It is not every day that a Silicon Valley technopreneur with an ivy league pedigree and a cool job at Facebook chucks it all to study tech solutions for the urban poor. But that would be the true story of the remarkable Jimmy Chen, founder of Propel, a mobile software company that focuses on creating products that serve Americans earning under $24,000 year. Before Facebook, Jimmy worked for two years at LinkedIn as a product manager and before that at Yahoo. His classic tech background, dynamism, and boyish good looks would have guaranteed him a lucrative career trajectory in the Bay Area. Yet in the Spring of 2014, he left the West Coast to join Significance Labs in Brooklyn, a venture-backed accelerator designed to help civic-minded entrepreneurs innovate tech solutions for challenging social problems.
His original partner, not unsurprisingly, dropped out fairly quickly along the way. Jimmy and Propel faced huge obstacles over these past two years. We admire Jimmy for sticking with it and figuring out how to make it work. Jimmy has amassed a team of entrepreneurs who work with him in product design. Propel is funded in part by Robin Hood, JP Morgan Chase, and Good Company Ventures and is rolling out product number two, FreshEBT, an app that allows the user to access his/her SNAP balance in real-time.
Editor’s Note: I first met Jimmy as a guest on my web show “ThatMattersLive” back in October, 2014. Check it out. xo Monika