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10 Game-Changing Black-Led Startups in Tech and Venture Capital

Despite the fact that only a fraction of venture capital goes to minority-led startups, funding for Black entrepreneurs in the U.S. saw a fourfold increase between the first half of 2021 and the same time in 2020, according to a recent Crunchbase article.

Fueled by the racial justice movement, other factors sparking change include Black investors being elevated to partner level at venture firms. People of color are also creating their own table by setting up their own funds that provide capital to a more diverse pool of founders.

While the future is steadily looking bright and representation is vital, challenges still await. Silicon Valley is still underrepresented due to the network remaining in the shell of its white-dominated investors. This minimizes their opportunity to endorse other profitable startups financially and expand horizons.

No less, this group of 10 investors and tech leaders has no fear of changing the conversations at the table.

1. Shelly Bell, Black Girl Ventures

North Carolina A&T University alum Shelly Bell is probably filled with Aggie pride given her company, Black Girl Ventures, recently collaborated with Nike’s Economic Empowerment Partnership securing the fintech founder’s enterprise with a $500,000 investment. Bell’s rising establishment provides measures for female business owners of color to gain capital for tech-enabled companies. In addition to Nike, BGV also has partnerships with credit-reporting company Experian and Visa. With over 12 divisions in various cities nationwide, BGV has helped hundreds of women in business whose collective revenue was $10 million.

 

2. Ibraheem Babalola, Etap Insurance

Ibraheem Babalola, founder and CEO of insurtech company Etap, is helping residents of West Africa obtain and purchase auto insurance easily in 90 seconds. After finding himself at a crossroads with delays from his own automotive coverage, Babalola wanted to better the process for others. Etap, which launched its beta app in November, allows prospective customers to buy insurance based on their needs. Whether it’s daily, monthly, or yearly, the company gives the consumer control. The insurance provider recently received a $1.5 million pre-seed fund from venture capital firm Mobility 54.

 

3. Reuben Harris, Career Karma

Career Karma CEO Reuben Harris is using his company to help job seekers get hired past traditional methods. With training programs designed to advance aspirants, Career Karma caters to the blue-collar worker between the ages of 25-35. Harris says that the misconception about his business is that it is specifically for software engineers or career paths in the tech industry.

His team recently raised $40 million in Series B funding for a total of $52 million. With his background in radio, Harris plans to launch a live audio feature on the site for seekers to engage with others about their career experiences.

 

4. Cam Newton, Daring Foods

Free agent Cam Newton is no stranger to making his money work for him. His investment into a meat substitute company, Daring Foods, received Series B funding from the likes of Grammy-winning rapper Drake and others. The company focuses on developing sustainable healthier meat replacements for chicken. The animal protein is the most widely consumed, globally. Newton wants to educate the Atlanta community of the power of plant-based food consumption. The news of his partnership with the company comes after he announced that he had become vegan for health reasons in 2020.

 

5. Sheena Allen, CapWay

CapWay CEO Sheena Allen is joining the wave of financial literacy made doable for millennials. The Mississippi native has seen and worked the tech walls of Silicon Valley and brought that information to her own platform. Allen’s fintech company centralizes its efforts on creating economic access and opportunities through inclusive financial products designed for those who have been turned away from traditional banking methods. “I know what it’s like being Black in Wells Fargo, denied because of your skin color…whether it’s Black, whether it’s women,” Allen said.

 

6. Iddris Sandu, sLABS

Iddris Sandu, co-founder of The Marathon Store, has been an architect in coding since age 13. With a background in tech alongside notable names such as Google, Uber, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, it’s no wonder he caught the interest of late rapper Nipsey Hussle.

Sandu’s tech-savy skills have led him to improve the quality of life for the everyday citizen. He developed the first high tech parking meter and launched LNQ, a blockchain-enabled hardwire platform that “aims to make the metaverse more accessible and provide creators with decentralized tools to engage with their communities through LNQ’s proprietary, real-time processing stack,” per press release. The Ghana-born and Southern California-raised secured a seed from Jay-Z’s Marcy Ventures Partners for his brand, spatial LABS (sLABS). The company endorses and helps tech creatives bring their digital ideas into fruition.

 

7. Madona Wambu, Women Who Code Mobile Lead

Madona Wambu, an Android Engineer III developer, is an inspiration for many women at Women Who Code Mobile Lead. Launched in March 2019, the growing company has become a “global non-profit organization and the world’s largest and most active community dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology.” Their partners include retail hardware giant Home Depot and Bank of America.

Wambu said that working for the high-tech smartphone and its software functioning allows her to create “new features that transform the ARCore experience into the Streem SDK.” She also lends her abilities to solving client problems, bug reports and improving codebase. “I work closely with iOS and back-end engineers to discuss implementation details and architecture.”

 

8. Dawn Dickson, Pop Com

Pop Com CEO Dawn Dickson is changing the game for consumers and how they engage in vending retail. A recipient of the 2020 Rising PayTech Star Award, Dickson’s company uses blockchain technology and artificial intelligence enabling retailers such as hotels, airports, and convention centers to collect customer insights for the ultimate vending experience. With top-tier brands such as JW Marriott, AC Hotel, and Virgin Hotel, Pop Com also caters to small businesses and local brands by building physical shops that operate conventionally.

 

9. Monique Woodward, Cake Ventures

An early-stage investor where technology meets, Woodward’s investments include media company for millennials, Blavity, Mented Cosmetics, Court Buddy, which places consumers with attorneys on budget billing, and others. Her funding is aimed for companies for international aspirants whose tech advances satisfy consumer interests for tomorrow. With over 15 years of experience in the tech industry wearing many hats, the multiple shareholder says, “I invest, speak, write, and advise on the areas of consumer internet, entrepreneurship, emerging demographics, and diversity.”

10. Stephen Green, PitchBlack

In 2015, PitchBlack was established by Oregon resident Stephen Green. Nationwide, PitchBlack serves a competitive component for Black and Latin startup entrepreneurs to connect within a larger ecosystem in search of funding. With incentives like cash prizes, the company creates strategies for participants to excel through goal-based options. Candidates have been able to amass $32 million in capital. In 2021, Green was chosen as the lead facilitator over Built Oregon. The non-profit organization helps with funding, mentoring, and the provision of technical assistance for consumer products across the state.

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Emil Flemmon
Emil Flemmon
Èmil Flemmon is an Atlanta-based editor, red carpet interviewer, writer, and photographer, with a career spanning over a decade in the editorial industry. His work has been featured in Kontrol Magazine, The Atlanta Voice, Blavity, Aspire TV, REVOLT, The Jasmine Brand, and Where Y'at Magazine in New Orleans.
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