I was really impressed and inspired by this pitch.
In short, Propel are the creators of the Providers app, which is used by over 5 million Americans to manage their SNAP benefits and banking.
It’s a great example of a “public interest technology”: non-government entities that help governments to solve problems in the public interest. It’s so clear that private tech sector practices can help deliver better public services to people, I’m going to be on the look out for opportunities in this field
Check out the 10-min pitch my notes below, enjoy!
- Founders build companies that solve problem they have
- Most founders come from middle/high income families. So we end up with a lot of consumer startups (eg social networks) solving these kinds of problems
- Jimmy Chen comes from a low-income family and had seen what it was like living on food stamps. Worked in tech, Linkedin, Paypal
- EBT card is a debit card that is issued by the US government to give food stamps to people
- You have to call a 1800 number to see get the balance!
- $100b of taxpayer money goes into this yearly. But crazy how little investment goes into the UX which really affects how these services can get used when they are needed
- Wanted to make an app for the EBT. Was laughed out of the room by state administrators
- “Public interest technology”: non-government entities that help governments to solve problems in the public interest
- Existing examples: Tax, administration, PPE, enrolment in benefits
- The main thing first was instant EBT balance-checking
- 4M+ WAUs now
- 9M americans make under 40k per year. If you graduate from the food stamp program 70% of people will go back to it in the next 2 years
- They monetise by helping companies market/distribute coupons to users of the app, or publish jobs
- Launched the first debit card focused on low income population
- Only bank that can know that 100% of our users receive SNAP benefits
- Helps for charities who want to give cash directly to these users. $3m cash grants in Q3 this year
Jimmy Chen is the Founder and CEO of Propel, creators of the Providers app, which is used by over 5 million Americans to manage their SNAP benefits and banking. Propel was founded through a fellowship at the Robin Hood Foundation, and has raised over $80m in venture capital funding from investors including the Financial Health Network, Andreessen Horowitz, Kevin Durant, and Serena Williams. In addition to his work at Propel, Jimmy is Vice Chair of Technology at the eGovernment Payments Council, an industry task force around the future of government payments, he was an advisor to President Biden’s Tech Transition Committee, and he has testified in front of Congress on the topic of modernizing America’s safety net. Prior to Propel, Jimmy led product teams at LinkedIn and Facebook and studied Symbolic Systems at Stanford University.
- Came across the Startups for Good podcast which had Jimmy on as well as a bunch of other interesting guests
- The Tech Nonprofit playbook