Friday, September 10 - Sunday, September 12, 2021

Winning ventures

  • 1st Place: Soluminos
  • 2nd Place: THIMBLE
  • 3rd Place: Moby
  • Top Environmental Venture: Soluminos
  • Top Health & Wellness Venture: THIMBLE
  • Top Social/Economic Inclusivity Venture: Opal
  • Best Undergraduate Venture: Pattern
  • Crowd Favorite: Authentic Housing

The top 10 ventures from Round 1 pitched their innovative solution to a live panel of investors, including a 3-minute pitch and 3-minute Q&A. Following these pitches and deliberation by the judges, the top ventures were selected and awarded the following prizes. These prizes are intended to both recognize their impressive accomplishment and to help these ventures further refine their ideas and prepare them for a successful launch.

Congratulations to all our venture teams that participated and pitched over the weekend!

Check out photos →


Applications received:

Founders seeking team members
Participants seeking teams
Advisors, Mentors, Investors/Judges
Columbia Schools Represented

Workshop Leaders



Advisors & Mentors

Thank you to our supporters

Enabling innovators and changemakers






Information for Participants​

Schedule and Weekend Overview

Preparation Materials and Announcements are shared via the Hacking for Humanity Slack workspace. First sign up on Airtable above, and you’ll then receive an invitation to join the Slack workspace. A Guide for Teams will also be shared when you complete the individual and team registration form.

Connect with Teams

Cross-Campus Resources


Hacking for Humanity will take place from Friday, September 10, 2021 at 3:00p.m. ET to Sunday, September 12 at 5:00pm ET. See Schedule for details.

Hacking for Humanity is an opportunity to initiate and get traction for startup ideas that are focused on solving a problem for people and/or the planet. There are many terms used to describe such ventures including: “impact ventures”, “double bottom line”, “double impact”, “triple bottom line”, “sustainable”, “ESG”, and others. We use the term social ventures, which is inclusive of all solutions leveraging new technologies, research-based ideas, and innovations that can span a broad range of topics, fields, and industries. These ventures offer compelling business models which are scalable and attractive to impact investors and funders seeking targeted and (in most cases) large scalable market opportunities.

Any startup idea that is aimed at tackling a problem affecting people or the planet. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provides a useful framework for possible topics. As reference, consider current examples of Columbia-affiliated social ventures. Ideas can have a local, national, or global focus. Such startups may be based in NYC, anywhere in the U.S., or abroad. For-profit and hybrid nonprofit/for-profit venture and innovative, self-sustaining, nonprofit ideas are eligible. This would include, but not be limited to, ventures concerning health and wellness, climate impact, environmental sustainability, edtech, foodtech, civtech, fintech, insurtech, journalism/new media, urbantech/smart cities, sustainable tourism, real estate/community development, human rights/social issues, and economic or digital inclusivity, etc.

We anticipate that the Hackathon will function in a HyFlex format, with events offered both in person on Columbia’s campus and as virtual live participation via Zoom, Slack, and Remo. Speakers and workshops will be recorded for those participating in time zones that make it difficult to attend all sessions live. Due to University guidelines, only Columbia students (current), researchers, faculty, and staff (but not alumni) who have completed all ReopenCU requirements and can show a daily green pass, can attend in person on campus at The Forum (Broadway & 125th St). CUID swipe access is connected to your online green pass via the ReopenCU app. Unfortunately there are no exceptions to these campus building restrictions this fall semester. All others are more than welcome to join us online.

We are looking to build an interdisciplinary community of participants including Columbia students, researchers, faculty, and professionals from our local community networks and beyond who have domain expertise, experience, and skills such as AI, data science, policy, community perspectives, startup experience, venture investing, and more. Diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experience levels are welcome! All teams should have at least one Columbia student to participate.

This hackathon, as well as the B8527: Social Venture Incubator half semester course, is designed to assist founders at the idea stage as well as those with ventures a bit farther along. Each workshop leader will be presenting tools, frameworks, and tips from their own experiences as founders to guide participants along the iterative learning cycles of a founder’s journey.

Cross-campus collaboration is encouraged because successful founding teams are made up of people with different functional skill sets, experiences, and perspectives. The tasks involved are designed for teams of 3-4 members to brainstorm, divide and individually contribute, collaboratively synthesize, and prepare for next steps. Each team member will have a unique but fluid role reflective of the tasks and skills involved to design, validate, launch, get traction, and finance a startup. Interviewing experts and potential customers and partners is part of the discovery and validation process.

Everyone should join a team prior to the Hackathon. Use the “Founders seeking team members” and “Team members seeking ventures” forms above to express your interest. You will then receive an email invitation to join the Columbia Hacking for Humanity Slack workspace to see responses from others and find your team. Two hosted team building mixers/speed networking events online prior this hackathon, will also provide opportunities to meet other participants. If you already have a group, feel free to work with them, but we strongly advise ensuring that you have a range of talent, backgrounds, skills, and interdisciplinary perspectives drawn from across the Columbia network, local communities, and beyond. Diverse and inclusive teams generate more insights, make better decisions, and produce more robust venture solutions and outcomes!

Each team will be matched to at least 1-2 mentors and have access to a specialist mentor pool serving all teams. During the Hackathon, students will engage with a series of speakers and workshops that will provide them with the tools to use over the 3 days. Topics will include design thinking, customer discovery, business model testing, data analytics and metrics, pitching, and more. Students will have access to a participant guide that will provide additional resources, frameworks, tools, and advice.

We strongly recommend that anyone participating in Columbia’s Hacking for Humanity should not request nor sign an NDA.

Generally NDAs are viewed in university environments as compromising academic freedom, an important core value of universities, to freely educate, discuss, publish, and share ideas and insights.

Instead, you and your team should seek to involve as many people as possible in helping to develop solutions to your target problem and solicit as many informed and insightful opinions as you can. Getting tangled in concerns over product secrecy and idea ownership at the expense of gaining quality feedback is detrimental to most startup and early stage ventures. Instead, you should seek as many peers, diverse opinions and advisors/mentors who are willing to listen to your ideas and offer the benefit of their expertise, to improve, pivot and iterate your venture ideas.

Your greatest value as a founder is how you find and execute product-market fit and rally people behind you to do so.

Please note that your pitching documents will be shared with many people who will not sign NDAs, and will be publicly accessible.  It is an essential element of networking for your success.

Participants will finish the Hackathon with a rudimentary Minimum Viable Product (MVP, no coding), a discovery/validation driven business model draft, a simple pitch deck, demo day experience, and a great time with new networks and stronger relationships inside and outside the University. Teams will pitch to an expert panel of judges, connect to a wider audience of mentors, advisors, and impact investors, and compete for recognition, cash awards and prizes to further develop their ventures. Note that all teams should have at least one current Columbia/Barnard student to be eligible for awards and prizes.

Columbia student team members can apply to take the B8527: Hacking for Humanity and the Planet Venture Incubator in the fall or spring to continue developing their ventures. Non-student team members are welcome guests for this course. Columbia University also has a range of related coursework and resources including business plan competitions, accelerators, and investment funds, including the Tamer Fund for Social Ventures. Explore more online here.

Other questions? Please contact us.

For updates, follow us on social media and use #Hack4HumanityCU