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Black Owned EdTech App Raises $10.6 Million in Two Years

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A year after it raised a seed round of $3.1m, Nigerian Education Technology (Edtech) platform, uLesson announced last week that it has closed a $7.5m Series A round.

US-based Owl Ventures led the financing round. The VC fund is the largest fund focused on the world’s edtech market, with over $1.2 billion in assets under management.

uLesson, the largest and fastest-growing learning platform in West Africa, is trying to bridge educational gaps for K-7 to K-12 students in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Gambia.

The online education platform launched in March of 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. However, due to school closings, students turned to online learning.  Between March and August, the company saw its number of paid subscribers quintuple.

Black Owned EdTech

“We are now witnessing an increased availability of data networks in Africa. With more affordable smartphones and the change in attitudes towards online learning accelerated by COVID-19, the foundations are now in place for an education revolution.

At uLesson, we know we have a critical role to play in this ‘new normal’ and this funding will be crucial in our drive to fill the major gaps in Africa’s education system through tech,” said Sim Shagaya, founder and CEO of uLesson.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Jay-Z Involved in a $10Million Fund Created To Empower Black Owned Cannabis Businesses

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Jay-Z is part of a fund created to invest in Black owned cannabis businesses in order to bolster Black participation in the industry.

The new fund was created as part of a purchase of two California-based cannabis companies by a third company. Jay-Z was a creative strategist at Caliva, one of the two companies acquired by Subversive Capital Acquisition Corp., which has renamed itself TPCO Holding Corp.

Subversive Capital Acquisition Corp., now known as The Parent Company, is now the largest cannabis operation in California, offering services including plant cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, brands, retail, and delivery. The company expects to earn revenues up to $334 million in 2021.

black owned cannabis businesses

Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter, has been named Chief Visionary Officer of The Parent Company and leads brand strategy for The Parent Company Social Equity Ventures, a corporate venture fund investing in Black and minority-owned Cannabis Businesses.

The Parent Company Social Equity Ventures will invest $10 million (plus an annual contribution of at least 2% of its net income) in minority-owned and Black-owned cannabis businesses, while also aiming to rectify the wrongs of cannabis prohibition and the racially-biased war on drugs over the past four decades.

According to Jay-Z, “This is an incredible time for this industry. The end of cannabis prohibition is here, and The Parent Company will lead the charge to a more expansive and inclusive cannabis industry.

We are paving a path forward for a legacy rooted in dignity, justice, care, and consistency. The brands we build will redefine growth, social impact, and social equity. This is our time. I’m proud and excited to lead the vision of The Parent Company.”

Investors include Roc Nation and artists Rihanna, Meek Mill, Yo Gotti, and DJ Khaled.

Tony O. Lawson


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These Two Black Owned Real Estate Firms Have Closed over $60M in Deals Together

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National Standard Abstract  (NSA) and CB Emmanuel Realty are two Black Owned Real Estate Firms that have closed over $60 million in transactions together.

NSA is a full-service title agency that has expertise in residential and commercial real estate transactions. CB Emmanuel Realty is a real estate developer and investor of Affordable Housing properties.

On December 12th, 2020 National Standard Abstract provided title insurance for a $32 Million deal involving CB Emmanuel Realty. This transaction involved the preservation of Calvary Baptist Senior Housing in Jamaica Queens NY.

This is not the first time these companies have collaborated on deals of this size. In August of 2020, they closed another $30 million affordable housing transaction.

In this interview, Osei Rubie, CEO of NSA, and Chris Bramwell, CEO of CBE, discuss why they decided to join forces. They also discuss the importance of networking and building relationships.

Both men credit much of their success to their fathers and are now passing lessons learned to their children. Osei and Chris also explain how and why they are giving back to the community.

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Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned FinTech Firm Selected To Disburse $500M in Relief Grants

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Lendistry is a Black owned Fintech (Financial technology) firm that provides short-term loans and other types of financing to small businesses. Small businesses can use Lendistry to finance new projects, purchase new equipment, and more.

Lendistry is also designated both a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and a Community Development Entity (CDE) small business and commercial real estate lender.

On November 30, 2020, the State of California announced that it has selected Lendistry to act as the intermediary charged with disbursing $500 million in COVID-19 grants to California small businesses and non-profits.

The Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program is administered by California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), part of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz).

black owned fintech
Everett Sands, Founder and CEO of Lendistry

“As an organization dedicated to efficiently providing capital to underserved small businesses, and with a deeply experienced senior management team that mirrors the diversity of our home state of California, Lendistry is proud to partner with the CalOSBA in this bold and critical effort,” said Everett K. Sands, Lendistry’s founder, and CEO.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Creating a Black Investment Syndicate That Invests Nationally and Internationally

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As someone who is interested in investing in projects around the world, I’m intrigued by the idea of a Black investment syndicate, a group of Black investors and investment firms that combine resources to invest on a global scale.

Ken Goodwin shares my interest in this concept. Ken is the Senior Managing Principal & President of Jeanensis, a global advisory firm that has developed its expertise in the areas of FinTech and RegTech, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and more.

In this interview, we explore several ideas, including a Black investment syndicate, a group of Black investors, private equity, and venture capital firms that pool resources to invest on a global scale.

Ken also shares details on what it takes to be a successful investor, his STEM work with HBCU’s, and the investing sectors he considers recession-proof.

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Tony O. Lawson


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Patrice Lumumba: His Last Words To His Wife Before His Assassination

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On January 17th, 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo was assassinated.

He was the second of five leaders of independence movements in African countries to be assassinated in the 1960s by their former colonial masters, or their agents.

patrice lumumba
Patrice and Pauline Lumumba with their children.

Before his assassination, Lumumba wrote his wife a letter:


My dear wife,

I am writing these words not knowing how they will reach you and when they will and whether I shall still be alive when you read them.

All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives.

But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their Western allies who found direct and indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional amongst
certain high official of the United Nations that organization in which we placed all our trust when called on its assistance.

They have corrupted some of our compatriots and bribed others. They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence into dishonour. How could I speak otherwise?

Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo, it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pleasure.

But my faith will remain unshakeable. I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say no to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the clear light of the sun.

As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty.

For without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.

Neither brutality nor cruelty nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakeable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.

History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or in the United Nations. But the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets.

Africa will write its own history and to the north, and south of the Sahara, it will be a glorious and dignified history.

Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.

Long Live the Congo. Long Live Africa!

Patrice

 


Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Tech Startup Raises $4.6 Million to Help Companies Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the Workplace

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Kanarys is a Black owned tech startup that helps companies get the specific data and insights they need to diagnose, prioritize, and optimize Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts.

Kanarys believes that now is the time for companies to examine their culture, policies, and procedures and to approach DEI from an institutional and systemic lens.

Black Owned Tech Startup
Kanarys co-founders Bennie King. Mandy Price, and Star Carter

Employees can use Kanarys to discuss work-related issues surrounding discrimination, and then artificial intelligence aggregates that data so that companies can pinpoint areas of improvement.

On Wednesday, Co-founders Mandy Price and Star Carter announced the closing of a $3 million seed round. describing it as a “historic” shift toward more equitable backing of Black-owned startups.

The most recent $3 million investment will be used for ramping up technology, hiring, and sales and marketing efforts. The new capital brings the total amount raised to $4.6 million.

Black Owned Tech Startup

Since launching the platform in 2019, Kanarys has grown 2,000% in users on its platform and operates a database of around 1,000 companies, including Fortune 500 brands.

Tony O. Lawson


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CultureTags, a Family Game For the Culture, By the Culture

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In the midst of a global pandemic, consumers have been looking for positive ways to stay entertained. CultureTags™ has filled that void.

CultureTags is a game that tests just how well you know the culture guessing the meaning of acronyms before time runs out from categories including Black Twitter, Church, Daily Sayings, Songs and Lyrics, and more. 

In just nine months, after a successful crowdfunding campaign, sales have already surpassed six-figures. 

We caught up with founder, Eunique Jones Gibson to find out more about her business.

Eunique Jones Gibson, founder of #CultureTags

What inspired you to create CultureTags?

I wanted to create a game for the culture and by the culture that would invite people from all over to participate and enjoy. 

What differentiates CultureTags from other games?

CultureTags combines the best of culture and communication into acronyms to truly test how well you know the culture! But in the midst of playing, you really get an opportunity to know the people around you, from the crazy answers they yell out to the nostalgic moments and experiences they might share after figuring out a #CultureTag that makes you reflect on “back in the day” moments.

What are some strategies that you implemented in order to successfully launch your product?

I went the crowd sourcing route because I wanted to make this like one big group project. I think that really contributed to the successful launch because I included everyone who wanted to play a role in bringing it to fruition.

Now those individuals are like ambassadors for the brand and it has truly helped accelerate the adoption, more so than I believe it would have if I would have just launched and asked everyone to purchase.  

Your products can be found on Target.com and in Target stores nationwide. What did it take to get the attention of a major retailer?

Grabbing their attention can be attributed to the buzz and excitement we were able to create online through social media through the IG live game nights and posts from people far and wide talking about the game.

Also, Target and their supplier diversity team is actively pursuing great products and people who align with their values and goals. They were huge advocates for the game internally.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

I try not to box myself in. I didn’t see CultureTags 5 years ago, but I was open to where my gifts and mission to celebrate culture and community would take me.

I’d love for there to be a CultureTags game show, more expansion packs, and editions that incorporate other cultures and I’m open to developing more games and ways for us to be reflected in a positive light. 

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

KEEP GOING! Focusing on knowing when to push, when to pause and when to pivot. And build a dope village of individuals who have no financial stake in whether you lose or win. People who will hold you accountable as much as they will push you!

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Venture Capital Firm To Receive $10M From Apple

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Harlem Capital, a Black owned venture capital firm based in New York, NY, will be receiving a $10 Million investment from Apple.

On Wednesday morning, Apple announced that Harlem Capital will receive the investment as part of a pledge made last summer to “challenge the systemic barriers to opportunity and dignity that exist for communities of color and particularly for the Black community.” 

The funds are intended to support Harlem Capital’s mission to change the face of entrepreneurship by investing in 1,000 diverse founders over the next 20 years.

Tony O. Lawson


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Kiddie Kredit, The App Promoting Financial Responsibility, One Kid at a Time

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Kiddie Kredit is a mobile app designed to educate children on the credit system by completing chores.

The free app gives kids points for completing chores around the house. After meeting a goal, they are rewarded with both monetary and non-monetary prizes from their parents.

We caught up with founder and CEO, Evan Leaphart, to learn more about the company.

kiddie kredit
Evan Leaphart, founder and CEO of Kiddie Kredit

What inspired you to start Kiddie Kredit?

I was inspired to start Kiddie Kredit because I realized that the moment I turned 18, I hopped on the opportunity to get a credit card, over-leveraged my situation, and fell into early debt because of poor financial decisions.

I saw how much this decision negatively affected my credit and hindered my ability to gain access to capital over the next few years. I had a moment of clarity where I realized that although my score was low due to bad choices, I was unaware of how credit worked in the first place. I wanted to create something at scale that could change this for the generation after me.

What are some ways that financial literacy at a young age can benefit a child in adulthood?

If a child learns to spend within their means and save, they will be creating solid foundational habits that will make managing a credit card easier as they enter adulthood.

They will be less likely to have high utilization on their credit cards which will, in turn, lead to better credit scores which will ultimately lead to lower interest rates on a mortgage and/or auto loan.

Where do you see Kiddie Kredit 5 years from now?

I see us providing as many children as possible with a responsible path to their first credit card. We also have a couple of (confidential) things in the works that we are excited about.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Keep going! It is literally that simple. When people see how long you have been pursuing your passion despite all of the naysayers along the way, it won’t matter as much about where your product/service is at.

They will begin to believe more in YOU and your ability to execute. If an investor knows that you won’t let this dream die they are more inclined to believe you won’t let their investment die either. So I simply say…. KEEP GOING!!!

Tony O. Lawson


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