Jan 26, 2023 Press Release

Robin Hood and Blue Ridge Labs Catalyze Tech Solutions for People Living in Poverty

Snappable, ConConnect, Starlight, and Revival Will Each Receive $60K and Support to Scale Digital Solutions Targeting Nutrition, Recidivism, the Digital Divide, and Debt Relief

NEW YORK, NY, January 26, 2023 – Robin Hood, New York’s largest local poverty-fighting philanthropy, has selected four start-ups to be in the 8th cohort of participants in its Blue Ridge Labs’ Catalyst incubator program. The Catalyst incubator program is open to social innovators and technology-driven ventures that seek to address routine or extraordinary challenges faced by low-income New Yorkers. Each start-up will receive $60,000 in funding, health insurance, and in-kind resources to build, test, and scale their product in a robust social impact ecosystem. This year’s participants will help New Yorkers access healthier food at farmers’ markets through payment innovations, guide formerly incarcerated individuals to employers and services on a LinkedIn-inspired platform, keep low-income families connected through affordable internet, and give the debt-burdened sustainable pathways from financial distress.

“Effective technology is about responding to needs and solving problems. The needs of people living in poverty can be relentless and oppressive, yet their experiences are often glossed over or ignored,” says Sergio Marrero, Managing Director of Blue Ridge Labs at Robin Hood. “ConConnect, Snappable, Starlight, and Revival are each unique technology ventures with significant potential to scale—because they are effectively responding to obstacles standing between individuals living in poverty and a better future.”

This year’s Catalyst participants – ConConnectSnappableStarlight, and Revival – were selected by a committee of community members, Robin Hood donors, and board members among an applicant pool of 60 companies. Qualifying applicants must be less than two years old and have created and launched a small version of their product ready to be developed into a sustainable platform.

The four participants are:

  • ConConnect modernizes the re-entry process for formerly incarcerated individuals. According to the Brennan Center, at least 40,000 New York City residents are in jail, and another 337,00 have spent time behind bars. Time served in prison can reduce a person’s potential lifetime earnings by half a million dollars, leaving the formerly incarcerated burdened by material hardship and poverty. ConConnect is a Linkedin-inspired platform designed to connect individuals leaving jails and prisons to service providers (e.g., case workers) and employers to reduce recidivism and support a successful reentry process.
  • Snappable makes it easier for low-income families to get fresh food. With 138 farmers’ markets across the city’s five boroughs, low-income New Yorkers can access fresh produce and vegetables using their nutrition benefits, or SNAP/EBT cards. But, farmers struggle with delayed payouts, and SNAP users are constrained by stigma and benefits card limits. Snappable is a mobile payment system that enables SNAP users to easily purchase at farmers’ markets and expedites payment for service providers delivering healthy food.
  • Starlight helps low-income households stay connected to the internet without financial worry. Internet access is vital in the post-pandemic world, yet 47M Americans struggle to afford it today. Starlight helps households advocate for what they need with providers, and streamlines the process of applying for and getting the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a federal benefit. Through partnerships with fintechs and nonprofits, Starlight has saved households an average of $1400 a year. Saving money on internet bills not only helps households dedicate money to other needs, but increases the likelihood they will stay current on internet bills and maintain connectivity—longer-term, this leads to reduced debt, and better workplace and education outcomes.
  • Revival provides accessible tools for debt relief.  According to the State Comptroller’s Office, New Yorkers’ debt levels are on the rise, with medical bills, student loans, mortgages, and credit card debt driving increases. New York ranks fourth among all states for the highest household debt burdens. Revival acquires debt for a fraction of the amount owed ($0.04 per dollar or less) and offers the borrower the opportunity to pay off the debt at $0.10 on the dollar, and provides sustainable, equitable paths to financial stability and growth for low-income individuals.

Alums of the Catalyst program have raised rounds from prominent venture capitalists and received support from notable philanthropic institutions in recognition of their products’ innovation, scale, and impact. For example, Upsolve participated in Y Combinator; the founder of Good Call, Jelani Anglin, was an Echoing Green FellowJustFix was featured in the New York TimesPropel in Bloomberg, and Nesterly in Forbes, to name a few.


About Blue Ridge Labs
Blue Ridge Labs offers fellowships, grants, and workshops that help social innovators build technology to address challenges faced by low-income individuals. Blue Ridge Labs engages communities through a co-design process and invests in innovators working to address the needs of those experiencing poverty.  The program was launched inside the Blue Ridge Foundation New York to build upon Blue Ridge’s 15-year legacy of transforming ideas into successful organizations. To stay up to date with Blue Ridge Labs, sign up here.

About Robin Hood
Robin Hood has been fighting poverty in New York City since 1988. Because Robin Hood’s board covers all overhead, 100% of every donation goes directly to the poverty fight. In 2021, Robin Hood awarded $172 million in grants, filling a critical void during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing cash assistance, meals, housing, healthcare, education, and other urgent needs to one million New Yorkers impacted by COVID-19, as well as funding an array of programs and initiatives developed to elevate families out of poverty in New York City. Follow the organization on Twitter @RobinHoodNYC and learn more at www.robinhood.org.