Introducing our latest investment: HandUp, directly helping those in need

Lately, we have seen a growing number of entrepreneurs taking aim to solve the key issues facing our local and global communities. From improving transportation to optimizing neighborhood water usage and encouraging investments in municipal bonds, innovative start-ups are trying to make a difference.

Along these lines, we are thrilled to announce our investment in HandUp, a platform that lets you donate directly to a person in need simply by sending a text. San Francisco-based web designer Rose Broome and mobile developer Zac Witte created the app to address two key challenges in the current system:

  • While individuals and households donate $26 billion to human services like shelters and food banks, there is little transparency as to how effective these donations are, and how much of it actually goes to those in-need. We often hear stories about the high overhead associated with many non-profit organizations.
  • We all want to directly and immediately help those in need within our community – for example, when we see a panhandler standing on the street corner. However, it’s hard to know if this is the best way to help that person and if the cash will go to the wrong purchases.

HandUp solves both of these issues. People in-need sign up for a HandUp membership through nonprofit partners already working in the community. Donors can contribute to a specific member through their web profile or SMS. Funds can only be used at a HandUp partner organization (i.e. Project Homeless Connect) for food, medical care, gift cards to grocery stores and pharmacies, and other basic needs. HandUp is currently working in San Francisco and plans to expand into other cities by end of the year.

The company has been featured on CNN and Bloomberg News, and was named one of Fast Company’s most innovative startups.

Rose and Zac are alumni of Tumml, the first urban ventures accelerator. We’re incredibly excited to be working with them on this important mission. Version One is co-investing alongside SV Angel and some prominent angels.

The beauty of HandUp’s approach is that it’s simple, personal, and yields virtually instantaneous results. It fits into Version One’s investment thesis that civic startups need to innovate and get traction outside of the current system (Boris earlier blogged about the opportunities to disrupt government earlier).

To learn more, visit or follow @HandUp on Twitter.

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