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LA incubator Be Great Partners hosts Pencils of Promise 2nd annual benefit

It’s been less than a year since Los Angeles startup and tech incubator Be Great Partners presented Pencils of Promise founder Adam Braun with a $25,000 check at 2013’s Be Great Fest. That successful event in September, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the nonprofit, kicked off the partnership between the two organizations that brought us to last week’s second annual gala.

Adam Braun
Aly Whitman

With 57 million children lacking access to education, PoP is dedicated to addressing the global education crisis. To date, it has built more than 200 schools around the world, impacting more than 180,000 lives and providing more than 12 million instructional hours throughout Laos, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Ghana. By 2015, PoP hopes to hit 500 schools, distribute 10,000 scholarships, train 1,000 teachers, and educate 10,000 students on sanitation and hygiene.

“Coming to this event tonight says something about your integrity,” Braun said to the crowd Thursday night. “It’s people like you who said ‘We believe in this’ that has helped us go from one school to more than 200 over the past five years.” Braun founded the organization in 2008 and dedicated the first school to his grandmother.

To show its support and help spread awareness about the global movement, BGP purchased a signed copy of Braun’s new book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, for every guest at the event. The book, which climbed to No. 2 on The New York Times “Best Sellers” list after it hit stores last month, chronicles Braun’s journey from backpacking through developing countries around the world to leaving his Wall Street career path to start the nonprofit with only $25. Each chapter details one step that every person can take to turn his or her greatest ambitions into a reality and lead a successful and significant life.

“Our goal is for every child to have access to education in our lifetime,” Braun said. “It’s the most stupidly solvable problem because we have everything we need to accomplish it.”

More than 300 people turned out in their finest duds to join BGP in supporting the nonprofit on Thursday night at the dazzling Unici Casa event space and organized by Letizia Silvestri Events. Kelly Mi Li, general partner of BGP and managing partner of BGP portfolio company Skinny Bikini Swimwear, hosted the event.

Li shares a similar drive and passion to Braun and the other partners at BGP. Last year she visited a PoP school in Guatemala to see what BGP’s partnership and donations have helped make possible. “Education is important to me and I believe every child should have access to the same education growing up that I did,” Li said, echoing Braun’s sentiments. “We hope our partnership with PoP will help increase awareness in Los Angeles.”

Other event support and sponsors included Zing Vodka, One Hope Wine, O’Gara Coach Beverly Hills, DJ Sandra Luesse and Los Angeles indie-pop band Echosmith, as well as notable hosts including entertainment manager Scooter Braun, Polish-American model Joanna Krupa and actor Chris Jacobs. Although no BGP startups had booths up this year, many of them mingled among the crowd and others donated their goods and services to the silent auction that went on during the evening. At last year’s Be Great Fest, tech startups in BGP’s portfolio, including Skycatch, Enplug, DealFlicks and Hullabalu, showcased their companies to an enthusiastic crowd.

Stay tuned: Enplug founder Nanxi Liu is hosting BGP's next event, the LA Women in Tech Summit, this week at BGP's headquarters. There's still time to get your tickets.