How a homeless person moved an audience of tech workers to tears at Launch conference

handup_teamLaunch is your typical startup conference: Entrepreneurs pitch their startups to a group of judges, primarily investors and tech press.

But this year, something special happened.

Midway through the conference, which took place earlier this week, San Francisco web designer Rose Broome came on stage to introduce HandUp. Launch founder Jason Calacanis set the tone for her presentation by mentioning that he had already invested in HandUp, which is a bit out of the ordinary, as he usually waits until the startups have launched. “I think you’ll understand why,” he said.

Within minutes, members of the audience were in tears.

HandUp is a relatively new service that lets you donate directly to homeless individuals in your neighborhood. VentureBeat first covered the startup back in August. 100 percent of the donations go to the essentials, like food, clothing, and medical care. What stands out about HandUp is the human touch: Individuals can share their stories and ask for specific items, like dentures or a new phone.

Once they’ve signed up, HandUp members are provided with a profile card with basic biographical information, which they can hand out to potential donors.The card contains information for people to donate via a secure SMS system, and the transaction can be carried out on an iPhone.

On stage, Broome announced a cool new feature, called HandUp Communities, which will let donors and homeless members opt-in to send messages to each other. She also disclosed the company’s fundraising goals. HandUp has secured $350,000 in funds from some of San Francisco’s wealthiest and most high-profile tech people, including Calacanis, Ron Conway, Ariel Poler, Michael Birch, and Eric Ries.

What touched the audience most wasn’t Broome’s pitch, although it’s inspiring to see entrepreneurs taking a stance on societal issues. It was Adam Reichart, a homeless HandUp member, who shared his story on stage.

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Above: Reichart and Broome on stage at Launch

Reichart described his struggles finding a job and receiving medical care. About five years ago, he broke his jaw but couldn’t afford a procedure. After he signed up with HandUp, he said, “a miracle happened.” A dentist offered to perform surgery pro bono. After that, he said, “someone made a $1,000 donation on Jan. 6 through HandUp for my dentures and pay my phone bill and keep a storage unit.” Reichart is now looking for affordable housing.

“I have a verifiable way to tell people the truth about my needs,” he explained.

(Anyone interested in helping Reichart can donate via his HandUp page.)

Via: Venture Beat


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