Jimmy Chen

Seed financing from heavy hitters to grow Propel

The following is a guest post from Jimmy Chen, founder and CEO of Propel, a company building software for Americans with low incomes who are often overlooked by traditional technological innovation.

At Propel, we’re building a more user-friendly safety net, but we aren’t doing it alone. Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve closed $4 million in seed financing from world-class investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Omidyar Network, Kevin Durant’s The Durant Company, and Max Levchin’s SciFi VC, and with participation from our existing investors Jay Borenstein, WinWin, and the Financial Solutions Lab at the Center for Financial Services Innovation. We’re thrilled to partner with this all-star group to build a venture scale business that fights poverty with technology.

Propel got its start by re-thinking the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, which 44 million Americans use to put food on the table. Combined, the program provides more than $66 billion in nutrition assistance annually, distributed on Electronic Benefits Transfer (“EBT”) cards. Most EBT cardholders manage their benefits by calling a phone hotline or saving their old grocery receipts.

Our team, alumni of companies like Facebook, Google, and McKinsey, started Propel to apply top-tier software development and design to address the challenges that Americans in poverty face every day.

Propel’s product, a free app called Fresh EBT, allows EBT cardholders to manage their benefits, plan their shopping trips, save money on groceries, and connect to other essential resources. More than 250,000 people across the country use Fresh EBT at least once per week. By using Fresh EBT instead of calling the EBT phone hotline, our users save more than two months of human time every day.

Fresh EBT users spend more than $1 billion each year on groceries, and we’ve leveraged their combined purchasing power into partnerships with grocery retailers and brands to offer them savings and help them maximize their benefit.

Gwen L., a Fresh EBT user, says, “Fresh EBT has helped me to be more watchful over my food stamps and has shown me to manage my benefits better. I love this App! So many things you can do on this App.”

Jimmy Chen

For Propel, improving the user experience of EBT is just the beginning. We envision a more user-friendly safety net, where those who need help can seamlessly access a variety of trusted services that help them get back on their feet.

“Propel has designed a product where generating revenue by helping users save money actually makes the product more attractive,” says Alex Rampell, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “In the long term, they’re the rare company with a real opportunity to provide fundamentally positive financial services to low-income consumers.”

In a political climate where each of us needs to stand up for what we believe, we are proud to say that world-class investors are standing with us in our mission to fight poverty with technology.

Follow us on Twitter at @FreshEBT. Propel is hiring!