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HuffPost Innovators Series - Catchafire, LookTel And More (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 07/01/10 01:13 PM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 05:55 PM ET

If the economic recovery is going to happen any time soon, these are the kind of companies that will be leading the way.

As the economy continues to struggle and the job crisis mounts, HuffPost Business set out to find the companies that are both changing the way we think of business and creating badly needed jobs. In the first edition of our HuffPost Innovator Series, we sifted through more than 200 submissions from HuffPost readers who nominated ground-breaking companies from around the country. Some of the most promising are doing more than just innovating with technology. One company is turning cell phones into a potentially revolutionary tool for the blind; another is re-imagining of the common electrical socket; and two start-ups brought powerful efficiency to the worlds of student lending and volunteering.

To submit an innovative entrepreneur, startup or established company, click "ADD A SLIDE" below and upload a short description and picture of the founder or business leader you'd like to nominate. (Note: Please skip the marketing jargon and keep your descriptions short.) If your story is compelling, a HuffPost staffer will contact you to learn more about your story.

Which company is the most innovative? Check out the HuffPost Innovators Series below:

Know an innovative start-up, entrepreneur or an established company that's changing the way we think about business? Tell us how you're innovating! Let us hear from you!
HuffPost Innovators Series
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Catchafire: An eHarmony For Volunteering
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Volunteer work often leads to a classic chicken-or-egg problem: nonprofits complain about a lack of volunteers and would-be volunteers complain about the lack of volunteer opportunities.

Enter Catchafire, a website launched last fall by former investment banker Rachael Chong, 28. Catchafire works like a recruitment agency: when a volunteer logs onto the site, he or she can input their skills and fields of interest and is then sent an email with relevant opportunities that make the most of these skills. The result is a kind of eHarmony for volunteers.

Catchafire charges nonprofits a $100 finder’s fee, which sounds steep, but Chong says the value that nonprofits receive from volunteers is often worth a lot more. But perhaps more importantly, Chong believes Catchafire could change the inefficient relationship between nonprofits and volunteers.

“[Charging a fee] makes the nonprofit think of the volunteer as a resource. It makes them think, ‘OK we paid a fee, we should think of the volunteer as a valuable resource instead of something totally expendable.’”

“Volunteering cannot be a one-way street,” she says. “Nonprofits can’t think they’re just getting a free resource without giving anything back. Volunteers expect to have a good experience, to find their time valued and to network with others.” -- Sara Yin, Huffington Post

Submitted by HuffPost user Sonal Bains:
"Rachael Chong, founder and CEO of, won't rest until every professional can volunteer their skills and every nonprofit has access to the volunteers they need to make an impact. Catchafire helps nonprofits express their needs as short-term, discrete and individual-based projects that are appealing to busy professionals. Nonprofits and professionals are then matched to each other based on skills, cause interests and time availability."
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Filed by Ryan McCarthy  |