Browse Tag

investing

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$20 Million Agriculture and Food Investment Fund Aims to Improve Black Health and Wellness

TPP Capital Holdings (TPP) is a Black owned impact fund manager and healthcare real estate development firm on a mission to change the face of Black health by investing in agribusiness, agriculture, indoor vertical farms/greenhouses, farmland development, health-focused food and beverage enterprises with Black and Brown ownership located in federally qualified opportunity zones throughout the country.

To date, TPP has commitments to provide direct investments through Fund I, including a $2M investment commitment in Vertical Harvest LC3, a Jackson, Wyoming, agri-business that has built a profitable sustainable model for urban hydroponic farms. Other commitments include a $5M equity investment in the construction and operation of a 70,000-square-foot greenhouse that will grow one million pounds of fresh produce annually. The site will be accompanied by 50 affordable units housing for farm workers.

In this interview with founders Anthony Miles and Clinton Bush, we discuss TPP’s plan to reduce food deserts, health disparities, and burdens of chronic medical conditions in the Black community. We also discuss how they can help Black entrepreneurs manufacture healthy food and beverage brands.

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Tony O. Lawson


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Venture Investment Opportunities in the Caribbean

Dmitri Dawkins is a Jamaica based entrepreneur and investor. He serves as managing director at Graft Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on scaling Caribbean-based businesses.

investment opportunities

In this interview, we discuss the investment climate in Jamaica and what effects the pandemic has had on opportunities there.

We also discuss some misconceptions about the Jamaican economy as well as the unique advantages and challenges that the Caribbean region has compared to US or European markets.

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Tony O. Lawson


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Why Black Art Should Be Part Of Your Investment Portfolio

With the increasing knowledge that art is a viable alternative asset, the rising interest in art by Black artists, coupled with the number of ways we can now invest in art, “Black art”, or African & Diaspora art should be considered as part of your investment portfolio.

A huge advocate of this asset class is art collector and entrepreneur, Freda Isingoma. Freda is the founder of KIISA, an investment & advisory firm focused on developing investment solutions for the Contemporary African & Diaspora Art market and ecosystem.

We caught up with her to learn more about investing in art and why she is so passionate about supporting the work of Black artists around the world.

What inspired you to start KIISA?

KIISA started as a response to a need and a gap that I identified in the African and Diaspora art market. Although my background is in investment banking and entrepreneurship, I have always loved art and have been collecting African & Diaspora art for 20 years. My collecting journey gave me an insight into the market and its dynamics.

black art
Alexis Peskine – Paris

This then prompted me to do a course on “Curating Contemporary Art” and the University of the Arts London, which gave me a bit of background on the more research element of the art world. It’s then that I started to further investigate the African and Diaspora art ecosystem as a whole and really understand what the gaps were.

Keyezua – Angola

After many conversations with mentors, I am glad I got to where I am now, where our focus is on developing a new “story” around African & Diaspora art investments and ecosystem development, and I get to leverage my skills and experience in finance, art collecting, and economic analysis.

KIISA is a pioneer in the Art Investments sector, providing investors with the opportunity to participate in Alternative Asset Funds that are intentionally designed to not only provide long term returns, but also develop impact solutions that drive the growth, visibility, knowledge, and sustainability of the Contemporary African and Diaspora art market.

Amy Sherald – America

Why do you prefer the term “African & Diaspora Art” over “Black Art”?

Many in the art world use either or. I specifically use African & Diaspora Art as it suggests the global footprint and impact of the Black artistic community, history, culture, identity, language, and much more. Ultimately, art made by Black artists is simply art.

Why is there a growing interest in African & Diaspora art? 

The interest in African & Diaspora art has always been there and that’s evident by the fact Classic African art influenced Early European and American Art movements including Cubism, Fauvism, German Expressionism, and American Modernism. We see this in the works of Picasso, Matisse, and Gaugin to name a few.

Furthermore, there has been interest in Modern and Contemporary art by Black artists over the years, but the main issue is that the interest has largely been shallow and inconsistent. The current spotlight on art by Black artists has mainly been generated by a wider interest from the Black community to collect art and be part of cultural economic growth, particularly the younger generation of collectors.

black art
Victor Ehikhamenor – Nigeria

While we have always had collectors within the Black community globally, there has been this misconception that art by Black artists is in main collected by Europeans and other non-Black communities. This is simply not true. The current wave of new collectors that are framing the new dynamic, is being driven by the acknowledgment of art collecting as a way of building cultural equity, preserving heritage, and also participating in an alternative investment growth story.  

Saying that, there has been a rising focus on Black artists by Western art museums and institutions post the protests in the US and globally last Summer. This is due to the fact that many of them were forced to finally face the racial disparities in their collections and programming and at the same time address this bias within the Western art cannon overall. If you ask me how much impact this will make, the jury is still out. There has been more virtue signaling to date, than measurable action. 

Lina Iris Viktor – United Kingdom

Why is it important to increase the number of Black people investing in African & Diaspora?

Any community needs to be the bedrock and foundation of their art ecosystem and cultural expression. I often draw similarities to the Chinese Art market emergence during the last global economic downturn 12 years ago and the intentional build of what is now a dominant art market player.

Although we are dealing with 54 countries and a global diaspora base, Black collectors are realizing that they are an essential part of the art ecosystem as a whole. If we look at art as a language and a way of telling the stories that document our cultural history and current social and political dynamics, it makes sense that these pieces of cultural documentation (and pride), inherent to your own cultural background, are collated and kept. In doing so, it builds a legacy of cultural heritage preservation, that will be shared with, and inform generations to come. 

black art
Goncalo Mabunda Maputo – Mozambique

The other significance in Black collectors taking a greater interest in building cultural equity ownership through collecting art, is that its organically spearheading this wave of new initiatives, collaborations, and technology focused on facilitating growth within the art economy.

Not only will this intensify the much needed demand for art by Black artists, but it will also transform the number of ways in which we invest in it. Furthermore, collectors are not only custodians of art, many are also patrons. Greater patronage makes sure that art/educational institutions and cultural centers continue to serve the local community adequately.

black art
Ndidi Emefiele – Nigeria

What roles can Black owned galleries and museums play in strengthening the market for African & Diaspora?

Black owned galleries and museums on the Continent and Black communities globally, play a vital and critical role in the growth of the African & Diaspora market. We are at a pivotal time in Africa’s artistic history where the repatriation debate is gaining momentum, and additionally where the demand for Modern and Contemporary African & Diaspora art has caught the attention of the art world.

Fundamentally, art museums are shared public spaces dedicated to promoting and educating on artistic and cultural knowledge, while preserving the heritage and artistic integrity of the local community. As a result, they form the foundational pillar of any cultural ecosystem. Therefore, it’s imperative that the community from which the art, the practice, and narrative originate, are also the primary validators of that art. This should not in any way stop the art from being shown, celebrated, engaged within other regions and nations.

Black owned galleries also play an important function too. They not only serve as a powerful portal to communicate the narrative of the artistic production from the community, they cultivate and reinforce a dynamic arts culture and economy that promotes the local artistic talent. This is essential, as it supports the growth, and investment of, artists within the Black community.

Additionally, they in turn nurture the development of collectors and art practitioners (e.g. curators and secondary market advisors), which is a critical component of the ecosystem development. Furthermore, galleries naturally then become procurers of ancillary services in adjacent and complementary businesses/industries in their local communities, as well as attracting “art” tourism, which can be catalysts for economic growth and infrastructural development within that community.

Underplaying the importance of Black owned museums and galleries hinders the empowerment of home-grown narratives and talent, while subsequently weakening the advancement of the domestic artistic community. 

black art
Fahamu Pecou -America

What are the first steps to becoming an art investor?

There a few ways in which you can invest in the art market. The obvious way is through building a collection. My advice is always to just start. Once you start, you get to sharpen your eye and taste, while at the same time learning more about the industry, its nuances, peculiarities ad possibilities.

I am a fan of “burning shoe leather”, whether it’s in person or virtual, through attending Art Fairs, studio visits, galleries, auctions, Art School final year shows, and even residencies. Routinely doing this helps to build relationships with artists, curators, dealers, and other collectors, that help to inform how to build your collection. Building a collection of significance can be fun, but it does take time to really define your taste, demystify the dynamics of the market and build relationships.

There’s no cheat sheet for this. The key is to buy what you love, that way you won’t look back and have any regrets. Do your research, then buy with your eyes and heart, not your ears, because trends in this market come and go just like any other industry.

The other ways to invest in the market are through art investment vehicles, which include art funds and syndicates. The last 12 years has seen a significant increase in the number of art investment vehicles launched because art typically produces returns that have little or no correlation to traditional stock and bond investments.

There was a recent study done by Morgan Stanley that showed that HNWIs have between 5-10% of their net worth invested in art. This is not surprising as alternative assets tend to be seen as a safer way of diversifying the overall risk of your investment portfolio, particularly when stock markets are overheated or/and volatile.

Furthermore, investing in art offers tax advantages, potential hedging against inflation/currency risk, and tends to hold its value over time irrespective of economic sentiment. Structured art investment vehicles offer an opportunity for investors to pool their investment with others, thereby diversifying their exposure to individual art holdings while increasing their exposure to a wider variety of art. Furthermore, they present an opportunity to benefit from the expertise of art investment specialists who understand how to operate in what is generally regarded as a potentially lucrative, but non-transparent market. 

The other channel is through Bitcoin. I am quite excited to see what impact Bitcoin will make in the market, and how it can democratize investment in art. Although the impact is still too small to measure, I believe it has the potential to be revolutionary, particularly for Black artists and Black investors in art. Currently, there are platforms being created to address this. We wait and see!

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned EdTech App Raises $10.6 Million in Two Years

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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Creating a Black Investment Syndicate That Invests Nationally and Internationally

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

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

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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This Black Owned Payment Platform For Pharmacies Just Raised $1.3M

HealNow is a Black owned payment platform that helps pharmacies to improve patient onboarding and modernize their patient experience.

HealNow was founded by Halston Prox and Joshua Smith in 2018 and has now raised a total of $1.4M in reported equity funding.

black owned payment platform
Halston Prox

This includes the most recent seed funding round of $1.3M from investors that include Softbank Opportunity Fund, Alabama Futures Fund.

black owned payment platform
Joshua Smith

HeallNow allows patients to pay co-payments, schedule deliveries (or express pickup) and enter medical information online. They also enable pharmacies to offer online payments of prescriptions.

Their solution allows healthcare organizations to increase revenue by capturing more sales of prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and other medical products from every discharged patient. Keeping all pharmacy orders in-network.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Why Should White Guys Have All The M&A Fun? Why More Black Businesses Should Consider Mergers & Acquisitions

Reginald F. Lewis was one of the richest African-American men in the 1980s, and the first African American to build a billion-dollar company.

His bestselling book, “Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun?“, is one of my favorites. A small portion of the book briefly describes a conversation Lewis had with another Black attorney.

During this conversation, he expressed his desire to see more African Americans involved in mergers and acquisitions as a business and wealth creation strategy. This sparked my personal interest in M&A and led me to connect with Cedric Powel.

Reginald F. Lewis

Cedric is an M&A Attorney who represents private and public companies, investment banks, and private equity firms in corporate and transactional matters, including mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures.

M&A
Cedric Powel

What are some of the potential benefits that M&A transactions may offer Black businesses (in particular small businesses)?

M&A can be an efficient way for small businesses, including Black-owned businesses, to increase their market share and their ability to compete with their larger organizations within the same industry.  Consolidation within a particular industry is a common tool used to capitalize on synergies across organizations and to grow businesses faster than may be possible organically.  The same is true for Black-owned businesses.

At what stage should a business owner consider an M&A transaction as part of their strategic plan?

M&A, either as part of a business’ growth strategy or as part of its owner’s exit strategy should be considered at founding or as soon as possible thereafter.  Basically, it’s never too early to start thinking about potential investment transactions—whether it be a growth equity fund raise, the acquisition of another business or business line, or a liquidity event for the founder/owner.  In my opinion, the potential benefits of an M&A transaction should always be a consideration as part of a business’ strategic plan.

What are some best practices for business owners who may be considering an M&A transaction to increase the likelihood of a successful transaction and integration process?

My main recommendation is to engage competent advisors—financial and legal—early.  M&A is as much an industry as it is a process.  And, like every other industry, there are qualified and sophisticated practitioner—financial, legal and otherwise—who focus on identifying, leading, and consummating M&A transactions on a daily basis.

Any business owner who is considering a potential M&A transaction should start, at minimum, by discussing the process with a financial advisor and a legal advisor to set expectations and better understand the potential pros and cons.

As part of your work representing private equity funds and strategic acquirers, what would you say makes a business/company most attractive for a growth investment or acquisition?

Institutional investors and strategic acquirers usually focus on the income generating history of the particular business, its scalability, and how that business fits the specific investor’s investment strategy.  There is no one size fits all answer here, but building a strong customer pipeline with recurring revenue and great margins is always a positive.

However, often customer profiles and concentration are industry specific, so it is important to discuss your specific business, the universe of potential investors, and the current M&A trends with a specialized financial advisor to get a better understanding for where your particular business fits in the industry landscape.

In addition to the financial condition of the business, corporate hygiene and record keeping are key.  It is important to be able to deliver complete and accurate records with respect to the business’ current and historical operations as part of any investment due diligence process.  Lack of appropriate record keeping can sour an investor’s outlook on an otherwise great business.

 

You can connect with Cedric on LinkedIn.


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Black Owned Credit Building App Raises $2.3M

Today, Esusu, a platform that aims to dismantle barriers to housing, announced the closing of $2.3 million in seed extension bringing total capital raised to $4 million.

Humble Beginnings

The name Esusu is a Yoruba word that describes informal savings in traditional African societies.

Co-founder Abbey Wemimo came up with the idea for the app when his family, led a single mom of three, struggled to afford his education. His relatives had to pool their resources to afford his education, and his mother contributed much of the money.

Abbey Wemimo

The Platform

Esusu’s rent reporting platform captures rental payment data and reports it to credit bureaus to boost credit scores. This enables tenants to build credit while property owners can encourage on-time payments. Esusu currently operates in over 30 states and covers over 200,000 rental units.

“Esusu’s vision to use data to eliminate the racial wealth gap is driven by the role that credit and housing play in financial stability and wealth accumulation in the United States. Our fundamental belief is that where you come from, the color of your skin or your financial identity shouldn’t determine where you end up in life. We are privileged to join forces with world-class investors to address these systemic issues through the innovative use of data,” said Esusu Co-Founders, Abbey Wemimo and Samir Goel.

Currently, less than 1% of rental payments are reported into the credit bureaus despite being the largest expense for most Americans. According to HUD and Urban Institute, rental data is one of the strongest predictors of a tenant’s credit risk.

Esusu’s model presents a profitable solution for property managers to help keep renters in their homes while equipping financial institutions with the data to underwrite renters with limited credit history.

We are experiencing the greatest public health crisis in a century, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and accelerating income inequality. Concomitantly, we are dealing with systemic racism that stifles the promise of America. “At Esusu we have a unique opportunity to challenge the status quo by using our platform to dismantle barriers to housing for working families and over the longer horizon, eliminate the racial wealth gap,” continued Abbey Wemimo and Samir Goel.

Tony O. Lawson


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