Blue Ridge Labs


Are you building a mission-driven startup using AI that could improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers? The Catalyst program at Blue Ridge Labs is designed to help founders turn a proven concept into a scalable technology platform.

Over the course of five months, as part of a small cohort of founders, we’ll help you accelerate your product development and get it into the hands of real people for feedback and validation. In parallel, we’ll work with you to identify the other resources you’ll need to be successful over the long-term – things like funding, team members, and partners.

The Blue Ridge Labs team specializes in creating and supporting early-stage social tech ventures (both for-profit and nonprofit). Alums of our Catalyst program have been named Echoing Green Fellows, participated in Y Combinator, raised rounds from prominent venture capitalists, received funding from major philanthropic institutions, and been featured in NYTimes and Forbes. Most importantly, the alumni of our programs help hundreds of thousands of people every day.

What we provide:

  • Funding: Up to $90,000, plus up to $500 in health insurance reimbursements for two team members and a dedicated research budget. Ventures whose founders have personal experience of the issue their product addresses may be eligible for additional funding.

  • Product Support: Hands-on coaching to help you build, test, and launch a scalable tech platform.

  • Human Capital: Executive coaching to strengthen your 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 our co-working community in Brooklyn


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. And that this has happened as many times as it takes for the founders to validate the need for the product, refine the process by which it delivers value, and identify the barriers to scale that need to be addressed by new platforms and systems.

While there are no hard rules, we find that the best fit teams for Catalyst are typically less than 2-3 years old and have raised less than $750,000 in total funding to date.

In addition to the above, we’re looking for ventures that:

  • Currently deliver a product or service to low-income New Yorkers (you do not have to only serve low-income NYCers or be based in NYC)

  • Use technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence) as a key part of their solution in some way

  • Have between one to five full-time team members

  • Are incorporated or plan to incorporate

  • Have at least one full-time team member who can commit to attending all programming. We offer virtual programming but will have mandatory weekly programming taking place in-person at our incubator in Brooklyn. A benefit of being accepted to Catalyst is working from our offices at 150 Court St in Brooklyn.

We value lived experience and encourage ventures whose founders who have personally experienced the issue their product addresses to apply to Catalyst. Recognizing that financial risk can be a barrier to founding and working full-time on a tech venture, we have additional funding available for ventures whose founders have this lived experience. Ventures will be considered for this funding as part of the application process. No additional steps are needed aside from submitting a Catalyst application.

We are committed to fostering a community that values diverse perspectives and experiences, particularly from those who we aim to serve. We actively seek 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.


Artificial Intelligence "AI" has and continues to make a profound impact on our lives. AI has enabled us to automate tasks that humans can do to enable efficiencies and access like never before, such as enabling personalized Learning, language translation and diverse content, automated grading and feedback, reducing bias in education, financial accessibility-but also comes with negative externalities and expansive impact.

The workforce in AI is not representative of our population, with 80% of the tech workforce is made up of White and Asians, despite only representing 54% of NYC. The US Dept of Labor is predicting that 80% of the workforce will be directly impacted by AI. Other harm caused by AI include amplified impacts of bias integrated into technology, loss of jobs, a shift in human experience and blocking out those with limited technology access and literacy, lack of standardized regulations, and accelerated hacking.

We are looking for the rebels, change makers, and catalysts that are looking to address these issues head on with solutions. If you are building one of those solutions - this program is for you.

  • Apply Today!