Fast Forward is a new San Francisco-based startup accelerator that launches this summer and has already accepted its first five companies. They are Medic Mobile, which helps remote health workers communicate; Moneythink, which mentors underserved teens on personal finance; Noora Health, which trains families to take care of patients; One Degree, a Yelp for social services; and SIRUM, which helps hospitals trade the $4 billion worth of unused medicine that goes to waste each year.
“The path for the tech nonprofit has all the challenges of a startup and all the challenges of a nonprofit,” said Kevin Barenblat, co-founder of Fast Forward and previous CEO and co-founder of social media marketing company Context Optional, which Efficient Frontier bought for $50 million in 2011.
For nonprofits, there’s less risk in selling a stake to an accelerator because nonprofits have no equity to dole out. They also don’t have acquisition and IPO prospects.
But Barenblat thinks there’s three months worth of valuable learning to be had. “There are all kinds of innovations we see for-profit tech companies taking advantage of: Always-connected devices, nearly-free infrastructure, APIs. I’m looking to see more organizations doing the same thing. At the same time, there are differences [in running a nonprofit] around things like fundraising and board development.”
Still, the startup accelerator is a well-understood formula at this point, and Fast Forward won’t be much different. Founders of young companies (Fast Forward’s first class tends to be a bit older) apply to a three-month program where they learn from mentors and then present to investors at the end. There are more than 200 startup accelerators, with regional specializations or focuses on things like hardware, journalism and government. There’s even a virtual incubator called Zana launching today that promises to divvy up nuggets of startup wisdom into short video clips for would-be entrepreneurs around the world.
Gannes, L. (2014, May 13). Fast forward launches a Silicon Valley startup accelerator for nonprofits. Vox. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://www.vox.com/2014/5/13/11626772/fast-forward-launches-a-silicon-valley-startup-accelerator-for.
This article was a good way to start to open my eyes to the workings of non-profits, specifically their funding and support. This company Fast-Track has grown a lot since this article and I’ve been looking a bit at their listed companies as well as the “playbook” they have on their site for starting tech non-profits. I’ve been curious for a while questioning how sustainable certain social designs are that don’t necessarily have profit as the priority. I understand that profit and social good can work together, but also that non-profits and certain models will need donations to run. So in thinking about design, I have to think about how sustainable it is from a financial standpoint. Often it seems social issues call for more of a non-profit model, but also looking into these tech non-profits they all have different ways of running and sustaining themselves. I also did not realize tech non-profits were a specific thing, so it is keeping me informed to learn about those and how embracing technology in general could help to enhance any non-profit.