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Grants and In-Kind Support to New York Nonprofits and
Businesses to Develop Early-Stage Technology Ventures

Catalyst Program

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Blue Ridge Labs @Robin Hood

Conf. Date:

08/25/22

Deadline Date:

09/06/22 11:59 PM EST

Description:

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Grants of $60,000 and in-kind support to New York nonprofit organizations and for-profit startup businesses to develop early-stage social technology ventures in eligible locations. Funding is intended to create products that improve the quality of life for low-income residents. Grantees will also benefit from coaching, product support, networking, and community connections. The program is designed to help turn a proven concept into a scalable technology platform. The program targets ventures that focus on low-income Americans with a particular emphasis on New York City.

Catalyst caters to teams working in any vertical, as long as the product aims to differentially improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers and has a technology component. 

Over the course of six months, as part of a small cohort of other founders, grantees will build an enhanced version of their product and get it into the hands of real people for feedback and validation. In parallel, they will receive assistance to identify the other resources they will need to be successful over the long-term, such as funding, team members, and partners – and will receive assistance in putting the systems in place to do this well. 

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 160747

Estimated Size of Grant:

Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood provides grantees with the following:
- Funding: $60,000, plus health insurance reimbursements and a dedicated research budget.
- Product Support: Hands-on coaching to help build, test, and launch a scalable tech platform.
- Human Capital: Executive coaching to strengthen the applicant's core team. Plus, connections to external talent, advisors, and potential partners.
- Community: Access to a wider ecosystem of social impact organizations and free space in the funding source's co-working community in Brooklyn once the office is safe to re-open.

Term of Contract:

The program starts December 5.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Both non-profit and for-profit social ventures will be accepted. Teams must be aligned with the mission to improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers. Applications will also be accepted from teams that have yet to decide on how they plan to incorporate and want to use this time to explore different structures and make that decision.

The funding source is looking for the following applicants:
The strongest candidates for Catalyst are teams that have developed and launched a small-scale version of their product into the world and are ready to apply what they’ve learned through that process towards building a scalable platform. These early versions can be extremely low-tech or cobbled together from existing tools (think Google Docs, Typeform, and Zapier). They may only have been used successfully by a few dozen people. The critical element is that they have been used by real people in the real world. (Ventures whose founders have personal experience of the issue their product addresses will be eligible for additional funding.)

While there are no hard rules, the best fit teams for Catalyst are typically less than 2-3 years old and have raised less than $400,000 in total funding to date. In addition to the above, BLR is looking for ventures that:
- Currently deliver a product or service to low-income New Yorkers
- Are strongly committed to improving the lives of New Yorkers
- Use technology as a key part of their solution
- Have between one and five full-time team members
- Are incorporated or plan to incorporate in the next 6-12 months as either a nonprofit or for-profit social venture, and
- Have at least one full-time team member who can commit to attending all programming. This year’s program will be remote-first, so there will be no requirement to attend programming in person. (You will be welcome to work from the BRL offices at 150 Court St when it’s safe to reopen, but it will not be required.)

BRL values lived experience and encourage ventures whose founders who have personally experienced the issue their product addresses to apply to Catalyst.

BRL actively seeks founders from, or who have worked closely with, historically marginalized groups, including but not limited to: People of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ people, first- or second-generation immigrants, and people from low-income families.

The following ideas and products are not suitable to the program:
- Volunteer matching platforms
- Primarily serving the developing world
- Fundraising/crowdfunding platforms
- Products and services for foundations and funders
- Well established and well funded organizations
- Political Action/Activism

BRL does not fund ventures that are primarily focused on populations overseas or those whose primary benefits accrue to higher-income households.

Pre-proposal Conference:

Join a webinar to learn about the program and ask questions of the BRL team: Friday August 19, 12:30-1:30 EST.
To register: https://robinhoodnyc.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0lduqrqjwjHtRUltGxm03U79n5n0weKjSH

Come to the Open House to learn about the program and meet alumni: Thursday, August 25th, 5:00-6:30pm EST.
To register: https://robinhoodnyc.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMpcumuqjwiGtfHqBQtrE2Ek-ubAzApSt55

Pre-Application Information:

Key Dates for 2022:
- Applications open Thursday, August 4
- Applications close Tuesday September 6, at 11:59pm EST
- Interviews and Impact Assessments from September 19 through October 28
- Final Applicants Selected November 18
- Program Starts December 5

The program will primarily be virtual. Potential in-person gatherings would be in New York City.

For non-profit organizations, funding operates like any other grant. For for-profits, Catalyst funding is provided as a recoverable grant. That means that the funding converts to no-interest debt if and only if the organization hits a pre-set revenue or fundraising milestone. In addition to this debt repayment, for-profit organizations give Robin Hood the right to participate in future funding rounds. For-profit founders are asked to pledge that they will make a meaningful gift to the Robin Hood foundation in the event that they are personally financially successful in their ventures.

Frequently Asked Questions: https://labs.robinhood.org/catalyst-faq/

More about the BRL Team: https://labs.robinhood.org/about/

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

To apply online: https://airtable.com/shrTJeh2PW78ign2m

For questions, please contact blueridgelabs@robinhood.org.

Blue Ridge Labs
@Robin Hood
150 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: New York City;   New York

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