Incentivizing people to take care of one another in their communities
Pitch us on your solution
Dispatcher is an innovative technology which allows users to give help or get help in their communities. The tool allows people to ask for or offer help, be it helping hands, advice, medical assistance, or a loan from a community subscription driven rainy day fund. After helping someone, users earn Samaritan Points for doing good deeds and can use those points at local businesses. We have built Dispatcher as a tool that takes an active role in matching people in need with resources to help through Machine Learning and AI technology. Dispatcher will therefore incentivize altruism, build bonds of community cohesion, and allow communities and cities to better depend on one another, allowing Dispatcher to be a trusted tool for not only community resilience but also for help during emergencies and disasters, as your neighbors are most often your first responders.
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What is the problem you are solving?
People need localized help and don’t know how to get it, meanwhile our community infrastructure in America is broken: 46% of Americans feel lonely due to social media, 40% don't have access to $400 for an unexpected expense, half of Americans have less than $1000 in their bank account, and in places where neighbors don’t know each other, there’s a 10x increase in lives lost during a crisis. Tech platforms aren’t solving this need: a third of Nextdoor posts are people asking for or offering help, but the platform doesn’t match needs and resources. Meanwhile cities are charged with making their communities more resilient, but have little engagement with tech platforms used by their citizens. Further, official city services are hard to access and often citizens don’t know how to take advantage of them.
We created Dispatcher, a tool that builds a dependable community through technology where people can ask for and offer help, and access immediate financial resources when in need. Dispatcher empowers people to help one another before, during, and after emergencies in their communities, but will also partner with existing sources of support, such as civil society organizations, nonprofits, and official response services (fire, EMS, police, etc).
Who are you serving?
Dispatcher is working to serve two high level groups: citizens and cities. More specifically, we serve people who need help, and people/organizations/cities who can offer help.
People who need help are individuals, families, or groups that face challenging circumstances. They may need a helping hand, advise, a place to stay, a loan for an unexpected expense, or support from city provided resources. But people who need help do not always have an extensive family, close knit neighborhood, or large group of friends. Dispatcher will allow for people in these situations to turn to those nearby in search of help and support. Dispatcher will also allow them to access financial assistance through a community subscription driven rainy day fund, and request help from official and unofficial emergency response services in their communities.
Dispatcher not only serves those in need, but also those individuals, groups, or services that can help by more efficiently and effectively connecting these needs and resources. We aim to work closely with communities, neighborhoods and cities in order to allow Dispatcher to capture potential needs in communities and integrate access to all levels of available resources.
What is your solution?
The origins of Dispatcher grew out of Ushahidi, a nonprofit technology organization that builds software to solve global problems. The flagship Ushahidi Platform is a software innovation for crisis response that has been deployed over 200,000+ times since 2008, reaching 50M+ people in 160+ countries. Ushahidi has previously spun out successful venture backed companies such as BRCK, iHub, and New Knowledge. Our team has extensive experience working in technology for civic engagement, humanitarian emergencies and disaster response, and community resilience and engagement. We developed the idea for Dispatcher after a decade of listening to users of the Ushahidi Platform ask for this tool. The beta of the product was supported by the AWS Imagine Grant and Rockefeller Foundation funding, and we’ve completed a pilot and extensive user research with over 500 users.
We know that building tools for resilience means that they need to be used every day, so when trying to solve for a crisis situation, it’s actually most important to start with the daily needs of a community, such as local advice, a helping hand, or access to cash in a bind. Dispatcher allows users to join a trusted community, make offers of help and requests for help matched through ML and AI technology, earn Samaritan Points and use them for discounts at local businesses, upgrade to a paid subscription of $8 per month and borrow up to $500 at 0% twice a year from a community driven rainy day fund for unexpected life expenses, and access help and support from official and unofficial cities responses services and partnering nonprofit organizations. Dispatcher will be a convenor of community needs and resources, building bonds within the community, improving resilience, and preparing for emergencies by improving access to help when in need.
Too often, we see large technology companies launching products that work against or are counterproductive to the existing structures or norms within cities, which result in conflict and regulatory disputes. We want to work directly with communities, neighborhoods, and cities to drive the development of Dispatcher. We currently have support to pilot in the City of LA and the City of Grand Rapids, and we’re also in negotiations with Austin, TX, San Jose, CA, and New York City. City partnerships are key to our strategy to generate support for Dispatcher, drive user adoption, and ultimately increase community resilience, improve disaster response, and save lives when emergencies strike.
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Where is your solution team headquartered?San Francisco, CA, USA
Our solution's stage of development:
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Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Dispatcher will employ AI techniques, such as machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), in order to take an active role in matching those in need with those who can offer help or advice in their communities. The utilization of this technology is one of the key features that makes Dispatcher innovative. Other tools that exist in this space, such as Nextdoor, operate as a message board for community members to share concerns, needs, and advice, however many posts go unanswered as there is no action taken by the technology to facilitate the matching of those needs and community resources. Community members on Dispatcher will earn Samaritan Points by helping others on the platform, and will redeem those points for discounts at local companies and within the app.
Dispatcher’s other innovative aspect includes the Rainy Day Fund, which provides access to immediate financial borrowing at 0 percent interest to those community members who pay a small subscription fee. When unexpected events happen in people’s lives, citizens often need access to cash quickly and frequently turn to pay-day lenders who prey upon these people in need and charge up to 300 percent interest. Dispatcher’s Rainy Day Fund allows a community or neighborhood to mutually prepare for those unexpected financial challenges, allowing borrowing of up to $500 twice a year, and repayment within 6 months a zero percent interest.
Dispatcher is an innovation tech solution that will allow people to communally prepare for unexpected challenges, rely on one another and incentivize action.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
Dispatcher’s core learning technology is in two parts:
Our trust engine is being designed to provide a score for each user based on items of data such as referral, authentication data, geolocation, uploaded identification, address verification, etc. We will employ the ML (machine learning) approach of supervised learning to train a machine on datasets of trusted users.
Our matching engine is designed to match offers of help with requests for help within neighbourhoods. Our current solution employs ElasticSearch to match data points. We intend to improve our matching algorithm with ML and we’re exploring Amazon SageMaker as a potential solution.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Society is not providing a safety net for when crises strike. When people have a problem, whether an unexpected expense or a natural disaster, they first turn to their community to seek either a helping hand or a financial leg up, but our research shows that existing digital community platforms don’t offer these services. And the research is clear, when community cohesion is high, there are 10x fewer deaths in a crisis. This is one of the most effective dollars spent to create resilience to crises, both big and small.
We’re correcting this problem with Dispatcher, a product that engages people to give help and get help in their communities and earn Samaritan points that can be used in-app and at local businesses - thereby incentivizing action. Dispatcher also offers community-based financial products, such as credit or insurance; our first being the Rainy Day Fund for access to cash when the unexpected happens.
Further, our 12 years of experience building crisis response and community building software at Ushahidi taught us two key lessons. First, a tool for crisis response needs to be regularly used 365 days a year, and include crisis functionality so that people will trust and turn to it when in need. Second and most importantly, when a crisis hits, cities, neighborhoods, responding NGOs, etc are all trying to do one thing: effectively and efficiently match resources with needs. This is the underlying common action/problem Ushahidi instances are trying to accomplish; Dispatcher is designed to solve this need.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
The tool is in a beta stage and has been tested with over 500 users. It does not currently serve a separate population as it is in the process of being developed.
In one year, we aim to roll Dispatcher out to three US cities (including 15 different neighborhoods/communities) and have a minimum of 74,500 users.
In five years, we aim for Dispatcher to be used by over 10 million people across 2,000 neighborhoods/communities.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Within the next year, we would like to raise a $2.5M seed round to provide 18 months of runway. We have already secured over $400k in pre-seed investment. By the end of year 1 we aim to roll out Dispatcher across 3 US cities and achieve 74,500 users on the platform asking for and providing help and actionable advice in their communities. Within the first year we would also like to deliver the full scope of the product, perform deep user research, and build V1 of the Rain Day Fund providing community driven financial security to members. By the end of year 5, we aim to have scaled across 2,000 neighborhoods/communities reaching over 10 million people. We also aim to have integrated the city/government services of these communities into Dispatcher, so that if someone calls for a fire, medical, or is seeking advice on food stamps, Dispatcher will match these users with the correct government service. Finally, we plan to integrate additional community-based financial products that create stronger safety nets, such as insurance.
We want to build Dispatcher within 5 years to be a reliable tool to give help and get help, be that helping hands, advice, or financial security within your community. We want to effectively fill the space in the market to be the only community focused, user free tool that solves for trust and immediacy, and create a strong foundation for community cohesion, building more resilient communities to unexpected disasters and emergencies.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
Our primary barrier is figuring out the specific use case that provides the most value for users - is it local recommendations, helping hands, household services, or financial support? We believe that one of these community-focused functionalities will most likely provide the most value, and we are currently running tests to figure out which one. We also need to conduct further research into the diverse procurement processes of local and city governments in order to formalize and proof our go to market sales strategy and business model of partnering with cities. Finally, in order to accomplish our goals for Dispatcher we need to raise a $2.5M round to provide 18 months runway and hit the milestones of 250k monthly active users, five cities providing rollout support or purchasing, and $150k in monthly recurring revenues.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
Product testing: This fall we are running pilot tests of the product with the cities of LA and Grand Rapids, both of which have signed agreements. We will test with different communities, and the primary focus of these pilots is to determine what the most valuable type of “help” is for communities 365 days/year, is it helping hands for elderly community members, access to handyperson and home services, local advice, or community-based financial security?
Staffing: Once funding is secured we will reach out to our nextworks and hire the necessary roles to support the goals that we have laid out for Dispatcher. The next five roles we would hire will be two Senior Engineers, a Chief Product Officer, a UX Designer, and a Project Manager.
Business Model & Rainy Day Fund: We’re seeking valuable introductions from our bench of advisors regarding research, testing, and formalization of our business model. Specifically, the Argo Insurance Group is providing support on the Rainy Day Fund subscription business model.
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How many people work on your solution team?
CEO - full time
Chief Technical Officer - full time
Vice President of Engineering - full time
Lead Strategic Partnerships - full time
Lead Designer - 80% time.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Our diverse team positions us well to be successful in building, launching, and scaling Dispatcher. Most importantly, our team is highly committed to innovation that engages and connects citizens and allows them to face their challenges communally for mutual benefit, whether that be in their day to day lives or when a disaster or emergency strikes.
Nathaniel Manning - CEO
Unique competitive advantage — Six years running Ushahidi. Leader with strong network in US civic tech, insurance, and government.
Took non-profit Ushahidi from 0% to 80% earned revenue, and $1.5M/year to $4M/year.
First class of Presidential Innovation Fellows, First Chief Data Officer of USAID.
David McNamara - CTO
Sixteen years engineering experience.
Former CTO, Technical Lead or VP Engineer at Ushahidi, iGeoComms, Kobo Inc., Rocksteady Technologies.
Fifteen years open source contributor to Mozilla.
Dale Zak - VP Engineering
Fourteen years engineering experience.
Decade of experience in mobile development: Android, Swift, Ionic, ReactNative.
Former CTO, Technical Lead or Co-Founder at Ushahidi, OneStory, ReliefWeb.
Katy Money - Director Strategic Partnerships
6 year of strategic partnerships and business development experience.
A decade working and researching in the field of technology for civic engagement, humanitarian emergencies and international development.
Former work with GeoPoll, Chemonics International, ActionAid, and AidData.
Vaibhav Bhawsar - Lead Designer
Over 15 years of user experience and design.
Expertise in the creation of key product strategies and social impact through design and technology.
Former work with Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology, Global Voices Online, TIMESCAPE, Ushahidi, and Yahoo.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Dispatcher’s bench of advisors includes: Jenny Stefanotti - Dent, Google, AltSchool; Miles Laster - Founder at SeeClickFix, Partner at Fprime; Desigan Chinniah - Open Innovation Mozilla; Stefan Thomas - CEO at Coil, CTO at Ripple; Erik Hersman - CEO at BRCK, Founder of Ushahidi; Ryan Delk - COO at Omni; Laura Thompson - Google[x], Google Ventures; and Andrew Engler - VP Digital Products at Argo Insurance Group.
Commitments from the following cities to conduct pilots:
City of Los Angeles, CA
City of Grand Rapids, MI
In negotiations with the following cities:
City of Austin, TX
City of San Jose, CA
New York City, NY
In discussions with the following companies:
Airbnb: We are in early stage discussions with Airbnb about the possibility of integrating Dispatcher into Airbnb Open Homes.
Argo Insurance Group: We are partnered with Argo Insurance Group in order to co-market and underwrite the Rainy Day Fund offering within Dispatcher.
What is your business model?
Our business model is twofold, it involves both SaaS sales to cities and a subscription model for community driven financial products.
There is a greater than $10B city SaaS market in the US with over 35,000 municipalities and 192,000 Nextdoor communities. Our go to market plan for city SaaS sales is to partner with cities to rollout and gain user adoption. Cities will be able to pay for an enterprise SaaS Dispatcher platform that is ad-free and co-branded. The cost will average $200k/year for the Dispatcher’s SLA.
Additionally, there is a $12.5B cash advance market in the US with 12 million Americans taking out payday loans each year. We are going to co-market and underwrite the Rainy Day Fund offering within Dispatcher through insurance partners. We have secured the Argo Investment Group ($7B in assets) as a confirmed partner. User will be able to upgrade their Dispatcher account in order to gain membership into the Rainy Day Fund by paying a subscription fee of $8/month into the community pool. Users will then be able to borrow up to $500 2x/year at 0% in order to stabilize their finances and cover unexpected expenses. Users will repay each advance in 6 monthly payments and there will be a 38.7% ARP if someone does not make the payments, utilizing behavioral economics to reduce changes of default.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We are actively applying for funding and pitching investors in order to raise our first round of $2.5M to provide 18 months runway. We have secured over $400k in pre-seed funding thus far. We’re drawing on the deep connections of our team in Silicon Valley, civic tech, insurance, and government. We’re also gaining valuable introductions from our bench of advisors which include those who have or currently work at Google, SeeClickFix, Fprime, Mozilla, Coil, Ripple, BRCK, Ushahidi, Omni, Google Ventures, and Argo Insurance Group.
We additionally plan to deploy the business model set out in the response above in order to become revenue positive in 2 years.
Why are you applying to Solve?
Dispatcher would greatly benefit from Solve because we are an early stage enterprise highly focused on building an innovative product for mutual benefit to engage and connect citizens within their communities in order to incentivize them to help one another and provide communal financial stability. We are filling the whitespace between existing trusted platforms and inflexible services by designing an innovative platform that provides both trust and immediacy. Dispatcher is at the stage where we are not only seeking funding, but access to additional passionate and connected advisors, technical guidance, regulatory and legal support, and opportunities to get on numerous stages and in front of audiences to excite and inform people about our innovation. Solve offers all of these forms of support and we’re keen to be involved and utilize any resources offered to us in order to make Dispatcher a success and help people help others.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We would be keen to partner with any organizations that share our passion for incentivizing people help each other, increasing community resilience, and developing a financial safety net for life's unexpected crises. We'd be keen to work with any organization that can provide some of the types of connections and support we have checked off above.
If you would like to apply for the AI Innovations Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If you are not already using AI in your solution, explain why it is necessary for your solution to be successful and how you plan to incorporate it.
We would like to be considered for the AI Innovations Prize as we are aiming to use AI techniques, both machine learning and NLP, in the design of our matching technology which will facilitate the connecting of those in need with those who can help across Dispatcher. We would use these granted funds to support the research, design, building, testing and rollout of this technology, with the goal of scaling Dispatcher to make the world better by increasing community cohesion and resilience in advance of unexpected life challenges, disasters, and emergencies.
If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Community-Driven Innovation, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
We would like to be considered for the GM Prize on Community-Driven Innovation because Dispatcher is a community focused technology designed to connect those in need with those who can help, in addition to offering community driven financial lending at 0 percent interest for access to non-predatory funds when life’s unexpected crises occur. Often times, those who are the least resilient to unexpected crises with the fewest resources for support are underrepresented community members. We therefore, expect Dispatcher to be most useful to these populations within larger communittities. Dispatcher will support and foster prosperity and social mobility by providing a more inclusive safety net for any community member to access when emergencies, disasters, or unexpected regular life challenges occur. By making these challenges easier to weather, community members can focus more time and energy on achieving their own personal life goals and prosperity.
If we are selected, we would use these granted funds to support the research, design, building, testing and rollout of Dispatcher in order to achieve our above stated goals.
If you would like to apply for the Innospark Ventures Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If your solution utilizes data, describe how you will ensure that the data is sourced, maintained, and used ethically and responsibly.
We would like to be considered for the Innospark Ventures Prize as we are aiming to use AI techniques, both machine learning and NLP, in the design of our matching technology which will facilitate the connecting of those in need with those who can help across Dispatcher. We want to use AI to create societal disruption, incentivizing people to help one another in need in their communities, and providing a mutually beneficial financial safety net for life’s unexpected expenses. We would use these granted funds to support the research, design, building, testing and rollout of this technology, with the goal of scaling Dispatcher to make the world better and disrupt the status quo by increasing community cohesion and resilience in advance of unexpected challenges, disasters, and emergencies.
If you would like to apply for the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
We would like to be considered for the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize because we are building a tool called Dispatcher which reimagines how people in their every day lives or in crises can give help and get help from their neighbors and community members. We are aiming to use AI techniques, both machine learning and NLP, in the design of our matching technology to connect those in need with those who have the resources to help. We want to use AI to create societal disruption incentivizing people to help one another in need in their communities, and also provide a mutually beneficial financial safety net for life’s unexpected expenses. We would use these granted funds to support the research, design, building, testing and rollout of this technology, with the goal of scaling Dispatcher to make the world better and disrupt the status quo by increasing community cohesion and resilience in advance of life’s unexpected challenges, disasters, and emergencies.
- Nathaniel Manning CEO, Dispatcher