Cruz Cares

Cruz Cares 2016

April 6, 2016

6:00 – 9:00pm

“Last year, our expectations were blown away. This year, we hope to bring more rigor, more prizes, and more excitement!” – Janneke Lang, Founder of The Inspiring Enterprise

Apply to Participate in Cruz Cares Here

RSVP to attend Cruz Cares Now!

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Cruz Cares is a contest for for-profit or nonprofit startups focused on a social or environmental issue to pitch their solution with the chance to win seed funding, media coverage, and community support.

Cruz Cares 2016 will be held in collaboration with the Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 from 6:00-9:00pm.


  • Cruz Cares is for nonprofit and for-profit startups that have a new and original idea (a startup is a venture that is less than 3 years old).
  • The venture must target a social or environmental regional issue and be able to demonstrate its potential for positive impact.
  • The nonprofit or for-profit startup must be residing in or relocating to the Monterey Bay Region.
  • The nonprofit or for-profit must have completed research and developed concrete planning prior to submissions.

Community Support

Interested in starting your own social enterprise or interested in social or environmental progress through business? Join the audience on April 6, 2016 to network, learn about pitch competitions, and meet other social entrepreneurs. RSVP to attend Cruz Cares Now!

Help us launch Santa Cruz social entrepreneurs by making an investment in our community with a cash donation!

By contributing $25, $100, $250, or up to $1,000 you are allowing The Inspiring Enterprise to offer mentorship, services, and resources to social entrepreneurs in Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay for free, lowering any barrier in pursuing a new and innovative solution to critical social and environmental issues.


Cruz Cares 2016 Sponsors (8)



Apply to participate in Cruz Cares 2016 by March 12th, 2016 at 11:59PM PST.

Submit an online application here.

Send any questions to

Application Criteria

  • Must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the problem and must include quantifiable data that displays the impact of the problem on society or environment.
  • Must have knowledge about your target markets: your customers/beneficiaries and buyers.
  • Must be able to demonstrate there is an interest from your target markets in purchasing or using your product or service.
  • Must be able to explain your solution to the problem and how to successfully implement it.


First Round – Online Application (Due March 12th, 2016)

  • Six semi-finalists will be selected and announced on March 22nd, 2016.

Final Round – Cruz Cares: Pitch Contest for Social Ventures

  • Selected semi-finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 from 6-9PM.
  • Semi-finalists will have 10 minutes to pitch their ideas with a slide deck to a panel of judges.
  • Following the 10-minute pitches, the judges will ask follow-up questions, then deliberate and announce the top three winners in front of the live audience.

Key Dates

  • Application Deadline – March 12th
  • Contestants Announced – March 22nd
  • Pitch Practice Sessions – March 28th – April 1
  • Slide Decks Due – April 4
  • Cruz Cares: Pitch Contest for Social Ventures – April 6

Cruz Cares 2015

$23,050 in Prizes and Startup Funding, Project Support, and Media Coverage

Thirty-five proposals were submitted to Cruz Cares in 8 different categories including: Housing, Environmental Sustainability, Workforce Development, EdTech, Community Development, Public Health, Transportation, and AgTech. The first round judges sifted the 35 down to the top 6 proposals.

On March 4th, 2015 six visionary startups pitched to a panel of judges. The judges represented the nonprofits, angel investment, venture capitalists, and startup founders. Each startup was judged in three aspects: the proposal’s potential for social impact, financial plan, and ability to implement the plan.

Read the Cruz Cares Recap here.

1st Place: $17,100


Rising International: Working to end extreme poverty by selling handmade crafts made by women living in high risk environments. Crafts are sold through a direct-sales model by women and teens in Santa Cruz, giving them training and expertise to run their own micro-enterprises.

“On behalf of Rising International, we’d like to congratulate all the finalists. We would also like to send a big Thank You to Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup, The Inspiring Enterprise, the judges and sponsors! It was an amazing and inspiring night and we are so grateful and humbled by winning!! Help us change the world and host a home party!!” – Becca Rubin

2nd Place: $6,300


Housing First: Working to end chronic homelessness in Santa Cruz County by 2020 through a permanent and assisted housing program. Founder of Housing First, Sibley Simon, has proposed an innovative model to fund the program by leveraging deferred interest bonds and impact investing, eliminating the organization’s dependence on public funds.

“I sincerely thank you for all your work on this event.  It was a fantastic event – I loved that the addition of the mezzanine tables to expose people to so many great organizations and efforts in the community – the whole event was a great addition to Santa Cruz.” – Sibley Simon

3rd Place: $4,150


Senior Housing Partnership: Working to empower low-income seniors by building Accessory Dwelling Units on their properties, providing a source of income while downsizing and remaining in their neighborhood. Additionally, the Senior Housing Partnership renovates the primary building to increase its rental value.

“What a wonderful evening. Providing a venue where new ideas can be shared is just over-the-top. How else will we figure out how to solve all the world’s challenges? The tried and true solutions need some shaking up and this was a great way to get started. Pitching a complicated new concept in five minutes was a good challenge and learning experience for me. Habitat is honored to have been selected to present and making it to the top three will be a great boost to our nascent Senior Housing Partnership program. Congratulations to all the organizers, applicants and attenders.” – David Foster

What the attendees are saying:


“Wow, what an incredible night. I love the energy it stirred amongst the attendees (and even those who could not make it).” – Liz Kroft

“Rising Int’l is a great example of a win-win organization. We have hosted a pre-Valentine’s Day party for men for the last 3 years. It has been very successful for Rising and has educated lots of men concerning the mistreatment and exploitation of women worldwide. Happy that they won the contest!” – Bruce Berwald