MIT awards $1 million in Inclusive Innovation Challenge

An AI-driven assistant for at-risk students and a last mile delivery platform are among the winners.

By Kara Baskin  |  October 13, 2017


A driver uses Logistimo in India. The last mile delivery company was one of four MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge grand prize winners.

Why It Matters

The laws of economics don’t guarantee prosperity for everyone. At the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge, companies improving economic opportunity for workers on the lower rungs of the economic ladder received more than $1 million to continue their work.

The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy awarded more than $1 million in prize money Oct. 12 in its second annual MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge. The event, part of HUBweek 2017, celebrated for-profit and non-profit organizations that use technology to improve economic opportunity for workers on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

The IIC awarded $150,000 to each of the four grand prize winners, and $35,000 each to 12 runners-up competing in four categories: financial inclusion; income growth and job creation; skills and matching; and technology access.

The goal of the competition, said MIT Sloan Professor Erik Bryniolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, is “not only prosperity, but shared prosperity.”

Approximately 1,000 organizations from around the world competed, and 160 judges reviewed the applications.

The grand prize winners were:

LaunchCode (Skills and Matching)

LaunchCode expands the American tech workforce by providing free coding education to jobseekers who lack traditional credentials. It uses a low-cost, scalable model that replicates in-person coding classes, followed by matching them to paid apprenticeships with hundreds of companies. More than four out of five apprentices become full-time hires.

AdmitHub (Technology Access)

Even though 2.5 million U.S. students enroll at colleges each year, 48 percent fail to earn a degree within six years. Dropouts disproportionately come from underserved communities, which costs the U.S. an estimated $4.5 billion in lost earnings and taxes each year, according to AdmitHub. The company designed an artificial intelligence-driven virtual assistant for these students to receive round-the-clock personalized support.  

EFL (Financial Inclusion)

Three billion people worldwide lack the credit history that lenders require for loans. EFL uses psychometric and behavioral science-based credit scoring to approve potential borrowers who might be unable to get credit otherwise. The company applies its work to loan repayment, providing insight into how personality drives credit risk across cultures, allowing users to score potential borrowers anywhere at any time. EFL has lent $1.5 billion in loans across 15 countries, aiming to empower lenders to grow with less risk.

Logistimo (Income and Jobs)

Villages in many rural communities lack access to essential goods, disconnecting them from mainstream value chains. Logistimo’s digital auction-based platform — using demand aggregation, load/route/schedule optimization, and fulfillment tracking — better connects demand to local capacity. The company’s approach supports milk runs and line-hauls, integrating trucks, bikes, boats, and drones. In less than two years the company has managed 24,000 deliveries for 1,000 customers, and created more than 80 jobs.