These Poverty-Fighting Startups Are Slaying Silicon Valley’s Sacred Cows

These Poverty-Fighting Startups Are Slaying Silicon Valley’s Sacred Cows

“One of my ambitions is to help our users put more food on the table,” says Jimmy Chen, the founder of Propel . His company makes a mobile app called FreshEBT that helps people among the U.S.’s 43 million recipients of the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) service to stretch their food-stamp benefits as far as possible. In 2017, the company raised $4 million from the Omidyar Network, Andreessen Horowitz, and other investors. “We serve low-income Americans who are too poor for most financial services,” says Chen. “They don’t qualify for payday loans because to get a payday loan, you have to have a payday. And 60% of our users don’t have jobs.” FreshEBT was born during Chen’s fellowship at Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood . The Robin Hood foundation is New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization. An incubator within Robin Hood, Blue Ridge Labs, has quietly been making high-impact tech products for low-income New Yorkers since 2014. (Full disclosure: I was one of the lab’s original fellows in its original incarnation, which was called Significance Labs. ) Chen’s path through this new sector of high technology for underserved consumers hasn’t been an easy one. Over the last four years, […]

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