Sparkseed aids student innovators


    By Lauren Bailey

    Most successful businesses, organizations or projects start with a big idea; the trick is finding someone to help that big idea become a reality.

    Sparkseed, a nonprofit organization that invests in college students, provides the funding, support and tools necessary for young entrepreneurs to get started on social ventures.

    “We”re looking for students with big ideas, who have a plan and an idea that will benefit a lot of people,” said Mike Del Ponte, founder and CEO of Sparkseed.

    Del Ponte was once a student looking for help to get his own ideas off the ground but was unable to find the support he needed. The experience led him to develop Sparkseed.

    “I believe there are incredible ideas out there that don”t get started because students don”t have the support they need,” Del Ponte said. “Sparkseed offers the tools students need to get started.”

    Through a partnership with Ashoka”s Youth Venture, Sparkseed is able to offer chosen innovators up to $1,000 to start their ventures.

    “The student leaders in whom we invest are developing skill-sets and social networks that they will one day leverage to solve some of the most urgent social problems in the world,” Del Ponte said in a news release. “Some are already leading ventures that are making a difference on a regional and national scale, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

    Sparkseed has helped 23 ventures get started, and another 10 ventures are in the works.

    One successful venture is called the “bike share program,” where students gather abandoned bikes from the police department, fix them up, then sell or rent them to other students.

    The organization hopes to encourage healthy living and eco-friendly transportation.

    Sparkseed provides a host of volunteers, including mentors and pro-bono consultants, that are readily available to aid new innovators.

    “[Sparkseed] had an answer to almost all of my questions, and if they didn”t have the answer, they were in contact with someone who did,” said Adi Segal, founder and president of the Green Camp Initiative.

    At only 20 years old, Segal is working to make the nation “greener” by raising awareness and implementing programs to encourage recycling, electricity conservation and other eco-friendly habits.

    Segal was one of the innovators chosen by Sparkseed and given $1,000 to jump-start his idea.

    “The money was the smallest part of what I got,” Segal said. “They have set me up with so many things I can use to my advantage free of cost, as well as leadership skills, guidance, a personal lawyer, and a publicity representative.”

    Del Ponte and Segal agree that college students have ideas and dreams that can impact more than just their local communities.

    With the help of Sparkseed, the Green Camp Initiative has “moved from a single venture to a nationwide campaign,” Segal said.

    This year”s Sparkseed application deadline is March 1. Interested students can learn more at

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