Google for Startups has announced that 30 tech startups are to receive a share of its $2 million Black Founders Fund in Europe.
The fund was launched last year as part of Google’s effort to level the playing field for founders from underrepresented communities. These entrepreneurs often struggle to get access to capital. In the UK for example, it’s estimated that less than 0.25% of venture capital (VC) funding goes to Black-led startups.
The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund provides founders with cash awards of up to $100,000. The awards are non-dilutive which means that founders are not giving up any ownership in their company as a result of the investment. The funds will be distributed by London-based OneTech, an organization that supports underrepresented founders.
In addition to the cash awards, Google will give each company up to $120,000 in Ads grants and $100,000 in Cloud credits. The selected companies will take part in an acceleration program that includes leadership training and mentoring. And access to Google’s entrepreneurial network and tech support will also be provided.
The Fund received almost 800 applications from Europe, with 600 coming from the UK. The companies selected for the final 30 cover a diverse range of industries including gaming, food, healthcare, and fitness.
“The Black Founders Fund cements Google for Startups’ commitment to leveling the playing field for founders” Marta Krupinska, Head of Google for Startups UK said. “While supporting underrepresented founders has been core to the community and support programs at Google for Startups since 2016, it’s so critical that we are now able to contribute funding as well as programming for a community who have consistently been over-mentored yet underfunded.”
The awards have been broadly welcomed by Black tech entrepreneurs and angel investors.
“The funding gap across Europe for Black founders is evident” Andy Ayim MBE from the UK’s Angel Investing School told UrbanGeekz. “I truly believe that there is a huge untapped market opportunity to back some of the brightest innovators who are currently overlooked.
“We need more funds to step up, take action and invest like Google for Startups have. Well done to Marta and the team.”
To be eligible for application, all startups needed to have one or more founders that self-identify as Black and already have a product in the market. Of the final 30 founders chosen, 40% were women of color. One of those women is Berlin-based Deborah Choi.
She founded Horticure, in 2018, which used technology to make it easier for people to find, buy, and care for indoor plants. Last year the company was acquired by Bosque, a tech-enabled, direct-to-consumer plant brand that recently raised $700,000. Choi is now a co-founder at Bosque.
“The funding, as well as the mentorship from Google, will both play a key role in a pivotal year for us,” Choi told UrbanGeekz. “With Bosque, we have plans to go nationwide across Germany this year. This means investment into growing our marketing, product, and operations teams.
“Our category, house plants, is 80% driven by non-specialty retailers such as furniture stores and big-box tool shops. So there’s lots to unravel with digitization of one of the last remaining offline categories.
“On a personal level, as a Nigerian American entrepreneur moving to and settling in Germany, it wasn’t easy or linear to find my path and grow a business” Choi continues. “The recognition and support from Google are both a huge encouragement for me, that I’m not only on the right path, but others are taking notice.”
The entrepreneur also urged venture capitalists and others who provide business funding to follow Google’s lead in recognizing the talent and ambition of diverse tech entrepreneurs.
“With over 800 applicants to the Black Founders Fund, I wasn’t surprised at all by the number of qualified, capable, and ‘ready’ Black founders in Europe,” she said. “I had personally encouraged at least 10 other Black founders I know on the continent to apply.
“It’s a privilege to be part of this first-of-its-kind funding in Europe. I’m keen to see how other organizations and traditional funds step up to seize this opportunity to fund underrepresented founders that Google has taken a clear lead with.”
Here’s the full list of 30 startups selected for Google for Startup Black Founders Fund:
• Rachael Corson & Joycelyn Mate, Afrocenchix (UK): safe and effective products for afro & curly hair
• Christian Facey & Wilfrid Obeng, AudioMob (UK): provision of non-intrusive audio ads in games
• Favour Mandanji Nyikosa, Augmize (UK): claims, risk and policy management
• Nicholas Kelly, Axela Innovations (UK): data-enhanced healthcare
• Deborah Choi, Bosque (Germany): direct-to-consumer plant business
• Tomide Adesanmi, Circuit Mind (UK): AI that designs electronics
• Marie Assé & Karim Edson Bakoumé , Clustdoc (France): smart customer onboarding software
• Tai Alegbe, Contingent (UK): AI platform which predicts, monitors and manages supplier risk
• Nnamdi Emelifeonwu, Define (UK): Legal technology optimising contract drafting and reviewing
• Danielle Lawrence, Freyda (UK): SaaS platform automating manual data entry and simplifying workflows
• Bruno Mendes Da Silva, Heex Technologies (France): SDK for embedded architectures, APIs and a web platform
• Kenny Alegbe, HomeHero (UK): an operating system for the home
• Sait Cham, Hutch Logistics (UK): fulfilment and operating system for ecommerce brands
• Keano Chang, iknowa (UK): Connecting property owners with tradespeople
• Cynthia Wandia, Kwara (Germany): digitises the world’s financial cooperatives
• Michael Musandu, Lalaland (Netherlands): using AI to create synthetic humans for fashion ecommerce brands
• Nancy de Fays, Line (Belgium): hybrid cloud SaaS for creative pros
• Elizabeth Nyeko, Modularity Grid (UK): AI platform that makes energy systems resilient
• Charles Sekwalor & Oyin Solebo, Movemeback (UK): connecting hidden opportunities & talent in Africa
• Erika Brodnock, Kami (Optimum Health) (UK): virtual support system for parents
• Tolulope Ogunsina, Playbrush (Austria): digitising oral health care
• Ben Camara, Remote Coach (UK) digitising personal training
• Richard Robinson, Robin AI (UK): using AI to automate editing legal contracts
• Ismail Jeilani, Scoodle (UK): a platform for education influencers
• Ivan Beckley, Suvera (UK): virtual support service for long-term care
• Chantelle Bell, Syrona Health (UK): digital health company
• Jack-Hermann Ntoko & Jean-Cedric Bekale, TradeIn (France): a collaborative trade risk management platform
• Clifford Ondara, Vanilla Steel (Germany): a digital auctions platform for excess steel
• Anthea Marie Stephenson, Wild Radish (UK): delivering a consumer-facing cook-at-home service
• Stephanie Nenta Mbianda, Xtramile (France): delivering one-click job ads
Photo Credit: Google