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Startups Are Tackling Some Of Our Biggest Problems

photo by Heisenberg Media via Flickr

Startups have stepped into arenas of all shapes and sizes, from revolutionizing the way we hitch a ride to how we fund our dreams of potato salad.

Given most startups inherent tech savviness and knack for innovation, it’s only natural that some would be tackling a few of the world’s most pressing issues.

Below are some categorized startups solving some proportionally huge problems.

Health

Problem: Some seeking professional health experts may not have immediate access to their therapists or are uncomfortable going to the doctor.

iCouch.me

Funding: $20,000

This startup is setting its sights on bringing patients closer to their mental health professionals–or more literally speaking–keeping them apart. Through the use of video-calling, the online mental health platform iCouch.me offers patient access to a wealth of health professionals from around the world.

Through iCouch, patients can peruse an online database of health professionals who charge between $65 to $90 per 50 minute sessions. This price may potentially be even less if mental health is covered by a patient’s insurance.

If America’s mental health statistics are any indication, iCouch me could have a widespread impact on the way patients receive care. According to MentalHealth.Gov, 1 in 5 American adults has experienced a mental health issue while 1 in 20 lives with a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Environmental

Problem: The lack of comparability between energy companies leads to inflated customer spending.

Choose Energy

Funding: $11.5 million

By offering users a platform to find more, and possibly better, options of supplying their home energy, Choose Energy has helped consumers save green and go green.

Though Choose Energy isn’t built only for environmentally friendly options, it does allow users to make the decision of how they power their homes for themselves. Choose Energy offers users greater insight to their energy choices by providing price comparisons and allowing users to choose how much of their energy consumption is green.

To date, there are–unlike other services like flying or booking a hotel–no comparative websites for energy shopping, which has made it difficult for consumers to compare prices and seek more eco-friendly options.

Due to freefalling renewable energy prices, many Choose Environment users have chosen to make the switch to greener sources.  According to CEO Jerry Dyess, about 40 percent of Choose Energy customers opt for wind power.

So far, Choose Energy is only available in 12 states due to varying state laws which regulate energy markets.

Sociopolitical

Problem: Dissatisfaction with government action has lead to an increased interest in volunteer and community organizations. These organizations are often difficult to operate on your own.

Nationbuilder

Funding: $14.8 million

If you’ve ever believed passionately in a cause–be it political, social, or anything in between–but haven’t been able to see it to fruition, Nationbuilder might be the startup you’ve been hoping for.

Nationbuilder pins themselves as a “community organizer” platform, where organizers are provided an interface and tools wherein they can tell their stories, accrue supporters, and receive donations for their cause.

The success of Nationbuilder mirrors a public sentiment which is overwhelmingly dissatisfied with governments ability to institute change. According to a recent Bipartisan Policy Center poll, Americans agree 2-1 that the best way to enact change is through volunteer organizations and charities as opposed to political avenues.

Nationbuilder’s platform boasts a myriad of different users, stemming from a number of causes, which may vary from crusades against human trafficking, to election campaigns for attorney general.

The community platform claims to take a completely non-partisan approach to community building and encourages all sides of the political and social spectrum to join in.

Financial

Problem: Big banks and credit companies institute sometimes crippling interest rates on customers and debtors.

Lending Club

Funding: $392 million

The increasingly popular startup Lending Club has long been heralded as a new-wave bank subverter. By offering users a peer-to-peer banking platform (where lenders and borrowers play the role of bank and bankee respectively) Lending Club has helped users borrow at a more affordable rate.

In the first quarter of 2014 Lending Club arranged over 50,000 loans, totalling $791 million.

In particular, Lending Club has helped in the arena of consolidated debt. By offering consumers lower than average interest rates (According to Lending Club personal borrowers save, on average, 31 percent when refinancing with their company) Lending Club has helped reduce personal debt and alleviate burdensome interest rates.

Even for those who aren’t looking to refinance debt, Lending Club offers an average of 13 percent interest as opposed to the 16 percent average for a credit card company.

We measure success by the understanding we deliver. If you could express it as a percentage, how much fresh understanding did we provide?

 

James Pero