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Tuesday, April 01, 2014 at 07:00 PM   Absolutely Free   Blue Ridge Foundation, 150 Court St

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A three month fellowship for rising stars within the tech community.
The Challenge
It's a non-trivial problem to build greenfield MVPs for users you aren't familiar with. Even harder to do so in three months.

Yet it goes without saying that if we could design products that made people's lives a little bit easier and were adopted by even a fraction of the 75 million Americans living on less than $25,000 a year, we'd be making a significant difference.

We're inviting a half dozen rising stars in the tech world to spend three months this summer to do just that. You're already deeply versed in building products or companies, and now you want to test something else.

A crash course in empathy.
There are many groups who are underserved by technology. Most of them might not look like, talk like or live near those who build products.

The challenge has been thrown down again and again and again - we can't just design for ourselves. There are millions for whom the American Dream is getting more and more elusive, and these people are being underserved by technology.

We need to find ways to fuse great technical product development with great user empathy and feedback and do our bit to help bring more opportunity back to America.

How we help you do this
We're designing this for a seasoned tech leader with a track record of building things that work. You probably have a dozen options of things you could do. Why this?

If you've wanted to design for the underserved, this is your chance. We're here to support you in what you need, and get out of the way for the many things you already know how do to. Here's what we're offering.

Unparalleled Access to Untapped Users and Communities
The most important part of product development is user understanding and user feedback. This is even harder with users who are unfamiliar to you. We'll give you that access.

Our immersion program will help you walk the metaphorical mile in someone else's shoes. A dozen times. Two dozen times. You'll have a chance to notice pain points and see opportunities.

As you start to think about turning these ideas into products, we'll make sure you have the connections and relationships to test and iterate. You'll have chances to shadow potential users, have focus groups, conduct in-depth interviews - what ever it takes to keep your product focused on users' realities.

Over the course of the three months, you'll probably get feedback from 100+ people. That's a lot of learning.

The Resources to Build Great Products
You'll have access to over $50,000 in build resources, which you can use to assemble a team of developers/designers to create and prototype with you.

Plus, our network of experts - who bring decades of experience in user research, behavioral change, and front-line service - will help narrow and refine your most promising ideas so you can iterate faster and smarter.

Workspace and Community
It's simple, but it's needed. You and your team will join top-notch peers and other social innovators in our great workspace in Brooklyn.

A Path to Scale
At the end of the program, we'll connect you with a customized set of funders and partners - from both the public and private sector - to help you drive uptake.

The Opportunity to Solve a Big Problem
What's better than a million users? A million users using a product that dramatically improves their lives. Cracking this is one of the country's hardest problems, and we're hoping a half dozen people will join us in tackling it.

We'll be offering you a chance to dive deeply into a particular sector. For this round, we're exploring financial inclusion, early childhood education, and the justice system. During our conversations with potential fellows, we'll explore your interest in one of these areas.

Wondering what you could build? Some questions we're asking:
Could behavioral economics inform the design of credit union savings products that target families living paycheck to paycheck?
Could wearable technology that counts words heard (a key indicator of cognitive development) be used to improve quality of early childhood education?
Could innovative service models (on-demand, marketplace-based) help low-income parents respond to unpredictable needs for childcare?
Could mobile technology be used to make the parole system cheaper, more effective, and more just?

You can see more potential ideas here.

Who You Are
We're looking to start conversations with rising stars in the tech sector who have a track record. Here's what we're looking for:
You've built and launched multiple products, ideally across a range of platforms, and ideally with a lot of user interaction. And you've got an itch to tackle a completely new set of challenges.
You want to solve real problems for real people. You believe in tech's ability to improve and empower, and you want to put those tools directly in the hands of low-income Americans.
You want to be on the leading edge of a new territory for tech, and you're comfortable building a team and taking them with you.
You're user-focused because you know adoption is tough. And you're willing to get creative to understand and test with a new set of users.

If this is you, drop us a line.

Timeline - May 19th - August 15th
The fellowship will run for three months, starting in mid-May. We recognize this is an aggressive timeline. We'll be starting conversations on a rolling basis starting March 19th and will have have an answer for you within a week. We know great people have lots of options and will need some time to wind those down, and we can be flexible and creative in helping you with any timeline related questions.
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