As impact investing gains traction in the market, a new accelerator for tech nonprofits called Fast Forward has raised $2.2 million in philanthropic funding from the nonprofit arms of some of the world’s largest companies and financial services firms.
BlackRock, Google.org, Comcast NBCUniversal, and AT&T joined Zendesk, Twilio.org, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the Nasiri and Rita Allen Foundations and the Omidyar Network in the financing. The not-for-profit accelerator said that the funds would be used to continue to build products that apply technology to the nonprofit world.
While industry has the benefit of access to the latest technologies, the philanthropic world has lagged behind. Fast Forward has set itself up with a mission to help launch products and services that address the needs of the nonprofit sector.
The accelerator has launched programs like the first Job Board exclusively for tech nonprofit jobs, board positions, and volunteer opportunities; the Global Tech Nonprofit Community; and the first tech nonprofit summit, Accelerate Good Global, according to a statement.
So far, the accelerator has worked with 23 alumni companies, which have raised $28 million in follow-on funding to support projects that have influenced 18 million people, according to a statement.
Corporate participants in the program include HPE, and Bloomberg in addition to the investors listed above.
“We are excited to continue supporting Fast Forward and their mission of using technology to solve pressing social problems,” said Jody Kochansky, head of BlackRock’s Aladdin Product Group, in a statement.
“BlackRock began as a startup itself, combining industry expertise with the power of new technologies. Having the advice and guidance of experienced professionals can be the deciding factor in a startup’s success,” Kochansky said in a statement. “By dedicating our resources and the expertise of our employees to Fast Forward’s Summer Accelerator, we have the opportunity to help a new crop of startups develop solutions for some of the most significant problems in our communities.”
Services companies in Fast Forward’s latest batch include:
Beyond 12 – a mentorship service for first-generation college students
Concrn – an alternative to the 911 dispatch service
IssueVoter – a nonpartisan information service for political issues
LibreTaxi – an open-source ridesharing app for remote communities
MindRight – an SMS-based coaching service for teenage mental health and support
MyHealthEd – a text-based sex education application for middle schoolers
Online SOS – an automated support service for victims of online harassment
Onward – an employer-directed benefit platform to help low-wage workers in times of financial instability
Raheem.AI – a chatbot to rate and report police interactions
Kevin Barenblat and Shannon Farley launched Fast Forward in 2014 to apply the lean startup and minimum viable product model to technologies applied to the non-profit sector.
The nine companies in Fast Forward’s latest cohort will receive a $25,000 grant, mentorship from vetted veterans of the business and non-profit world, and introductions to other non-profit founders and financiers, according to a statement from the organization.
Fast Forward participants build their services during a three-month program that culminates in two demo days — one in San Francisco and one in Silicon Valley, where founders will be able to pitch their ideas to philanthropic donors to raise additional capital.