For tech nonprofits, 2021 was a year defined by momentum. In the face of unparalleled need for their solutions, tech nonprofits harnessed the power of technology to propel us towards a more equitable future. While there is still so much work to be done, we reached a pivotal milestone in 2021: Our alumni surpassed 100M lives impacted.
At Fast Forward, we are bent on unlocking the potential of tech nonprofits. 2021 kept us busy. In our eighth Startup Accelerator, we supported tech nonprofits from four continents - making this our biggest and most global cohort yet. We ran a virtual Academy to bring actionable, expert advice to social entrepreneurs everywhere. And, we teamed up with our partners HPE and BlackRock to run Employee Engagement Campaigns that infused $2.3M into the sector. As we take stock of the year behind us, we’re proud to share our 2021 impact.
The Fast Forward Academy
When you’re building social impact tech, better advice means greater impact. In 2021, we brought the best advice to social entrepreneurs across the world through The Fast Forward Academy. A series of free classes on how to level up your tech nonprofit, the Academy shared a treasure trove of insights on everything from defining a business model, to raising capital, to building a strong organizational culture. Taught by tech nonprofit experts at the likes of DonorsChoose, CommonLit, and Code for America, these leaders distilled their expertise into hands-on workshops. Students left the Academy with actionable takeaways to apply to their tech nonprofit immediately. Shoutout to the 1,000+ students across 26 countries who joined us at the Academy! (You can be one too - check out the Academy recordings on our YouTube channel.)
Employee Engagement Campaigns
We doubled down on a giving trend poised to transform the social impact tech sector. Our Employee Engagement Campaigns, run in partnership with BlackRock and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Foundation, raised $2.3M for 40 tech nonprofits. This giving model empowers company employees to learn about - and support - tech nonprofits through a donation credit. BlackRock’s campaign spurred over half of BlackRock’s global workforce to action, raising $1M for tech nonprofits building a more equitable post-pandemic future. The third annual HPE Foundation campaign engaged 28,000+ HPE team members who supported tech nonprofits innovating across education, healthcare, and more. By infusing transformative capital into the tech nonprofit sector while empowering employees to give back, these campaigns are a win-win.
The Startup Accelerator and Demo Day
From the U.S., to Turkey, Uganda, and India, the 11 tech nonprofits in our eighth Startup Accelerator cohort came together for three months of growth. They honed their business models, learned from Fast Forward alumni who have been in their shoes, and met dozens of mentors at tech companies. Ready to launch their solutions, they took the Demo Day stage - and rocked it. Over 1,500 people across the world tuned in to hear 11 inspiring pitches at Demo Day, which also featured mini-documentaries about each tech nonprofit produced in partnership with Bloomberg and BAYCAT. Get inspired by watching Demo Day.
If you’re a tech nonprofit, effective storytelling is key to securing funding and attracting support. That’s why we launched a new program in 2021 to help tech nonprofits hone their pitches. A virtual experience, Pitch Camps brought together tech nonprofit leaders and employee volunteers at our partner companies for pitch workshop sessions. Entrepreneurs received valuable feedback, while company employees had the chance to work with inspiring changemakers. Across five Pitch Camps, volunteers hailing from almost every continent dedicated 200+ hours to help tech nonprofits level up their storytelling.
Spanning continents and sectors, learn about a few of our alumni who made a standout impact in 2021.
With COVID-19 vaccines changing the tide of the pandemic, the world focused on a new challenge: the largest vaccine distribution campaign in history. Fast Forward alum Nexleaf Analytics is protecting vaccine supply chains by equipping countries with the technology and data they need to effectively deliver vaccines and save lives.
Without cold chain equipment that provides the right temperature conditions, vaccines are at high risk of spoiling. Nexleaf’s ColdTrace sensor technology delivers real-time data on cold chain equipment, ensuring vaccines remain potent and provide the intended immunity.
In 2021, Nexleaf partnered with 27 countries to help them keep their vaccine distribution plans on track. Like in Kenya and Tanzania, where ColdTrace is working with Ministries of Health to protect COVID-19 vaccines for their citizens. Nexleaf’s global impact is significant: the tech nonprofit is protecting vaccines for 1 in 10 babies around the world.
Nithya Ramanathan and Martin Lukac were grad school classmates when they discovered their shared vision of leveraging affordable sensor technology to support global health. 12 years later, they’ve realized this vision at scale. By putting data and strong partnerships at the center of their work, Nexleaf is improving health outcomes for communities across the world.
Ready for some good news in the climate change realm? Meet WattTime. WattTime's AI-driven tools empower people, companies, and governments to choose cleaner energy. Put simply: WattTime “bends the curve” of emissions reductions to realize faster benefits for the planet.
WattTime built Automated Emissions Reduction (AER), a software that allows IoT devices - everything from smart thermostats to entire buildings - to automatically run on cleaner energy. In 2021, WattTime teamed up with Google Nest to bring this technology to buildings across the world. Together, they launched Nest Renew, a technique that’s already lowering the carbon footprint of smart thermostats across the U.S.
When building renewable energy plants, location matters. WattTime’s Emissionality program identifies renewable energy projects that, because of their location, will reduce the most emissions. To date, these analyses have reduced over 5 million tons of CO2. WattTime also launched Climate TRACE in partnership with Al Gore, a global coalition of climate groups using satellites and AI to measure the greenhouse gas emissions of every country in the world…from space.
With a deep background in renewable energy and economics, Gavin McCormick developed the vision for WattTime while he was a PhD student at UC Berkeley. The idea was so promising that he decided to walk away from the PhD to build WattTime. And good thing he did. Today, WattTime is driving us towards a zero-carbon future.
When it comes to learning math, memorization and practice problem drilling don't always work. It shows: just 30% of 8th graders are proficient in math, and this number is dropping due to the pandemic. Almost Fun is on a mission to unlock every student's math potential through interactive and relatable learning.
Almost Fun’s digital library of math lessons help learners - from middle schoolers up to college students - build a conceptual understanding of math through culturally relevant content. Think: a Marvel superhero brings the concept of multiplying decimals to life. Or memes that illustrate rational and irrational numbers.
In 2021, Almost Fun served over one and a half million students, 70% of whom are students of color. And it’s not stopping there. Now serving 200,000 students every month, Almost Fun is scaling by reaching students where they are - like Snapchat. Through a recently-launched partnership with Snap, students can access Almost Fun’s learning resources with friends directly on the app.
Lisa Wang was a product manager at Google when she became a volunteer SAT prep instructor. From geometry to reading, she realized the way concepts were presented in the textbooks wasn’t clicking with her students. Lisa knew she had to create something better. She quit her job at Google and founded Almost Fun. Today, she’s empowering millions of underserved students to build math skills. And it’s fun - almost.
Fast Forward’s work is made possible by our community of tech for good builders and believers. We are grateful for each and every one of you. To our partners, board members Aston Motes, Ime Archibong, James Slavet, Oliver Hurst-Hiller, Rekha Pai Kamath, and everyone in our community, thank you!