Propel After 4 Years by Alexander Gornyi


The post was originally published in Russian on Startup of the Day. Alexander kindly agreed to republish what we think is of great value to our readers.

Approximately 40 million receive food handouts from the government. The program used to be called Food Stamp, and the talons were printed on paper. It’s been ten years since the program got renamed and special cards have been used for transactions for about 15 years now, but people still use the old name. Russian propaganda loves Food Stamp – it is both the death of the USA (half the country starves!) and the contrary its strength (They help the underprivileged!), one can turn it anyway one wants. Curiously, neither of the parties shares the amount. Just today I found out the amount of assistance per family – one to two hundred dollars per family, the exact amount depends on income and other relevant factors.

Propel, the startup of the day, reminds us that 40 million people are an enormous target audience and not a cause for laughing or rejoicing. The startup created a mobile app, a mix of an online bank and food deals. It shows the card balance, keeps the records, and shows the neighboring stores that participate in the program. Propel isn’t the first or the last in this field, but it seems like their product is the most convenient. The startup reports an MAU of 1.5 million people – this is about 10% of the potential audience: a family usually has one person responsible for grocery shopping, and all 40 million don’t need Propel or similar services.

Naturally, the app is free – people can barely scrape enough for food, it’s complicated to take money from them directly. Instead, it works well with targeted ads. Propel puts out job ads and coupons for ‘incredible discounts. Both of these fit into the product so well that it’s even served as content and part of the functions and not some third-party ads.

The startup brought in USD 13M of investment in its recent round.


This is a rerun from 2019. The company grew significantly in four years. Today, it reports 5 million active users and brought in an investment round of USD 50M last March. Its PR people also talk about a variety of new features in the product. Judging by the favorable articles, the startup became something in the vein of ‘a super app for the poor,’ but the app screenshots don’t reveal anything drastically new, everything is about the same as it was.

Translation: Kostiantyn Tupikov


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