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investment

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Black Owned EdTech Startup, AllHere Raises $8 Million to help Schools Reduce Absenteeism

AllHere is an Ai-powered educational support platform founded by Joanna Smith, a former public school teacher and family engagement leader at a charter school in Boston.

Oftentimes, Joanna’s students couldn’t receive the help they needed because of issues with their attendance.

allhere
Joanna Smith, Founder & CEO of AllHere

Her attempts to leave voicemails and send letters home were futile as they went unanswered. Now, with her company AllHere, she is leaning on insights that she’s gained on how best to reach out more effectively to the student’s families.

AllHere’s approach has been proven through randomized control trial research to reduce chronic absenteeism by 17%, reduce course failures by 38%, and increase student retention.

Attendance was already an issue for K-12 schools before the pandemic, but the pandemic has increased absences across the board. This has led to K-12 schools turning to AllHere for assistance: the number of K-12 schools using the AllHere chatbot has risen by 700% to over 8,000 schools across 34 states, helping AllHere reach a total of 2 million families.

Although it was originally created with attendance in mind, schools have started to use it for other purposes as well, such as school closure announcements and troubleshooting IT problems. The two way text messaging AI bot allows schools to be in touch with families 24/7 to nudge them on attendance and give updates so teachers and admin can reallocate their time elsewhere.

By focusing on ways to improve attendance across the board, Joanna has found a way to help even more students than in her previous role as a teacher.

AllHere recently announced that it has raised over $8 million in a Series A round of funding. This round brings its total amount raised to $12.1 million. The most recent funding round was led by led by Spero Ventures and included Rethink Education, Gratitude Railroad, Potencia Ventures, Boston Impact Initiative, Softbank’s Opportunity Fund, Operator Collective, and Yard Ventures.


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$25 Million Black Women Owned Fund Receives Multi-Million Dollar Investment from Mastercard

Fearless Fund is a Black women owned firm that invests in women of color-led businesses seeking pre-seed, seed level, or series A financing. Its mission is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders building scalable, growth aggressive companies.

To help further access to funding for Black women, Mastercard today announced a multi-million dollar investment in the $25 million fund.

The investment will allow Fearless Fund to further expand its portfolio of women of color founded and co-founded companies in the consumer packaged goods, food & beverage, beauty, fashion, and technology sectors.

“This multi-million dollar investment from Mastercard is further proof of their commitment to providing resources in an effort to better serve the hard-working but severely underfunded Women of Color entrepreneurs who so deserve equal capital distribution. We have been working together with Mastercard for almost 3 years now and look forward to growing this relationship,” says Arian Simone, Co-Founder & General Partner of Fearless Fund.

Other investors in Fearless Fund include PayPal, Bank of America, Invest Atlanta, and the Florida A&M University Foundation.

Tony O. Lawson


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Saltbox Raises $10.6 Million To Provide E-Commerce Businesses With Logistics Support

The pandemic has accelerated the growth of the global e-commerce industry. Not only are more people shopping online than ever before, more people are also starting online businesses. According to Shopify, one of the largest digital retail platforms, online store creation on its platform rose 79% in 2020 over 2019.

Saltbox is an Atlanta-based “co-warehousing” startup that provides space for small businesses and e-commerce merchants to operate as well as store and ship goods, all under one roof.

saltbox

Saltbox has private “warehouse suites”, loading dock access, a self-service packing center, warehouse equipment for use, a photography stage, and more, all specifically geared toward e-commerce and retail entrepreneurs.

The startup was founded on the premise that the need for “co-warehousing and SMB-centric logistics enablement solutions” has become a major problem for many new businesses that rely on online retail platforms to sell their goods.

Many of those companies are limited to self-storage and mini-warehouse facilities for storing their inventory, which can be expensive and inconvenient, noted Saltbox CEO, Tyler Scriven.

saltbox

Their Atlanta location opened in November 2019 and has 27,000 square feet of space, all of which is full, according to Scriven.

Recently, Saltbox raised a $10.6M Series A round to accelerate its expansion across the United States. They also recently opened a 66,000-square-foot warehouse near Dallas. The Dallas area location marks the first expansion for the company outside Atlanta since it launched in 2019. They plan to expand into Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles next.

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Venture Capital Firm Raises $110 Million Seed Fund

MaC Venture Capital is a Black owned venture capital firm that invests in technology startups across a broad range of business sectors, including fintech, e-commerce and marketplaces, interactive media, connectivity, enterprise SaaS, space and aerospace, logistics, and more.

Today, the Los Angeles and Palo Alto based company announced it has raised its inaugural $110 million seed-stage fund. This is the largest investment received by a majority Black owned fund. They plan to use the funds to invest in 40 seed-stage companies across the globe, targeting $1 million for each initial investment.

“Although we are investing at a founder’s earliest stage, with a minimum viable product and early traction, we ground ourselves in seeking big opportunities — companies that have the potential to scale quickly, change an industry, and bring something net-new to society. We look for ambitious founders who want to build billion-dollar category leaders,” said Adrian Fenty, managing general partner.

“We evaluate investments based on the merits and potential of their ideas, not just resumes, to find value in founders where others might not. This brings us differentiated deal flow and the ability to look around corners to identify white space in areas that are often overlooked. Not only do we have the opportunity to really change the way capital is allocated by investing in more Black and Brown founders, we can also power companies that are closing the opportunity gap for large groups of people and create more diversity across a wide range of verticals,” said Marlon Nichols, managing general partner.

“With MaC Venture Capital, our mission is to invest in visionary founders who are building the future we want to see. And a big part of that is thinking about culture and how it’s shifting, changing behaviors, and eventually guiding new social norms. Our cultural investment lens stays ahead of that, leveraging research to identify how consumers and companies will spend their time and money in the future and looking for investment opportunities that will ultimately participate in those shifts,” said Michael Palank, general partner.

“I don’t think there’s another fund that looks anything like us,” said Charles D. King, general partner. “We represent a very diverse range of perspectives, skill sets, and networks, bridging Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., and we leverage that to support our founders. And we have the ability to broker mission-critical introductions that can cement a company’s trajectory, whether in technology, business, politics, entertainment, or finance.”

The firm intends to make 40 investments with this new fund, with an average investment of $1 million. The fund’s limited partners include Foot Locker, Inc., Goldman Sachs, Greenspring Associates, Bank of America, Howard University, MacArthur Foundation, the University of Michigan, State of Michigan Retirement System, and Mitch and Freada Kapor, among others.

Related: Black Owned Venture Capital, Private Equity & Angel Investment Firms

Tony O. Lawson


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Africa Focused Flutterwave Now Valued at Over $1 Billion after $170 Million Investment

Founded in 2016, Flutterwave is a payment processing company that makes it easier to do business across the Continent by allowing users to make international payments in their own currencies.

Yesterday, the San Fransico based company announced that it has secured $170 million from a group of international investors as part of a successful Series C round.

flutterwave
Flutterwave Ceo and co-founder, Olugbenga Agboola
The round was led by growth-equity firms Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global Management with participation from new and existing investors. The fundraise brings the total investment in Flutterwave to $225 million and values the company at $1 billion.
flutterwave
Flutterwave Co-founder, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

“We may consider the possibility of listing in New York or a possible dual listing in New York and Nigeria,” Flutterwave’s CEO and co-founder Olugbenga Agboola told Reuters on Tuesday.

This latest investment, made a year after Flutterwave announced a partnership with Visa and Worldpay, highlights the growing interest in the booming payments market in Africa.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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BlocPower, A Black Owned Climate Technology Startup Just Raised $63 Million

BlocPower is a Black owned climate technology startup that transforms antiquated buildings into greener, smarter, and healthier facilities with efficient heating and cooling systems.

blocpower
Donnel Baird, founder and CEO of BlocPower

Buildings account for around 40% of US energy consumption.  Small and medium sized buildings overconsume energy per square foot because they do not usually have the capital and technical expertise to access high efficiency equipment for their buildings.

Keith Kinch, Co-Founder of BlocPower

As a Public Benefit Corporation, BlocPower partners with utilities, community leaders and institutions, and building owners to identify unhealthy, energy-wasting buildings (non-profits, houses of worship, schools, small businesses or multi-family residences) to retrofit.

blocpower

Their machine learning platform determines which retrofits will produce the most energy savings at scale and uses the cloud and IoT to gather data and remotely monitor energy consumption.

By installing modern, efficient, all electric heating and cooling equipment, BlocPower improves indoor air quality and reduces or eliminates fossil fuel use, saving building owners 20 to 70 percent on energy costs.

blocpower

To fund these projects, BlocPower created an innovative financing solution that enables small and medium sized building owners to bring energy efficiency improvements to their properties with no out-of-pocket cost.

Yesterday, the company announced a $63 million Series A round. The round, which was comprised of $55 million in debt, and $8 million in equity, was led by American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, AccelR8 and The Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, with participation from Kapor Capital, Elemental Excelerator, CityRock Venture Partners, The Schmidt Family Foundation and Salesforce Ventures.

Retrofit project investors are repaid using utility bill savings generated by the solar and energy efficiency retrofits.

So far, BlocPower has completed retrofits in more than 1,000 buildings in New York City and has projects underway in 24 cities, including PhiladelphiaMilwaukee, and Oakland.

Tony O. Lawson


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Largest Black Owned Mutual Fund Secures $200 Million Investment To Scale Minority Owned Businesses

Ariel Investments, the largest Black owned mutual fund, is launching a private investment firm, Ariel Alternatives, which will initially focus on funding and scaling minority-owned businesses. The move into private investments is a first in the company’s 38 year history.

Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson along with Leslie Brun are the co-founders of Ariel Alternatives. Mr. Brun, an Ariel board member and founder of the investment firm, Hamilton Lane, will be its chairman and CEO and will lead the first initiative of Ariel Alternatives called “Project Black.”

The new fund, which has secured $200 million in initial funding from JPMorgan Chase, plans to invest in minority owned businesses and non minority owned businesses that will serve as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies.

The firm plans to infuse the non minority owned businesses with the capital and minority executive talent needed to qualify as a certified minority business. In order to qualify as a certified minority business, suppliers must be at least 51% minority owned, managed, and controlled, according to standards established by the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

According to Brun, Project Black aims to fill a massive diversity gap in the corporate America supply chain. Fortune 500 companies spend about 2% annually on minority-owned suppliers, well short of the 10% to 15% spending goals many corporations set last year.

Despite “announcements and pronouncements” by corporations about increasing the amount they spend with minority-owned suppliers, many have difficulty finding those with enough capacity to meet their needs, Brun said.

“We’re intending to create those minority suppliers of scale, in concert with our Fortune 500 relationships, to provide the solution to their issue, as well as create the opportunity for us to then leverage that into the social impact initiatives that we have,” he aded.

According to a release announcing the fund, “Project Black will forge a new class of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. The initiative will seek to position these companies as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies — supporting supply chain diversity.”

Project Black plans to focus predominately on health care, industrial, media and marketing, outsourcing, manufacturing and packaging, technology, transportation and logistics, and financial and professional services.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned App for Beauty Salons and Stylists Has Raised Over $3 Million

ShearShare is a Black owned app that works like an Airbnb for hairstylists and barbers. Instead of renting houses, they rent salon and barbershop stations.

The company was created in 2017 when husband-and-wife team, Courtney and Dr. Tye Caldwell discovered that 40% of salon and barbershop space goes unused every day.

Black Owned App
Courtney Caldwell (R) and Dr. Tye Caldwell (L)

ShearShare helps stylists communicate directly with their clients, including about specials they might be offering. Throughout COVID-19, the company has been enabling licensed cosmetologists and barbers to rent a sanitized salon suite, station, or nearby barber chair by the day.

The spaces are provided on demand without having to sign a long-term contract or pay commissions. Salon and barbershop owners make money on their unused space at a time and price that’s convenient for them.

“As the second largest industry for freelancers turns its attention to a new operating normal, many beauty and barbering professionals are taking time to revisit their priorities, including how to better manage operating costs, maximize revenue, and access professional workspace on-demand,” said Courtney.

The company has, in total, raised $3.4 million in funding. According to the company, despite an economic slowdown,  they have experienced a 157% increase in users over the past few months.

Tye and Courtney said they will use the capital to fund product development, invest in marketing, and grow the now 16-person ShearShare team.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Meet the man in charge of over $100M recently donated to Black-Owned Businesses and HBCU’s.

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is a non-profit financial institution that provides capital to projects in low-income, disadvantaged, and underserved communities at affordable rates.

LISC supports community development initiatives in 35 cities and across 2,100 rural counties in 44 states. In 2018, they reported grants, loans, and investments totaling US$1.5 billion, leveraging $4.4 billion in total development and supporting over 700 partners across America.

They recently received $60 million from Lowe’s, $40 million from MacKenzie Scott (ex-wife of Jezz Bezos), and $25 million from Netflix.

We caught up with their CEO, Maurice Jones, to discuss what his organization does and what they plan to do with these funds.

 

 

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Tony O. Lawson


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Minority Wealth Commission to raise $250 Million to boost Black Owned Businesses

The Minority Wealth Commission—a bi-partisan National Commission of diverse leaders representing a cross section of capital funding, procurement/contracting, economic development, and corporate/nonprofit leadership focused on minority businesses—announced today the launch of the FVLCRUM Fund.

The fund, with initial capital commitments of over $50 million, will raise a total of $250,000,000 to invest as a combination of equity and debt capital into proven, high-growth enterprises operated by people of color.

Clearinghouse CDFI—a national community development financial institution with a strong history of lending in communities of color—will help create and manage the FVLCRUM Fund. The fund brings together an exceptional team of private equity professionals with an established track record of investing in middle market minority owned businesses delivering strong investment returns. FVLCRUM Fund will make a sustainable and measurable impact towards closing the nation’s racial wealth gap by building wealth and business success for minorities.

“For too long minority businesses and communities have been disproportionately excluded from creating sustainable wealth,” said Henry Childs II, Executive Director of the Minority Wealth Commission and former National Director of the U.S Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency. “Lack of investment, ownership, and wealth in minority communities stifles income potential, school systems, job outlook, and business opportunities.

Minority businesses represent less than 1.3% of the overall assets under management by the investment industry. It is time for us to address the racial wealth gap, invest in minority businesses and to take full advantage of the value, innovation, and competitiveness they bring to our overall economy.”

According to a study by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on Racial Equity, the U.S. stands to realize an $8 trillion gain in GDP just by closing the U.S. racial equity gap. This is more than the current GDP of every country in the world except the U.S. and China.

The Minority Wealth Commission has three key objectives: (1) to raise a series of minority wealth investment funds targeted toward creating wealth in minority communities, (2) to reduce the startup capital gap for entrepreneurs of color, and (3) to increase Assets Under Management (AUM) for diverse fund managers and increase the number of diverse fund managers in the industry.

“The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) joins the Minority Wealth Commission in recognizing and highlighting the importance of creating wealth in our minority business community,” said Ramiro A. Cavazos, President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “As we know, there are 8 million minority-owned small businesses that form the backbone of our American economy. We must create real change to transform our minority entrepreneurs by investing in our businesses through increased corporate procurement, federal contracting, access to capital, and private equity, in order to prioritize more businesses for our African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and more minority entrepreneurs.”

To facilitate investment in minority communities, the Minority Wealth Commission is focused on strategies that stimulate economic opportunity and mobility, encourage entrepreneurship, expand quality educational opportunities, and ultimately eradicate the racial wealth gap. The MWC is leading an effort to level-set capital investment parity for minority businesses and next-generation entrepreneurs of color that can expand our economy and impact our communities.

“Closing the RACIAL WEALTH GAP is an overriding issue of the NATION,” said Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League. “Lifting a generation of BLACK entrepreneurs by linking them to capital, connections, and contracts is a viable wealth gap closing strategy.”

“This fund represents transformative opportunities for minority-owned businesses, many disproportionately struggling from the devastating impacts of the pandemic,” said Delores Brown—Chairperson of the Clearinghouse CDFI Community Advisory Board—who also runs a nonprofit in South Los Angeles. “There is much work to be done to build a more equitable society. We hope to inspire other organizations and investors to take action.”

The Minority Wealth Commission and FVLCRUM Fund have already established a broad base of institutional and community partners dedicated to fundamental change for wealth creation in communities of color. This includes the National Urban League, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., among several other organizations throughout the U.S.

Source: PrWeb.com

Tony O. Lawson


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