SX Startups: Samaritan Helps Homeless
Fifty startups have been named finalists for the 2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event, taking place March 10 and 11. Winners in each of 10 categories will be honored at the Accelerator Award Ceremony at 7 pm Sunday, March 11, at the Hilton Austin, Salon AB. Meet all 50 finalists on Monday, March 12, at the SXSW Accelerator Demo Day, at the Hilton Austin, Salon C. The SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event takes place within the Startup & Tech Sectors track of programming.
A finalist in the Social & Culture Technology category, Samaritan exists to help city-goers learn about and directly invest in people experiencing homelessness in their communities. Nonprofits distribute small bluetooth beacons to unsheltered citizens, enabling residents with the Samaritan app to learn the stories of people they pass by daily, and donate into a fund the beacon holder can use with a counselor’s help.
Founder Jonathan Kumar spoke about his program, which is currently being used in Seattle, Wash. See the Samaritan pitch in person at 11 am Saturday, March 10, in the Hilton Austin, Salon AB.
What do you know now that you wish you had known before you began the startup journey with Samaritan?
I wish I would’ve started with a bit more knowledge on all the stakeholders at play here. In addition to someone experiencing homelessness and the person who wants to help, we need to have Samaritan be a “win” for nonprofit and retail partners in Seattle, as well as for the licensor who’s bringing Samaritan into the city. We started with a straightforward premise: “create a simple, effective way to help someone you see on the street.” The “effective” part involves creating a web of care among retailers and nonprofits, which doesn’t come automatically. If we had started with good partnerships from the beginning, “selling into” nonprofits from the start, we wouldn’t have had to do everything ourselves in Seattle. Learning to work through partners and help them grow too is something we’re figuring out, before we deploy Samaritan into another market.
What does Samaritan hope to accomplish in 2018?
Some U.S. cities are spending over $250 million a year on homelessness, only to see it increase. This year Samaritan will grow its Seattle hardware and service into a scalable product that can help cities turn the tide in the battle against homelessness.
What inspires your team to work harder?
People like Edward.
As you haven’t been to SXSW before, what is the most intriguing thing that you’ve heard about the event?
We’ve heard of people putting down incredible status, successes and clout to be a true friend to anyone. That’s part of our mission at Samaritan and I’m personally excited to experience it in Austin.
Who are you looking to network with at SXSW 2018?
Potential licensors (organizations that would pay to bring Samaritan into their cities).
What do you enjoy most about the startup experience?
Seeing eyes opened for city-goers with the app, and lives changed for people with a beacon.
What aspects of the startup experience do you enjoy least?
Staying on top of important incoming email, so I can stay on top of all the outbound email that needs to happen.
What has the startup experience taught you about life?
To take the time you spend consuming and spend it producing.
For what you do on a day-to-day basis at Samaritan, what does work-life balance look like?
It’s sadly pretty bad right now. I’m seeing someone about it, and still am trying to figure it out. My girlfriend Jackie has been incredibly accommodating and supportive.
Other than Samaritan, what is world’s the most intriguing startup at present?
I really like what Steve Dzeidzic is doing with Lasting to make marriage better. And I think we can all learn from Willie G.’s Party on Demand pitch.
You can invite any three living people in the world to dinner. Who do you invite and why?
The first would be Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. I was once an undersized quarterback too! How does he see over the offensive line? How can I throw further? How does he keep and grow his relationship with God? How might he invest in Samaritan? Next is Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square. I can’t even manage one startup well enough, he does two! I’d love to learn his secrets and have him as an ally. I actually saw him on the street in San Francisco a few weeks ago and pitched him on Samaritan. I don’t know if we’ll get dinner, but we’re in touch over email now. My third invite goes to Pope Francis: Beyond startups and accomplishing things for the world, I believe there is a personal and spiritual realm that is even more important. Who better to learn from?
Look for interviews with other SXSW Accelerator finalists in this space between now and March 9. Startups already profiled as part of this series include 70MillionJobs, AfterNow, AirPop, ARwall, Bluefield, Cambridge Cancer Genomics, Commutifi, DashTag, FanFood, FutureFuel.io, Goalsetter, HealthTensor, Instreamatic, Leaf, Moms Can: Code, Pawame, PolyPort, Sceenic, Switchboard, UPGRADED, USHR and Vochlea.
Or, click here to browse the full lineup of startups for SXSW Accelerator 2018.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.