It’s difficult for any tech startup to get off the ground these days and even more so for nonprofits looking to use successful platforms to address the world’s most pertinent problems.
Fast Forward, a social impact tech accelerator funded by Google.org, BlackRock and Twilio.org, decided to take up the challenge of helping launch tech nonprofits five years ago. Since then, the group has assisted 50 tech nonprofits in securing more than $100 million in funding.
These tech nonprofits have gone on to impact the lives of 51 million people across the world.
“Fast Forward has really helped us think about how we’re developing our product. How we’re serving the communities that we work with. Many times people build technology with the community in mind, but at Good Call we build with the community,” said Jelani Anglin, co-founder and executive director of legal aid app Good Call NYC.
“Fast Forward really fits with the model of thinking about the communities you serve and how to utilize our technology to best help folks. It’s been a blessing to work with them. As a tech company, it’s so important to have those connections to other tech folks because we get to see how other tech companies have grown, and what are some tactics and best practices we can use to improve our business. Even some of the mentors here have given us such amazing feedback that I can’t wait to implement once we’re done with this,” Anglin said.
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At Fast Forward’s first Demo Day in New York City on Wednesday, BlackRock’s Lance Braunstein explained how the accelerator has spent years helping the world’s best tech talent leverage their knowledge into creating or scaling up innovative tools and platforms that will have the most impact.
“For us at BlackRock, the power of technology and the ability to scale it to drive and solve big problems, including social ones, is really near and dear to our hearts. The teams are using technology to solve problems that are central to global prosperity. So they’re thinking about reducing air pollution and helping low income students get to college, and helping the homeless or people who have been arrested,” Braunstein said.
“These are products that I am convinced the world desperately needs. Fast Forward, in identifying these groups and helping them through the process of fundraising and growing their capability is performing a critical task.”
Nine successful tech nonprofits were spotlighted at the Demo Day, with projects covering a wide range of social ills. The nonprofits included refugee healthcare app Hikma Health, air quality monitor OpenAq, legal aid app Good Call and Quipu, an app designed to give unbanked communities access to financial capital. This year’s cohort also had apps and platforms addressing homelessness, career counseling, SAT prep and public school rankings.
Fast Forward provides each nonprofit with access to mentors, facilities and tools to build out their projects in addition to financial backing.
“Fast Forward has been the best resources for us. They have been incredible, linking us to key potential partners. They’ve taught us so much, not just on the technology side but also how to manage an organization,” said Senan Ebrahim, chief executive officer of Hikma Health.
“We’re all mostly first time founders, we’re learning how to do things. Fast Forward have done this before, and they’ve mentored five years of folks. Some of the most valuable resources are other alumni. We’ve been part of several incubators, but Fast Forward has cultivated a real sense of community, even between the teams as well,” Ebrahim said.