Meet Fast Forward’s 11th Startup Accelerator Cohort

March 25, 2024 | Announcements

Meet Fast Forward’s 11th Startup Accelerator Cohort

“Building a nonprofit is fraught with self-doubt and isolation. Fast Forward’s team and cohort, however, have been a beacon of support. From day one, hearing their journeys of struggle and unwavering commitment was both humbling and inspiring. Now, as each other’s cheerleaders, our weekly meetings energize us with optimism and resolve.” – Utkarsh Saxena, Adalat AI

Just how pumped are we to announce our 11th Startup Accelerator cohort? On a scale of 1 to 10, we’ve cranked it up to an enthusiastic 12 to match the number of incredible teams in our cohort! These dozen tech nonprofits are tackling some big challenges, like voter suppression, climate change, and healthcare inequity.

2024 Startup Accelerator Cohort
Fast Forward’s 11th Startup Accelerator cohort / Michelle Nguyen

This crew stands out for the deeply personal nature of their missions. Each organization has a founder with lived experience with the problem. It’s not just work for them; it’s a calling fueled by firsthand knowledge. What’s more, 83% have a founder who is a person of color, and 58% have a founder who is a woman.

The cohort’s women founders
The cohort’s women founders say cheese! / Michelle Nguyen

This year’s Startup Accelerator began with the organizations uniting in San Francisco for three energetic days. They engaged with philanthropy leaders at top tech companies, honed their pitches, and dug deep into their business models. Most importantly, they fostered connections, uplifting and advising one another — an antidote to the often lonely ins and outs of being a tech nonprofit founder. We’re honestly still on cloud nine over all the light, laughter, and learning shared.

Selfie
The 2014 Oscars selfie has been outdone

We’ll share more info about the kickoff shortly. But first…(insert 🥁drum roll🥁 here)…

Meet the tech nonprofits in our 2024 Startup Accelerator cohort!

Adalat AI: AI-based transcriber reducing backlogs in Indian courts to ensure fair and speedy trials. Founded by Utkarsh Saxena, a former law clerk and attorney of the Supreme Court of India determined to solve the lengthy cases afflicting his country’s judicial system.

ColorStack: Online community engagement platform helping Black and Latinx comp sci students complete their degree and land tech jobs. Founded by Cornell grad Jehron Petty, who dedicated countless hours to peer mentorship throughout college.

Farmers for Forests: Imaging tech revealing opportunities to facilitate and fund reforestation with Indian farmers. Co-founded by Arti Dhar and Krutika Ravishankar, environmentalists driven to action after witnessing the impact of climate change on disenfranchised communities.

Free Our Vote: Data solutions helping formerly incarcerated U.S. citizens overcome barriers to voting. Co-founded by attorney and professor Neel Sukhatme and PhD economist Alexander Billy, a Georgetown duo united by their commitment to justice.

ineedana.com: Search engine of accurate abortion information connecting users to healthcare. Co-founded by product designer Rebecca Nall and software engineer Daniel Nall, motivated by firsthand encounters with fragmented abortion data.

Investigative Journalism Foundation: Database and newsroom daylighting public interest data for Canadians. Founded by Zane Schwartz, an award-winning investigative reporter with a passion for transparency and accountability.

Lenny Learning: AI-powered curriculum enabling educators to deliver customized health education that improves student well-being. Co-founded by Bryce Bjork and Ting Gao, Yale graduates who founded Lenny Learning after watching their siblings struggle with mental illness.

O-Lab: Virtual training experience teaching 21st century skills to vulnerable youth. Founded by Tania Rosas, a United Nations Young Leader committed to making education and access to jobs more inclusive for indigenous and underrepresented communities.

Our Roots: Online coaching promoting perinatal mental health in low-income communities of color. Founded by Priya Iyer, a maternal and child health epidemiologist and mother of two who recognizes the profound impact of being supported by someone who understands your journey.

Playlab: Interactive platform for educators to create, remix, and share AI edtech tools. Co-founded by Ian Serlin and Yusuf Ahmad, who bring deep experience in creating AI-powered products and innovating within education.

¡Reclamo!: Legal tool empowering undocumented and immigrant workers to reclaim stolen wages. Founded by Rodrigo Camarena, a grassroots organizer who has spent over a decade advocating for economic equality and supporting immigrants all over the U.S.

Uprooted Academy: Virtual community center for students of color navigating the high school-to-career pipeline. Founded by Tiffany Green, a therapist and first-generation college graduate building the tool she wished she had when applying to college.

Impressed? So are we. We can’t wait to see how much further they take their organizations by the end of the Startup Accelerator! Speaking of which, Kickoff Week truly set a great foundation for the program. Ready for the highlight reel?

Day 1: The first day was all about getting the cohort comfortable with each other. They started with a fun icebreaker (yes, we promise it was fun) of human bingo, followed by a round of sharing everyone’s why behind their work and org. Fast Forward Co-founder Kevin Barenblat then led them through an exercise on distribution ethics. We ended the day with a game night!

Jenga
The beginning of a nail-biting Jenga game

Day 2: The cohort took a field trip to the beautiful Bloomberg office in downtown San Francisco. The incredible views of the city set a scenic backdrop for day’s programming. Malia Simonds, Head of Western US and Latin America Corporate Philanthropy, opened the day with a warm welcome to the cohort and shared some of the exciting work Bloomberg is doing in the impact space. The teams then rotated through various sessions, including office hours with the founders, Public Relations 101, and fundraising mentoring. The day ended with an engaging talk about AI-powered nonprofits (APNs) — and how the cohort might be able to integrate AI into their solutions.

The AI-powered nonprofits
Our AI-powered nonprofits do their best robot / Michelle Nguyen

Day 3: Back at the Fast Forward office, the final day of Kickoff Week was bittersweet. Teams continued to rotate through the sessions they hadn’t yet attended, full of learnings about best practices, business models, and more. Fast Forward alum Caroline Spears, Executive Director of Climate Cabinet, joined the cohort in the afternoon to impart important lessons she’s learned as a tech nonprofit founder. To squeeze in as much time together as possible, we ended the week with one more happy hour for good measure.

Founders laughing together
Full-time founders, part-time comedians? / Michelle Nguyen

Though the leaders have returned to their homes all over the world (and we really miss them), the collaboration and learning is still going strong! Over the next couple of months, the cohort will learn from Fast Forward alums, engage with expert mentors from our partner companies, and gear up for the main event: Fast Forward Demo Day. If you don’t know what Demo Day is, picture 12 mini TED Talks about all the incredible work the cohort is doing. Subscribe to our newsletter, What’s Good in Tech, for the invite. You won’t want to miss it!

We couldn’t have pulled this off without our partners. Thank you to Google.org, BlackRock, the HPE Foundation, Bloomberg, Salesforce, Okta, Twilio.org, ServiceNow, Dell Technologies, Endless Network, Fidelity Charitable Catalyst Fund, Arrow Impact, Slavet Family Foundation, Pinterest, CTIA Wireless Foundation, and NewRelic.org.

Thank you to our partners!