Inside Fast Forward's 2018 Accelerator Applicant Pool

June 5, 2018 | Accelerator

By The Numbers – Inside Fast Forward’s 2018 Accelerator Applicant Pool

Tech had a wakeup call over the past year. Tech leaders were forced to reassess the type of impact their products created. As this crisis moment erupted, our confidence in the tech nonprofit model stayed strong. From building products that help more citizens run for public office, to using AI to progress workforce development, our 2018 Accelerator applicant pool was ripe with innovation, generating ripples and waves that create a more just world.

Long story short? The bots are coming… and they’re good.

The data from this year’s application pool signals that as the tech and social landscapes change, so too does the tech nonprofit sector. With much of the global spotlight on growing issues like immigration and sexual harassment, the 2018 application pool saw a surge in tech nonprofits building products to combat those issues head on. Over the course of four weeks, we spent hundreds of collective hours reviewing applications, researching the organizations, and conducting interviews with close to 40 promising entrepreneurs.

Here’s a sneak peek into our 2018 Accelerator applicant pool.

The Applicants

The diversity of this year’s applicants outpaced diversity metrics we’ve seen in previous years. 56% of the tech nonprofits that applied this year have a co-founder who is a person of color. This number surpassed our 2017 applicants, in which 41% of our applicants had a co-founder who is a person of color. Additionally, 49% of this year’s applicants have a co-founder who identifies as a woman, a 2% increase over last year. We’re encouraged by this increase in diversity, as we continue our efforts to raise awareness and increase funding for diverse tech nonprofit entrepreneurs.

Applicant Diversity

Fast Forward 2018 Accelerator Applicant co-founder statistics

Issue Area

Education is back at the top of the list, with over a quarter of this year’s applicants building edtech products. Education surpassed civic engagement tech this year, which was the top focus area for 2017 applications. This year 19% of applicants fall into civic engagement, with ideas spanning from the democratization of political platforms, to tools for holding elected officials accountable. Products focused on workforce development increased this year, making them a statistically significant category for the first time in four years. This points to a growing need to upskill our workforce with the rise of job automation. From using AI to help workers reframe their skill sets, to deploying chatbots to resolve workplace issues, innovation abounds in the growing workforce development space.

Issue Area Breakdown

Fast Forward 2018 Accelerator applicant issue areas


This year we recognized a few noteworthy trends in how tech nonprofits are leveraging technology. First, more than ever before, tech nonprofits are building products to reach users on multiple devices. Of the tech nonprofit applicants who built a web app, 16% also built a mobile app. This underscores the value of designing tech that reaches your audience wherever they are. Second, we saw a 15% boost in applicants building mobile apps. This trend points to the value of mobile-first development. Third, we saw a 5% lift in the use of SMS technology to reach users. In addition to heightened access to mobile devices, this increase could be attributed to the need for tech nonprofits to meet users where they are – on their phones. Finally, we’ve noted AI as a growing trend in social impact companies for a while now. We’re thrilled by the influx of AI being applied to social issues, making AI a statistically significant category in 2018.

Technology Breakdown

Fast Forward 2018 Accelerator Applicant tech breakdown


One thing is clear – tech nonprofits are on the rise across the globe. The 2018 application cycle brought in tech nonprofits from twelve countries across five continents. Notably, we saw an uptick in applications from India this year. Of our applicant pool, 29% are building products to impact an international audience. And, 21% of the tech nonprofits who applied have international headquarters (non-US).

Applicant Headquarters

Fast Forward 2018 Accelerator applicant headquarters statistics

We’re excited to see expanding ideas, platforms, and geographic locations in the tech nonprofit sector. Stay tuned for the big 2018 cohort unveiling coming soon!