Brooklyn startup is building better tech for people receiving public benefits

Jimmy Chen was a product manager at Facebook in California eight years ago when he struck out on his own, wondering if he could take Silicon Valley’s software playbook and apply it to social problems.

He moved across the country to Blue Ridge Labs in Brooklyn, a three-month incubator program for entrepreneurs who want to help underserved Americans. Chen spent those months interviewing people on public assistance and found a persistent but seemingly solvable problem that became the focus of his startup, Propel.

It was way too hard, he said, to track how much money was left on the electronic benefit transfer cards used to make purchases with

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