Announcing Fast Forward’s 10th Startup Accelerator Cohort

March 20, 2023 | Announcements

Announcing Fast Forward’s 10th Startup Accelerator Cohort

“The tech nonprofit world can be incredibly lonely. I didn’t actually realize how isolated I had been feeling until I joined the Fast Forward community. The Accelerator Kickoff left me buoyed – by the inspiring cohort of founders/leaders, the outstanding Fast Forward team, and the shared conviction that the solutions we’re building can and will scale.”
-Clara Rowe, CEO, Restor

We’re thrilled to announce Fast Forward’s 2023 Startup Accelerator Cohort. There are so many reasons to celebrate this crew – they are ambitious, relentless, and inspiring. 

2023 marks our 10th annual Startup Accelerator! For our tenth year, Fast Forward selected a cohort of 10 impactful tech nonprofits from around the globe from our biggest applicant pool yet. 

s23 Cohort
Fast Forward’s 10th Startup Accelerator cohort / Michelle Nguyen

What makes these 10 organizations so outstanding? This year’s cohort is focused on some of our most pressing problems, from mental health to climate change. It’s also a global cohort. The organizations are based across four continents, and together make worldwide impact. Importantly, the leaders are determined. Every single one of these organizations has a founder with personal experience with the problem they’re tackling. What’s more, 70% have a founder who is a person of color, and 60% have a founder who is a woman. 

Some of the cohort’s women founders enjoying a moment of sunshine on the GitHub rooftop / Michelle Nguyen

Less than one month in, the Startup Accelerator has already been special. For the first time since 2019, the cohort gathered for an in-person Kickoff Week to mark the start of the program. Across three lively days in San Francisco, the founders connected with one another, met corporate philanthropy leaders at leading tech companies, and even gathered with Fast Forward alumni. To top it all off, they had a professional photoshoot – can you tell?

Karya founders
Co-Founders Manu Chopra and Vivek Seshadri collaborating on Karya in person / Michelle Nguyen

Itching for more details about the kickoff? We got you. But first, you’re probably eager to meet the tech nonprofits.

Introducing the tech nonprofits in our 2023 Startup Accelerator cohort:

Closegap: Daily mental health check-ins for K-12 students to give educators real-time insights into student well-being. Founded by Rachel Miller, an entrepreneur who has spent her career supporting young people.

Dollar For: Discovery tool helping low-income patients apply for financial assistance to eliminate medical debt. Founded by Jared Walker, who launched Dollar For after he experienced challenges around medical debt with his own family.

Joy Education: One-to-one, online literacy tutoring for students struggling to read at grade level. Founded by Demetrius Lancaster, an educator with a background leading and launching schools.

Karya: Employment platform for low-income Indians to improve AI and ML models through bite-sized tasks. Founded by Manu Chopra, Vivek Seshadri, and Safiya Husain, technologists & researchers committed to closing the wealth gap in their home country of India.

Koko: API for social media platforms that connects young people in moments of crisis with peer support. Founded by Rob Morris and Kareem Kouddous, who bring deep experience building technology for mental health. 

Mobile Pathways: SMS solutions empowering nonprofits and attorneys to equip immigrants with legal resources. Led by Ana Ortega-Villegas, Jeffrey O’Brien, Bart Skorupa, and Poesy Chen, a team of lawyers, technologists, and immigration advocates who share a commitment to supporting asylum seekers.

Restor: Global network supercharging nature restoration projects that reverse climate change. Led by Clara Rowe, a climate leader who has spent over a decade building on-the-ground sustainability solutions in communities across the world.

Road To Uni: Interactive playbook guiding first-generation high schoolers through the college application process. Founded by Cielo Villa, a first-generation college graduate building the tool she wished she had when applying to college.

SameSame: Chatbot providing queer youth with safe, identity-affirming resources in countries where support is dangerous to access. Founded by Jonathan McKay, Dena Batrice, and Codie Roelf, designers, social workers, and technologists who have dedicated their careers to supporting queer youth.

Solar Freeze: Solar-powered refrigerators reducing food waste while increasing income for smallholder farmers. Founded by Dysmus Kisilu, a Kenyan climate entrepreneur and the son of smallholder farmers.

That’s the cohort! Pretty inspiring, right? The founders have already started to reap one of the biggest benefits of the Startup Accelerator: relationship-building with one another. At the Kickoff Week, they connected over everything from the experiences of being a women founder to the nuances of running a global tech nonprofit. (Not to mention, they exchanged recommendations for the best TV-show binge).

The s23 cohort
Creating social impact is serious business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way! / Michelle Nguyen

Kickoff Week laid the foundation for a successful Startup Accelerator. The founders dove deep into how to decide who to serve and financial modeling, and started honing their stories (Demo Day, here they come!). We were lucky to be hosted by GitHub and in their gorgeous offices in downtown San Francisco. The cohort was thrilled to meet Sid Espinosa, Head of Social Impact at GitHub, and Omar Medina, Program Manager at, who each shared about the exciting work their companies are doing in the impact space. 

The 2023 Cohort traveled from four different continents to kick off the Startup Accelerator in San Francisco / Michelle Nguyen

So, what’s next? The cohort will spend the next ten weeks learning from Fast Forward alumni about tech nonprofit best practices, meeting skilled mentors from our partner companies, and ramping up for the grand finale: Fast Forward Demo Day. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, What’s Good in Tech, for your invite. You won’t want to miss these founders as they pitch their innovative solutions!

A big thank you to our Startup Accelerator partners:, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Foundation, Bloomberg, Okta,, ServiceNow, Dell Technologies, PwC, Salesforce, Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative, Endless Network, HubSpot, Splunk Inc., Pinterest, DigitalOcean, and