12 Nov Young Entrepreneur: Tiffany Pang
Tackling Homelessness One City at a Time
After San Francisco native Tiffany Pang graduated from Yale, she noticed a change in the neighborhoods she had grown up in. “We saw this sharp rise in gentrification,” the 30-year-old says. However, along with it came a rise in homelessness. “It was very disheartening to see my hometown become this way.”
That was the first time Pang really considered the tragedy of homelessness, but it would not be the last.
With a dream of becoming an entrepreneur, Pang partnered with her friend John Cadengo to launch a software development company called Appledore, and in 2016, they participated in Startup in Residence, hosted by the city of San Francisco. The goal of the program was to leverage local entrepreneurial talent to solve civic problems.
“They paired start-ups with cities that had very technical challenges,” Pang says. The challenge she and Cadengo were tasked with was helping the city of West Sacramento, California, locate and track homeless encampments.
To do so, they developed Outreach Grid, an app that not only helped officers track where homeless residents were, but also collected data and paired the police with the social service organizations that could provide assistance to those in need.
“As we were building Outreach Grid, we were talking to more and more communities that were dealing with homelessness,” Pang says. “We quickly found that a lot of people had been looking for resources like we were building.”
Today West Sacramento still uses the app, and other cities such as San Antonio have gotten on board. Appledore customizes the Outreach Grid platform for each location, recognizing that every city has unique challenges when addressing homelessness.
“Our product is flexible enough to allow for different sizes of communities to join in and flexible enough to scale out when they are ready,” she says. That means any group, from the smallest community to the largest metropolitan area, can look to Pang and Appledore for help in providing assistance to the homeless population.
A neuroscience major in college, Pang didn’t always envision herself becoming a social entrepreneur, but her desire to make a difference beat out her earlier career ambitions. “I wanted to do good for the community I was in,” she says. “That has always been a motivator of mine.”