Building the future


IRL Research Lab helps startups ask better questions.

I love supporting people beginning new journeys – whether that’s starting a new tech project, doing a coronavirus pivot, or starting a new company. I draw on years of experience boldly building future-thinking projects in the face of obstacles.

I conduct research to predict possible futures.

I build tech roadmaps that maintain alignment with your vision and your product.

I’m an expert communicator, I have your back, and I tell the truth.

Coronavirus Pivot

Wow! This shit sucks! What to do? Uncertainty is painful, but so is growth. Are you going to stay stuck or are you going to cross over to this new stage of your journey?

What I offer:

  • Interviewing yourself and your team
  • Honest feedback about the state of your company
  • Holding space for your dreams of something new
  • Holding projection meetings with key stakeholders
  • Conducting research to predict possible futures
  • Narrative summary and presentation of research

let’s talk about your pivot

Solopreneurs and Founders

You’re highly driven and chasing after a brilliant idea. But making that brilliant idea into a reality is the next step, espectially in such a competitive environment. How do you align your vision to change the world with your product?

What I offer:

  • Interviewing yourself and your team to gauge alignment
  • Honest feedback about the state of your company
  • Conducting research to predict possible futures
  • Presentation with tangible steps to move you more toward mission alignment

let’s talk about your company

Starting a Tech Project

You believe in the deep mission of your project and also know that your organization needs to prepare itself for the future. How do you keep your organization relevant in the face of societal change?

What I offer:

  • Interviewing yourself and your team
  • Honest feedback about your project and help in figuring out how to make it
  • Co-creating product proposal and roadmap
  • Design thinking presentation
  • Presentation with tangible steps to move you more toward mission alignment

let’s talk about your tech project

Client Reviews

“Allison brought clarity to the possibilities of our vision at Canopy and pushed us on the fundamental questions of what we’re doing. Her in-depth research, strategic analysis, product contributions and network helped us to define a clear strategy and get a deeper understanding of possibilities and limitations of tech.”
-Brian Whitman & Annika Goldman, Canopy CEO & COO

“As the Speculative Hardware lead for UNICEF Innovation, Allison met with key government officials, UN stakeholders, industry leaders, and students to help negotiate the first-of-its kind drone testing corridor for humanitarian and development testing of UAVs in Malawi. She helped bring a consensus together on the use of drones for vaccine delivery and flood response, far ahead of its time. Allison understood the international tech landscape and how to strategically use power to accomplish the UN innovation goals. She advised the UNICEF Venture fund on key UAV investments.”
-Ariam Mogos, Office of Innovation

“Allison came to Jackson with a unique capacity to deeply and quickly understand our technical, political and social situation. She contributed to the framework to build the Fabrication Lab, 6-figure grants we successfully got, and advised on how to build our technical capacity with schools and institutions. We had a lot of timely discussions on what to build and what not to build regarding blockchain, software development and digital fabrication. We’re really glad we worked with her. We’d recommend her to any institution that needs a big-picture technical thinker but also someone who understands humans with deep empathy.”
-Kali Akuno, Executive Director of Cooperation Jackson

“Allison is the ultimate BS detector. She’s been in and around the tech industry for over a decade, as have I, and I’ve rarely met someone who is able to get to the heart of a technical issues and their broader implications with as much clarity and precision. I wish she’d been at many of the meetings where bad projects based on incomplete thinking were approved. If every tech-related effort had Allison as an advisor, we’d have a radically improved tech sector.”
-Meredith Whittaker, Co-founder of NYU’s AI Now Institute

Who is Allison Burtch?


IRL Research Lab was founded by Allison Burtch. The name Allison means “truthful one” and that has been her life’s mission - to tell the truth and create beauty so that we can live more freely on this interconnected planet. Since getting her masters in 2014 at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, she has consulted for startups, community groups, media platforms and NGOs.

Allison has worn many hats, and has been a strategist, technologist and researcher, most recently at Canopy – a Brooklyn-based startup creating a private recommendation architecture for the internet. Previously, she was the Speculative Hardware lead at UNICEF, creating the global strategy for drone delivery of vaccines and flood response.

After seeing how techno-utopian much of the creative tech field was, she made the first “Critical Theory of Technology: Politics, Utopia and Code” course at the School for Poetic Computation. She was a resident at Eyebeam where she created a small ultrasonic hardware device that protects smart phone users from passive audio surveillance. People thought she was crazy at the time but la historia me absolverá. An anti-genetic surveillance video Allison made with friends has been shown at every Holocaust museum in Europe.

She loves collaborating on projects, and has helped make the Dumb Store – a mobile app store for dumbphones, co-organized Prism BreakUp at Eyebeam and the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference at New York University. In 2011-2012, Allison was an editor of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, a six-edition print publication which was translated into six languages and distributed globally. She led a European biking and camping tour for teenagers, traveled by train from Kazakhstan to Beijing and lived on a boat. She has spoken internationally at conferences and universities.

You can read more about her press/speaking engagements here.

Book a consultation here:

I’ve worked on some of the world’s biggest ideas in the past: drones for humanitarian work, on-device machine learning for private recommendations, blockchain for journalism and privacy hardware far ahead of its time.

I’d love to hear more about what you’re working on and the problems you’re facing. Feel free to book a free 30-min consultation here: