22 Social Impact Startups in San Francisco Using Tech for Good

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Jun. 14, 2024
22 Social Impact Startups in San Francisco Using Tech for Good

As technology continues to advance, our connections with the world have grown stronger. With this stronger global relationship, there is a greater responsibility to react and respond to matters facing the world’s communities. Many people in the tech community have felt this call to action and are striving to make an impact on issues both far away and close to home. 

Startups throughout the San Francisco Bay Area are hard at work reinventing the ways in which people interact with each other and live their lives. These socially-minded companies are prompting impactful change, whether it’s through political activism, youth scholarships, food sustainability or crowdfunded healthcare. At these social impact startups in San Francisco, tech has the power to transform lives for good. 

Social Impact Startups in San Francisco To Know

  • Course Hero
  • Grand Rounds
  • Benchling
  • GoodRX
  • Coursera
  • Kiva.org
  • Planet
  • Aurora Solar
  • Remix
  • Zume

 

Founded: 2019

Location: San Francisco, California

What they do: With a focus on “equality in financial opportunity,” Kikoff offers tools to help consumers improve their financial health. Signing up for a Kikoff credit account gives users access to a $750 line of credit they can use to finance purchases. As Kikoff members make on-time monthly payments without the burden of fees or interest, they build a positive payment history that translates over time into a better credit score. The company also offers its Secured Credit Card that works like a debit card, but still provides credit building benefits. Kikoff accounts don’t require credit checks to set up and members can use the autopay feature to avoid missed payments. The company says its technology has helped members increase their credit scores by a collective 9.6 million points, allowing them to eventually qualify for better car loans or mortgages.

 

Founded: 2011

Location: San Francisco

What they do: Grand Rounds removes much of the stress from the healthcare decision making process for both companies and individuals, using a combination of automation and human capabilities for better assistance. The platform’s machine learning capabilities monitor healthcare bills, track medical history and equip patients with a list of questions to consult with doctors about, while customer care coordinators connect with users to locate the caretakers in an individual’s network that are best equipped to deliver the specific care they need.

 

Founded: 2012

Location: San Francisco

What they do: Benchling operates a platform designed to enhance the capabilities of research and development in the life sciences industry. The platform is amongst the most widely-used tools for accelerating, measuring and accurately forecasting R&D in areas ranging from discovery through bioprocessing, allowing companies like Pfizer, Gilead, Regeneron and Zymergen to develop new solutions more efficiently.

 

Founded: 2012

Location: San Francisco

What they do: Grove Collaborative delivers healthy and sustainable home essentials to customers’ doorsteps, allowing them to choose the products they want on a subscribable basis. Everything from cleaning supplies to personal care products is available through Grove Collaborative, whose commitment to prioritizing social, environmental and community well-being over everything else is key to the success of its business.

 

Location: SOMA

Founded: 2010

Focus: Aerospace, Hardware

What they do: Planet collects geospatial images of Earth via a fleet of satellites that give farmers, scientists, researchers, governments, educators and the maritime industry a deeper look into the globe’s ever-changing landscape. Founded by ex-NASA employees, the company maintains more than 120 satellites in orbit that are consistently monitoring and taking photos of Earth’s landscape. The data captured by these satellites can help farmers to predict crop harvests, climate researchers to measure the impact of climate change and can even help governments to plan cities.

 

Location: SOMA

Founded: 2013

Focus: Greentech, Software

What they do: Aurora Solar develops software for the solar energy industry. The software helps green energy companies to grow and scale by accurately designing and quoting systems remotely (instead of on-site). Precision design and sales estimates help green energy providers to stay on task and to consistently forecast goals. To data, Aurora Solar’s software has helped to power more than 2 million solar energy projects all over the world.

 

Location: Redwood City

Founded: 2006

Focus: Education

What they do: Course Hero is an online learning platform helping students graduate by preparing them for courses and tests. The edtech platform features more than 40 million course-specific study materials from classes all over the world, including for popular courses like FIN 300 at Arizona State University, ECON 101S at NYU and MPTM 680 at Georgetown University. Course Hero also maintains a large library of study guides and digital textbooks as well.

 

Location: SoMa

Founded: 2014

Focus: Transportation

What they do: Remix offers a platform designed to empower cities to plan the best possible transportation system. Working with more than 325 cities across four continents, the company helps cities plan transit, envision and design streets for the multimodal city and understand the impact of new modes. Using their own platform, Remix helps cities bring relevant transportation data into one place and visualize it in a way that makes it easy to understand and use. 

 

Location: Mountain View, Greater San Francisco Bay Area

Founded: 2018

Focus: Sustainable Food Production

What they do: Zume aims to create a smarter and more sustainable food system. The company uses real-time food consumption data and predictive analytics to help food companies better predict demand, connect it with production and drive better resource decisions down the food supply chain. In an effort to produce wholesome, affordable food on a global scale, Zume provides an end-to-end scalable platform that reduces the time and distance between clean food sources and dense population centers through the use of automation and transportation logistics.

 

Founded: 2011

Location: San Francisco

What they do: GoodRX helps patients lower their prescription costs and take more control over receiving the medication they need. The platform allows users to compare costs among different pharmacies in their area and print free coupons to lower the price at more than 70,000 pharmacies across the US, saving patients up to 80% on their prescriptions. GoodRX also connects patients with telehealth professionals for more in depth healthcare analysis.

 

Founded: 2012

Location: Mountain View

What they do: Coursera partners with schools and universities to provide online educational materials and classes to its users, offering everything from certifications through master’s degrees. The site’s platform maintains a focus on higher education through discussion forums, on-demand video lectures and challenging quizzes, offering access to true college-level education from anywhere that is convenient.

 

Location: The East Cut

Founded: 2014

Focus: Healthtech

What they do: Virta Health has developed the first clinically-proven treatment to safely and sustainably reverse type 2 diabetes without the use of surgery or medications. The company’s remote medical care model enables physicians and nurses to provide care when and where it’s needed. Patients can use Virta Health’s app to log biomarker data and symptoms, which is then made readily available to their team of clinicians. 

 

Location: Rincon Hill

Founded: 2011

Focus: Design

What they do: IDEO is a design and innovation organization dedicated to solving challenges in poverty and spreading human-centered design through the social sector. The company enables organizations to create and deliver innovative solutions to challenges rooted in the needs of people. Using the human-centered design process, IDEO works with organizations on projects relating to a variety of focus areas such as health, financial services, sanitation and gender equality. 

 

Location: SoMa

Founded: 2005

Focus: Financial Services

What they do: Kiva.org runs a global marketplace platform for crowd-funded micro-loans to serve the financially excluded in various sectors. The company crowdfunds loans and unlocks capital for the underserved, improves the quality and cost of financial services and addresses the barriers to global financial access. Operating in 84 countries, the company is committed to driving social impact and enabling opportunity while providing a borrower-to-lender connection.  

 

Location: SOMA

Founded: 2015

Focus: Pharmaceutical, Healthcare

What they do: Alto Pharmacy is an online retail platform for prescription drugs. The Alto platform works by an Alto customer asking their doctor to fulfill their prescription (whether it is for general, sexual, dermatological and mental health) through the platform. Then, Alto will apply coupons and set up a time for the prescription to be delivered to the patient.

 

Location: SoMa

Founded: 2012

Focus: Education

What they do: Raise.me is a social enterprise dedicated to expanding access to higher education, particularly among low-income and first-generation students. The company enables students to earn scholarships throughout high school for getting good grades, volunteering in the community or joining an extracurricular activity. Raise.me partners with various universities across the nation including Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Tech, Syracuse University and Oberlin College.

 

Location: Mission District

Founded: 2008

Focus: Machine Learning + Data Annotation

What they do: Samasource is dedicated to delivering secure, high-quality training data and validation for tech teams driving humanity forward. The company specializes in video, image and sensor data annotation and validation for machine learning algorithms. Samasource is committed to expanding opportunity for low-income people through the digital economy, using their social business model to lift people out of poverty. 

 

Location: Design District

Founded: 2014

Focus: Public Service

What they do: Bayes Impact specializes in building citizen-led public services to make a fairer and more inclusive society. Within citizen-led public services, citizens agree to use transparent governance and allow the project’s impact to be measured, while a government agrees to help citizens gain access to the data they need for a social innovation project in exchange. Bayes Impact also offers a free online platform called Bob, which uses AI to help jobseekers assess and improve their employability with data-driven advice. 

 

Location: SoMa

Founded: 2013

Focus: Renewables + Environment

What they do: Revivn is a social enterprise dedicated to repurposing used technology for empowerment and social good. The company collects outdated electronics, such as phones, computers and keyboards, to build out various initiatives to help people gain computer access. Revivn enables companies to integrate sustainability into their strategic planning and reduce the cost of maintaining a technology infrastructure. 

 

Location: South Beach

Founded: 2013

Focus: Politics

What they do: Crowdpac is a political crowdfunding platform designed to help candidates, organizations and ordinary citizens fund change. The platform is free without startup or monthly costs, and potential candidates can raise no-risk pledges while declared candidates can collect donations directly to their campaign. Crowdpac also allows people to browse campaigns, which can be explored by popularity, percent to goal, state, issue, election year and more. 

 

Location: Financial District

Founded: 2012

Focus: Healthcare

What they do: Watsi builds technology to finance universal healthcare by crowdfunding surgeries and providing coverage for primary care. Patients from around the world submit their stories to Watsi, and the company reviews and approves each case before posting a profile to initiate funding. 100 percent of the donations go to funding life-changing surgery. 

 

Location: Panhandle

Founded: 2016

Focus: Politics

What they do: Vote.org is dedicated to simplifying political engagement, increasing voter turnout and strengthening American democracy. The organization offers free mobile-optimized civic engagement tools, which include voter registration, absentee ballots, election reminders and pledge-to-register tools. 

This article was originally published in 2020. Rose Velazquez contributed reporting to this story.

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