New York, NY—Blue Ridge Labs, a division of the Blue Ridge Foundation New York, has become part of Robin Hood, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization. Over the past 15 years, the Blue Ridge Foundation has funded and incubated technology-based ventures that advance opportunity and upward mobility in America. Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood will continue this mission, with a special focus on developing programs to help New Yorkers gain the digital tools they need to build better lives for themselves and their families, and break the cycle of poverty.

Launched by John Griffin—Robin Hood board member and founder and president of Blue Ridge Capital—the Blue Ridge Foundation has a long history of fostering groundbreaking ideas for social change. In 2014, Blue Ridge created the Significance Labs Fellowship program, a 12-week boot camp which offers tech talent the opportunity to create products for communities that are traditionally overlooked by technology.

“We originally started the Labs to see how technology could improve the lives of people living on the margins of society,” said Mr. Griffin. “I’m incredibly proud of all they have accomplished and believe by becoming part of Robin Hood, Blue Ridge Labs will be able to help even more New Yorkers currently living in poverty.”

“Since 1988, Robin Hood has championed innovative ways to fight poverty in NYC,” said David Saltzman, executive director of Robin Hood. “Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood will allow us to amplify the talent and passion of Blue Ridge Labs and their Fellows to develop effective and practical tools to alleviate poverty.”

In addition, the 2015 Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood Fellowship application process is now open, with 15 spots available for individuals with backgrounds in product, design or engineering.

In 2014, the Fellowship received more than 350 applications for 18 positions. The selected Fellows included individuals with previous experience in cutting-edge companies and leading brands such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Adobe and Fast Company. Others were serial entrepreneurs who had previously built and sold companies in the traditional for-profit space. The class built products designed for low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, individuals who eschew traditional banks, domestic cleaners, the elderly, and community college students.

A core component of the Fellowship model is the opportunity for teams to directly develop and test their products in collaboration with under-served New Yorkers. “We believe that this user-centric approach leads not only to products that are more likely to be adopted by their target audience, but also more likely to be effective in addressing the challenges these communities face,” said Hannah Calhoon, director of Blue Ridge Labs.

The early results have been promising: two of the 2014 Fellowship teams participated in accelerator programs this fall, one had their product acquired by a national coalition and another is in discussions to raise seed funding from a venture capital firm.

Fellows in the 2015 class will have the option to choose between two challenge areas—the informal economy and childhood learning outside the classroom—or propose a topic based on their own prior experience. The 12-week program will be accepting applications through April 3, 2015 and the program will begin on June 1, 2015.

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