Last week, we had the opportunity to interview one of Philadelphia’s most exciting entrepreneurs, Morgan Berman. She is the founder of MilkCrate, a tech company that aids mission-driven organizations to reach their impact goals. She was named by the UN Foundation as one of the Top 10 Female Entrepreneurs in the World, was invited by the Obama Administration to participate in Clean Energy Plan policy talks at the White House, and was selected by Forbes for the 30 Under 30 Pitch Summit.
What inspired you to start MilkCrate?
When I originally started the company I was pursuing my master’s degree in sustainable design. I had come from a background working in the non-profit sector and I was trying to figure out how to use mobile technology to motivate people to live their values. The very first version of MilkCrate was an app that gamified the act of making sustainable life choices in Philadelphia. As MilkCrate expanded, we developed a platform that could also help corporations build a sustainability app for their employees.
Are there any projects that you are particularly excited about?
We are collaborating with The Library of Philadelphia in a program called Read by 4th, which envisions that all children in Philadelphia will be reading at grade level by the time they enter 4th grade. We developed an app that helps teachers and parents learn how they can better promote children’s development with reading. We are also going to launch an app together with the City of Philadelphia that will encourage residents to pick up trash by offering monetary compensation to people who sign up to be block captains, who will take on the role of being responsible for keeping the block clean. The other residents can, in turn, use the app to send feedback if the area is clean or not and the block captains will be paid accordingly. Our goal is that the project will eventually grow into a fuller experience of engaging residents in sustainable behavior. We hope to scale that to cities all over the country and internationally.
Why did you choose to start your company in Philadelphia and what do you think has been MilkCrate’s biggest success factor?
Both my University and the startup-community here in Philadelphia have been of huge help for me, which also encouraged me to establish the company in the city. I have also been fortunate enough to meet the right people who could introduce me to investors, help me with my pitch-deck and improve my business model. Philadelphia is a great place to be because, until you raise tons of money, you can have a wonderful quality of life that costs a lot less and you can just take a Megabus up to New York in less than two hours to meet with investors. Which is exactly what I am doing next week! There is also a huge amount of free labor when it comes to interns because there are so many universities in the area, so you can get a lot of help and support from them during their co-ops and summer breaks.
Finally, do you have any advice for startups looking to establish themselves in Philadelphia?
I would love to get in touch with any companies working in the non-profit, foundation or civic-engagement world to better reach their audiences. I am also passionate about connecting female entrepreneurs with female investors.