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Jimmy Chen: How the software behind Snapchat and Tinder can help fight poverty

The founder of Propel talks about his road from Facebook employee to building software for people in need.

Propel founder Jimmy Chen talks about how modern software can be used for social good. (Image via YouTube)

Someone texted us recently, “tell me some good news.” After the last week of domestic, international and civic strife, it’s a legitimate request. Well, here’s some.

Jimmy Chen, the founder of Propel, took to a TEDx stage recently to explain his vision of using the software behind popular apps like Snapchat, Tinder and Dropbox to create technologies to help low-income people who most need help.

“There’s nothing wrong with disappearing photos or online dating or silly videos on the internet,” Chen says in his talk. “If we didn’t have those things, life would be really boring. But I think we sell short the possibility of what technology can provide if we see it as just a toy. Modern software is already being used to help low  income Americans put food on the table, it’s being used to make our health system more efficient, and it’s being used to transform education in Tanzania.”

Chen’s company, Propel, makes the app FreshEBT, which allows users to check their account balance and makes the food stamp process easier to navigate.

In April, Propel raised $4 million in venture funding, with backing from NBA star Kevin Durant’s venture fund and Andreessen Horowitz.

In January, we ranked Propel as the No. 8 startup to watch in Brooklyn.

“Since we can only solve the problems we understand, if we can broaden our understanding of what problems tech might solve, the tools are already at our fingertips,” Chen said in the TEDx talk. “The technology itself is agnostic. Let’s use it to solve problems that are really worth solving.”

Companies: Propel / Andreessen Horowitz
Series: Brooklyn

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