people in Pakistan, the connection of schools to broadband, and governments and parliaments connecting remotely in ways that are now common practice, he added.
The widespread adoption of smartphones, continued Mr. Steiner, puts powerful digital tools in the hands of more than a billion people, allowing them to work, socialize, and manage their finances. He emphasized the importance of remodelling the financial system, to underscore the fact that the trillions of dollars’ worth of investment flowing around the world, ultimately come from ordinary people.
“Citizens are the owners of this wealth, which is made up of pensions, and savings. The Task Force was keen to bring back the notion that the citizen is at the centre of the economy. Citizens need greater transparency, and to have a say over where their pension contributions go. And, as well as returns for investors, we also need to see public purpose benefits. Digital finance is a significant opportunity for citizens to re-engage, because this is a way to address major challenges, such as climate change.”
The report identifies five ways for harnessing digitalization, which cover much of global finance. Firstly, the huge amounts of money flowing around the world needs to be invested in a way that supports the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. Public finances need to be more effective and accountable. Savings need to be invested for long-term development projects, using digital tools. And there needs to be more financing for small and medium-sized businesses, which are crucial for generating employment and income.
A key message of the report is that digitalization, and the way that it is used, is a choice, not an inevitability. There are considerable digital risks, such as increased exclusion, discrimination and inequalities. The five action areas point the way for governments to use digitalization for good.
Klara, a digital health company that enables healthcare organizations to easily communicate with patients, announced its $15 million financing. The round was led by Gradient Ventures and Frist Cressey Ventures and included participation from existing investors Firstmark Capital, Project A Ventures, Lerer Hippeau and Stage 2 Capital.
Klara will use the funding to further transform its patient-provider experience, by growing its team, enhancing its core product and building out AI-driven automation.
The Fenwick transaction team included corporate partner Evan Bienstock (Picture) and associates Matthew Holbreich and Han Ko.
Law Firms: Fenwick & West LLP;
India entered an unprecedented period of uncertainty when the national coronavirus lockdown was imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi four months ago, on March 24, 2020. Though the country has lurched through a series of lockdowns since then, a number of entrepreneurship support organisations has supported founders through these tough times.
IIM Bangalore’s N.S. Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) has conducted over 45 events for startups over the past four months, and assisted dozens of startups with incubation support. NSRCEL was founded to promote education and research relating to entrepreneurship, support founders, and connect them to the broader ecosystem (see our earlier profile here).
Over the years, 500 startups have gone through NSRCEL’s programme and benefited from access to mentors, industry connects, and the IIM-B alumni community.
“These are trying times for all. But we believe this is also the best opportunity for entrepreneurs to show what they are made of,” explains Venkatesh Panchapagesan, Chairperson, NSRCEL, in a chat with YourStory.
“When life throws a lemon at you, make lemonade even if you had started with orange juice in mind. That’s the message we are drilling into our ventures,” he evocatively explains.
“All of our pre-COVID operations have seamlessly transitioned to the virtual world, including social get-togethers over Zoom and Airmeet,” he says. “We have added new support programmes like mental health counselling and crisis management sessions with alumni who have navigated crises before.”
“The best part of it all is that we have unhinged from our Bangalore roots and opened up to ideas and entrepreneurs across the country in a big way,” Venkatesh enthuses.
“Entrepreneurship is said to be risky, but as a country, we are past the stage of merely encouraging people to start up. We have built an ecosystem to help entrepreneurship from starting to scaling through mentorship and connection through our network,” explains Vikyath Nanjappa, Head of Startup Incubation, NSRCEL.
NSRCEL’s flagship pre-incubation programme, Launchpad moved from offline to online to help startups across the country. “We have, in the past four months, on-boarded 60+ startups for this,” Vikyath proudly says.
With a staff strength of 25, the centre offers sector-specific programmes in the pipeline for mobility, health-tech, and agri-tech startups. NSRCEL has also launched the Women Startup Programme, regarded as one of India’s biggest for women entrepreneurs.
“We have had three times the number of events that we organised pre-lockdown. We have also organised several events for entrepreneurs even outside NSRCEL and impacted larger audiences on various topics,” Vikyath adds.
Webinar topics include Attracting online customers, Fundraising in crises, Resilience in the workplace, Pivoting strategies in combating COVID-19, and Improving customer service. The series called A Smarter Startup was launched as a series of four weekly webinars on communication and branding.
“We have also built a community of SaaS founders. It addresses topics like Building a Product–led Growth Strategy,” he adds.
The attendees of curated events for the startups range from 35 to 50, while the events for the wider audience community attract 250-500 participants. Founders form 60 percent of the total audience, with the rest being startup employees (17 percent), aspiring entrepreneurs (13 percent), and others like analysts and consultants (10 percent).
“NSRCEL has scaled its operations in this challenging time to reach out to the larger startup ecosystem across the country,” Vikyath says. The intake of startups is increasing, and partnerships have been formed with corporates like ICICI Securities, HDFC Bank, Maruti Suzuki, Goldman Sachs, and Capgemini.
“In addition to this, during lockdown, we partnered with ICICI Securities and on-boarded 25 fintech startups for pre-incubation,” he says.
Partnerships have also been formed with other educational institutes. This includes opportunities for students to enroll in internships with the startups.
NSRCEL has partnered with Capgemini in India in supporting social ventures. “Our partnership is unique as this is the first time we are making a multi-year commitment to our social startups to help them scale their operations and enhance their impact,” Vikyath says.
Through NSRCEL, government bodies like The Department of Science & Technology, NITI Aayog, and The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology continue to support more startups. This happens via different schemes and programmes, and expediting support for COVID-19 solutions.
“One of our recent initiatives in the healthcare space was that we supported the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS) to run a virtual innovation challenge,” Vikyath explains. It was attended by medical students, doctors, and innovators in the medical domain.
“For the first time ever, five top institutes — RGUHS, IIM-B, IIIT-B, IISc, and BBC (Bangalore Bioinnovation Centre) – had collaborated to run an event of this scale in the medical domain. The event was inaugurated by the Prime Minister, where he highlighted the need for medical innovation in India,” he says.
“For the agritech space, NSRCEL has taken many steps such as supporting the Principal Scientific Advisor’s office on the webinar series Kisanmitr,” Vikyath says. It includes farmers, government officials, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
NSRCEL also launched ‘Voices from the Field’ in collaboration with the Buddha Fellowship. It helped farmers, SHG members, FPOs and community activists with discussion on issues like financial support and rural credit policies in COVID-19 times.
“We also conducted an ‘AMA’ (Ask Me Anything) session with a special focus on the agri-food sector,” Vikyath adds. MSME and DIPP sessions were organised online with updates on topics like regulatory waivers.
NSRCEL conducted various events during the pandemic crisis for the Goldman Sachs ‘10,000 Women’ alumni community. Topics covered included Managing People Remotely, Crafting New Realities, Building Locally-relevant Products, Developing Leadership Networks, and Strategising for Post-COVID-19 World using Scenario Mapping.
Other topics were Introduction to Platform Business, Anatomy of a Crisis, New Opportunity Identification, Embracing Change in Challenging Times, Decision-making Using Data, and Getting the Best of your Teams.
“As COVID-19 continues its disruption, the biggest challenge entrepreneurs are facing is how to adapt to this new normal. At NSRCEL, we are helping startups implement new models and ways of working. In the past four months, we have mentored close to 300 startups as part of our on-going mentoring effort,” Vikyath explains.
“We organised a session for our startups on Taming Adversity, where founders shared their experiences, mistakes and learnings from the economic crisis of 2009-2010,” he adds.
Another big challenge entrepreneurs are facing is how to increase their sales in the environment where consumer behaviour is changing drastically. “To address this, we brought together investors and entrepreneurs on how to identify and implement new sales channels during the pandemic crisis. They gave entrepreneurs insights on how to do sales effectively in the digital world,” Vikyath says.
Managing costs effectively is another key challenge for startups. “It is very critical to calculate your burn rate and identify areas where it can be reduced. To help the startups overcome this challenge, NSRCEL is connecting IIM students to do projects and internships for our ventures and help them operate more efficiently in the new normal,” he says.
“Edtech, agritech, and healthtech are the sectors that have recorded an increase in their revenues and customer base, embracing the new normal,” Vikyath observes. For example, the transformation to remote teaching has been accelerated.
One of NSRCEL’s edtech startups, Coursebook (SaaS-based platform to help training and coaching institutes go online) is supporting its customers by offering services at minimal costs. “Due to the increasing demand for telemedicine, Coursebook has also modified its dashboard so that doctors can provide tele-consultation using their platform,” Vikyath explains.
Kutuki is a learning app for Indian pre-schoolers, with songs, stories, and books for different age groups. It is supporting parents and children during the lockdown with simplified and contextual content.
Agrimitra (farm equipment rentals startups) is supporting farmers sell vegetables to consumers directly as a subscription. Agrimitra doubled its revenue during the first 15 days of the lockdown, according to Vikyath.
“There has also been a considerable rise in healthcare ventures working on preventive measures,” he adds. For example, Medpiper Technologies connects authenticated, verified doctors and healthcare professionals to duty opportunities at hospitals and healthcare organisations.
“They have launched a free marketplace for connecting PPE, essentials and sanitiser manufacturers to hospitals in need,” he says. Two other startups, CHMI and PupilMesh from the India Innovation Challenge Design Contest (IICDC) programme, are developing and manufacturing PPEs, ventilators, face shields and valves.
NSRCEL’s partners from venture capital firms like Blume Ventures, Indian Angel Networks, and Prime Venture have met startups virtually. They conducted sessions on Trends in Fundingfor AI, heathtech, SaaS, consumer tech, and edtech.
NSRCEL has also conducted closed room sessions with investors and VCs to understand their views about funding. “They are interested in companies that can grow their business despite the pandemic, through focus on sales and partnership strategies,” Vikyath says.
Startups need to approach investors with the right plan and positive outlook. “There still are good funding opportunities for startups, and a lot of new programmes and sources for funding,” Vikyath says.
The NSRCEL team offers a range of tips and advice for entrepreneurs during these tough times. “It is important to assess the situation as most sectors are looking to digitise and some may have a lot of headwind. Tracking cash flow, reducing non-critical expenditure, and increasing runway is an exercise a startup has to keep reviewing,” Vikyath advises.
“This is the time for everyone to collaborate with large companies who are also looking to partner with innovative startups. Survival has to be the imperative focus for startups. Work on the strategies that help you retain your current customers and referral through them,” he adds.
For early-stage ventures, being able to pivot is critical for growth. “We think that startups need to be true to their core, but may have to relook at their business model or customer segment to align themselves to the new consumer behaviour due to the crisis,” says Vikyath. A pivot in product offerings that are short term to help cash flow may be necessary.
Staying physically, mentally and emotionally fit is also key in these turbulent times. “The COVID-19 pandemic is most likely the greatest challenge that this generation has to face. The outbreak has forced people to physically isolate, and it is no wonder that anxiety is on rise,” he cautions.
“It is very crucial to keep yourself fit mentally. As an entrepreneur, you need to take a lot of key decisions and those can be taken only with a peaceful mind. In order to switch off from work, it is important to engage in an activity that is completely different,” Vikyath adds.
Engaging with a community of founders helps, along with casual conversations on topics other than business. “We have seen founders arrange fun online activity with their employees at least once a week to create a fun environment between balancing work and household duties in the current time,” he observes.
NSRCEL has joined hands with YourDost,the emotional wellness platform, to provide support to incubated startups. This includes professional help on career, relationships, work-life balance, and other concerns.
Over 90 ventures are currently in the pre-incubation stage across NSRCEL’s different programmes. “NSRCEL plans to add agritech and healthtech soon to its portfolio of incubation programmes. “Very soon, we are also coming up with the programme for mobility startups,” Vikyath adds.
“We are focusing on finding opportunities in this crisis. We have scaled up our initiatives and programmes in the last four months. We have made all our programmes virtual and this is also helping the startups that are located remotely,” he explains.
“To enable networking among our entrepreneurs, we also run no-agenda catchups. The current crisis has made us accelerate our plan for running programs virtually,” Vikyath signs off.