Announcing Our 2023 Innovation Fund Winners

by Jeshua John, on March 20, 2024 at 6:17 PM

The Workers Lab is thrilled to announce that all six of our Innovation Fund Fellows exceeded expectations and will receive additional investment and support to help their ideas succeed and flourish. 

We started the 2023 Innovation Fund Fellowship with a call to innovators with early-stage ideas centered around making the ways our country serves workers more modern and inclusive. We specifically sought ideas from entrepreneurs of color and women who typically receive only a tiny fraction, less than 2 percent, of early investment enjoyed by other entrepreneurs. In total, we received 415 applications from 10 countries, 47 U.S. states, and the District of Columbia.

After selecting our six fellows, we had initially planned to invest up to $200,000 total across up to three winners. Fellows were each provided with a $20,000 stipend during the fellowship, as well as training, mentorship, and other customized support. As the fellowship progressed, it became clear that all of the 2023 Innovation Fund Fellows were exceeding our expectations. 

And that’s why, building upon our commitment as the national home for worker-centered innovation, we have decided to invest in all six fellows. In total, The Workers Lab will invest an additional $400,000 over the next 12 months in direct financial and in-kind technical support, made possible through our recent acquisition of the WorkIt Labs team. They will also receive another year of mentorship, training, and organizational support. We’d like to congratulate all six of the fellows.

Main Winners

  • Co-led by Teresa Hodge and Saad Soliman, Just Decisions is a platform that organizes ready-to-work talent with previous arrest or conviction histories and matches them with employers needing qualified talent. The Workers Lab’s investment will go towards supporting their build-out with employer partners and scale into new states.
  • Co-led by Michelle Geng and Tony Hernandez-Ferman, empowers direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce small business owners to expand into new B2B sales channels (retail, wholesale, and online marketplaces) through data and automation, increasing overall profitability, and reducing their reliance on costly paid marketing. The Workers Lab’s investment will aid in increasing their go-to-market efforts with underrepresented founders – predominantly women and people of color – who constitute a majority of the e-commerce entrepreneurial community.
  • Co-led by Catherine Xu and Shreenath Regunathan, Starlight is seeking new ways to help struggling working families more easily access government benefits. The Workers Lab’s investment will expand their reach to more workers through partnerships with financial institutions and employers, and accelerate product development to continue delivering benefits in a targeted, personalized way.

Runners Up

  • Led by Patience Gitau, NurseBridge* is a business-to-business, data-driven medical staffing platform that aims to address the nursing staffing crisis that disproportionately impacts rural communities. The Workers Lab’s investment will expand their stakeholder engagement and further improve NurseBridge’s technology building.
  • Co-led by Lorraine Mejias and Tonique Griffin, Care Forest is a doula-owned platform that seeks to create mutual aid and support for doulas and other birth workers in all aspects of their work. The Workers Lab’s investment will go towards testing of their business model, building technology infrastructure, and identifying the best states for scaled use, with the goal of doulas feeling more secure, supported, and confident in their profession, ultimately contributing to a healthier and thriving community.
  • Led by Rachel Walls, Trunk of My Car Cooperative aims to transform the self-publishing industry into a community-focused model rooted in equitable resource distribution among authors, editors, cover art designers, and small presses, in addition to the readers and workers who support them. The Workers Lab’s investment will support the build-out of their ecosystem and help them acquire appropriate member partners to support their business model.

Subscribe and stay tuned for more information on our upcoming 2024 Innovation Fund Fellowship.

*NurseBridge is not affiliated in any way with Healthcare Strike Staffing which was previously named Nurse Bridge.

Topics: Influencer Marketing| The Innovation Fund