The annual SXSW conference is always an interesting affair. With its multiple tracks for music, film and interactive, this year there were plenty of opportunities to discuss diversity, particularly in funding when it comes to women and people of color. There were many events to choose from and VC’s and founders of color were well represented. Parties, panels, and pitches were everywhere.
South by Southwest is a whirlwind and with so much going on, I had to be intentional about where and with whom I spent my time. As such, I opted to speak on one panel and do one other appearance; judging the Black Girl Ventures pitch competition. Last year, I was a judge on the MVMT 50 Pitch Black competition. As a part of my commitment to raising awareness around the lack of funding for black women entrepreneurs, I was asked and gleefully agreed to join representatives from Google and the Bumble Fund as a judge.
Black Girl Ventures is a crowdfunded pitch competition that invests in black female entrepreneurs. the social enterprise sponsors pitch competitions and workshops aimed at supporting entrepreneurs in an effort to combat the disparity in funding offered to Black women.
Judging pitch competitions can sometimes be dodgy work. Sometimes, you have little or no visibility as to how prepared founders will be for pitching. It can be hit or miss. I am more than pleased to say that the founders who participated in the Black Girl Ventures Pitch competition were well prepared and their work and pitches were varied and engaging. Below are a few highlights:
Royelles Founded by Mukami Kinoti Kimotho, this company is working on engaging girls of all ages by creating a proprietary platform. The startup is using technology and immersive storytelling to dismantle the global identity crisis and empower 1 million and young women towards a future in leadership and STEAM.
Curated x KaiWith the aim of bringing experiences to young black and brown children using AR/VR, Curated by Kai won the competition with a whopping 90% of the votes. The startup offers kids a chance to experience art using VR and AR. She recently completed a project with Amy Sherald who painted former First Lady Michelle Obama.
CPackElephant An Etsy-like marketplace that brings high volume, sustainable business to the variety of talent living and working in hyper-local communities.
Overall, the group of founders was incredibly well prepared. They answered all questions posed by judges and the ideas represented a wide range of businesses and potential markets. The event represented a great opportunity for potential investors, too. Kudos to Shelly Bell for a wonderful event and her continues efforts to provide funding for Black women entrepreneurs.
Sian Morson is an investor, startup advisor and serial entrepreneur. Follow Sian on Twitter @sianmorson