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startup

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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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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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Squire, The Black Owned Barbershop App is Now Valued At $250 Million Dollars

In June, we reported that Squire, a Black owned barbershop app and management platform, raised $34 million. On Wednesday, they announced another raise of $59 million in a round led by Iconiq Capital.

With the new financing, Squire has almost tripled its valuation, up from $85 million in June to $250 million today. They plan on using most of the capital to hire new sales and marketing professionals.

According to a LinkedIn post from co-founder, Songe LaRon, they are looking for a VP of marketing to “build out our marketing department and help us continue to fuel our rapid growth.” (Shoot your shot, marketing folks!)

Black Owned Barbershop App
SQUIRE FOUNDERS SONGE LARON (L) AND DAVE SALVANT (R)

The app, which was first developed to help customers book appointments, has evolved and added features such as payroll management, inventory tracking, and automatic rent collection for the barbers leasing chairs.

Squire has also helped barbershops navigate COVID-related restrictions by allowing customers to book and pay for appointments using its mobile app and by creating a virtual waiting room, which lets patrons wait outside or in their cars and enter only when they receive an automatic notification that their barber is ready for them.

According to Tech Crunch, Squire’s revenue went from zero in March, when all barbershops closed, to between $10 million to $20 million in ARR just 10 months later. The growth indicates how the next wave of barbershops will be built atop digital technology, instead of offline processes.

 

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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Afrinanny Connects Black Children With The Right Childcare Providers

Afrinanny is an online marketplace where families of Black children can locate childcare providers with culturally relevant experience.

We caught up with founder, Dr. Irene Okoronkwo-Obika to find out more about her business and future plans.

Afrinanny
Dr. Irene Okoronkwo-Obika

 

What inspired you to start your business?

I was inspired because I was searching for caregivers online and did not have a pleasurable experience with locating providers who would understand the unique needs of my children. I figured that families of Black children need a streamlined way to access providers. Our kids need to be the priority, not the afterthought.

Why is it important that Black families locate childcare providers with culturally relevant experience?

From birth, the odds are stacked against Black children. It is important for them to have a community around that uplifts and instills cultural pride and identity.

Afrinanny
African American kids smiling.

What is the most rewarding thing about being an entrepreneur? What is the most challenging?

The most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur is solving the problems of my community. The most challenging thing is balancing family life and business. It is important to have a healthy mix.

What do you feel would help take your business to the next level?

I feel that community support via word of mouth will help our brand grow.

Where would you like to see your brand 5 years from now?

I would like to see the bigger brands in our space partnering with us to get a wider reach to our customers.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I suggest to all aspiring entrepreneurs to prioritize family, health, and business. It is very important to remain spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy on this journey.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Genomics Startup Receives $19.5 Million in Funding

Black Owned Genomics Startup 54gene has closed a Series A round of $15 million, bringing the company’s total venture investment to $19.5 million after it secured $4.5 million seed funding in July.

The latest round was led by Adjuvant Capital, a New York and San Francisco-based life sciences fund backed by the International Finance Corporation, Novartis, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The investment will allow the company to “scale operations in support of generating novel insights from human genetics research, which results in high-impact discoveries for improving human health through therapeutic development,” 54gene said in a press release Tuesday.

Black Owned Genomics Startup

“There is enormous potential in expanding the reach of global drug and vaccine discovery by including more diverse populations in research efforts,” said Jenny Yip, Adjuvant Managing Partner.

The startup will also work towards accelerating discovery capabilities by improving operations in genetics, bioinformatics, preclinical, clinical and commercial programs, it added. “This funding comes at a historically meaningful time, allowing us to deliver global impact through continued investment in research and strategic partnerships with leaders in the biomedical industry,”  Founder and CEO Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong said.

54 gene Founder and CEO Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong

54gene was launched in January 2019 with the goal of addressing the huge gap the genomics market currently poses for Africa. As of 2018, less than three percent of the data used in Genome-wide Association Studies were of African ancestry and currently, less than one percent of global drug discovery occurs on the continent.

Located in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, and in the United States, 54gene aims to improve the development and availability of medical products that will prove beneficial to Africans and the wider global population. It currently works with over 300 researchers, clinicians, and geneticists across the continent and has built an African Biobank, a biorepository that stores biological samples to provide data for academic and development research.

The company has said it will further explore partnerships and opportunities for the co-development of drug targets and therapeutics as part of its next stage of growth. It expects to partner with pharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostic companies for clinical programs in Africa, led by the newly-appointed Vice President of Clinical & Regulatory Affairs, Kemi Williams.

In addition to the Series A raise, 54gene has formed a Scientific Advisory Board, composed of global leaders in clinical genetics, bioinformatics, and data science. The new partnership “marks a significant evolution in the growth of our company,” said Ene-Obong. “In the coming months, we will be focusing on building a genomic resource that we hope will add significantly to global health, while also translating to the health benefits of patients in Africa.”

The investment round also included participation from Raba Capital, V8 Capital, Ingressive Capital, and follow-on investment from Y Combinator, Better Ventures, Fifty Years, KdT Ventures, Aera VC and Pioneer Fund.

 

Source: Ventures Africa

 

Related: 54gene is developing the World’s First and Largest Pan-African DNA Biobank

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Innovative Black Tech Startups You Should Know

As an entrepreneur and semi tech geek, I believe in leveraging technology and entrepreneurship to make life easier and to address social issues. Here are some Black tech startups from around the world that doing just that.

Black Tech Startups

Reach Robotics is creating the next gaming platform by fusing Robotics, Gaming and augmented reality. (Co-Founder and CEO – Silas Adekunle)

Black Tech Startups
Silas Adekunle

HireHer provides tools and resources for prospective candidates and employers to identify opportunities, advance careers and find mentors. (CEO – Ruth Chandler Cook)

Ruth Chandler Cook

AbiliLife is a tech company that engineers products for elderly and neurodegenerative patients (CEO – Courtney Williamson)

Courtney Williamson

Play VS  gives high school students the chance to compete against other schools for the state title in their official high school esports league. (Founder – Delane Parnell)

Delane Parnell

Front Door is a vertical SaaS solution that helps real estate companies automate and manage their most important business transactions. (Founders – Alain and Emilie Kapatashungu)

Black Tech Startups
Alain and Emilie Kapatashungu

SPCE connects the higher education community with University specific, student rental properties, near campuses. (Founders-  Leon Ifayemi and Omar Fahmi )

Leon Ifayemi and Omar Fahmi

Bandwagon tracks qualitative customer data for ticketed events through a proprietary blockchain database that monitors each ticket transaction.  (Founder – Harold Hughes)

Black Tech Startups
Harold Hughes

Neyber is an award-winning financial wellbeing provider that helps UK employees to be better with their money. (Founder –  Martin Ijaha)

Martin Ijaha

CoSign allows users to “tag” items within content they upload to social networking sites. If their followers purchase the items, users receive a monetary reward. (Co-founder – Esosa Ighodaro)

Esosa Ighodaro

Ovamba provides short-term capital to micro-, small-, and medium-size businesses via mobile phone technology. (Founders – Marvin Cole and Viola Llewellyn)

Marvin Cole and Viola Llewellyn

Vouch Digital builds an online verified digital supply chain platform that helps simplify the distribution of cash in form of digital vouchers meant for purchasing goods or services. (CEO – Evelyn Namara)

Evelyn Namara

-Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Food Stamp Startup to Deliver Food To Affected Govt Workers

mRelief, a startup focused on helping people access food stamps. has partnered with on-demand food delivery startup DoorDash. As federal workers — especially low-wage workers like janitors, cooks and security guards — recover from the 35-day partial government shutdown, mRelief and DoorDash and are teaming up to offer DoorDash credit to those eligible for food stamps in San Francisco.

mRelief Co-Founder and Executive Director Rose Afriyie (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

In San Francisco, about one in four people struggle with hunger, according to the SF-Marin Food Bank. Meanwhile, $13 billion in food stamps benefits are unclaimed every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Because of the government shutdown, those low-wage workers are likely now eligible for food stamps, mRelief says.

“Our work at mRelief is about bringing the simplicity of technology typically used to provide on-demand services, to things that are critical needs,” mRelief co-founders Rose Afriyie (pictured above) and Genevieve Nielsen told TechCrunch via email.

Through startup mRelief, people with low incomes can easily figure out if they qualify for resources like food stamps, as well as other much-needed social services. Last January, mRelief launched an end-to-end process for people to enroll in the food stamp program in San Francisco. Once people complete the sign-up, qualified applicants can receive up to $35 in DoorDash credit as part of the collaboration.

“The value is that we are also trying to learn how this initiative might positively impact the process of applying for food assistance,” DoorDash Social Impact Manager Sueli Shaw said in a statement to TechCrunch.

First launched in 2014 as part of Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, mRelief has helped people receive $65 million worth of food stamps across the nation.

Source: TechCrunch

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Startup loans to Black Entrepreneurs to ‘interject some balance in capitalism’

GW “Chef” Chew loves to cook and is an ardent vegan. He combines the two passions through a new company, Something Better Foods, that has created a line of plant-based meats, from Philly cheesesteaks to fried chicken, as well as with a nonprofit Oakland restaurant, the Veg Hub.

black entrepreneurs
GW “Chef” Chew, who received a $20,000 loan from the Runway Project, creates sandwiches behind the counter of the Veg Hub in Oakland.
Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Chew needed financial backing to get Something Better off the ground. That’s where Oakland’s Runway Project stepped in and lent him $20,000.

“That money was a blessing,” he said. It helped him land a manufacturing site in Vallejo. Runway also helped with advice, coaching him on his business and marketing plans. He’s now raising more money to prepare for a distribution deal he landed with Whole Foods for next year.

Runway offers loans and other support to help black entrepreneurs start businesses. Many startups tap friends and family for early money, but minorities often don’t have well-heeled personal or professional networks. While the median net worth of white households is $171,000, that of black households is $17,200, according to the Federal Reserve.

The racial wealth disparity “is a big gap,” said Claudia Viek, founder of the Invest in Women Entrepreneurs Initiative, a nonprofit that is not affiliated with Runway. “Providing that early-stage, more-patient capital meets an acute need. It’s a way to interject some balance in capitalism.”

Runway founder Jessica Norwood calls the loans “believe-in-you money” but hastens to add: “It’s more than the money part. This is a story about what it means to be friends and family to one another, to be in deep community with each other. This is saying to folks who have been chugging away that we believe in them.”

The enterprises funded aren’t pitching the next big tech thing. Instead they’re Main Street stalwarts with products such as floral arrangements, fashion accessories, apparel, artisan juice, handmade pies and skin care creams.

Runway’s approach sounds terrific, said Ben Mangan, executive director of the Center for Social Sector Leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, who has no ties to Runway.

“There’s a huge need for this kind of capital, and it’s almost impossible to find it,” he said. “We have a massive problem to solve when it comes to creating wealth for people who have a disproportionately small share. We need every smart, viable experiment we get.”

GW “Chef” Chew prepares a plant-based Philly cheesesteak sandwich at the Veg Hub in Oakland. Minorities often don’t have well-heeled personal or professional networks.Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Runway is small. It’s made 13 loans over the past year — and so far has a 100 percent repayment rate. But it has big ambitions to spread nationwide, and is currently raising money and developing a model for that.

Runway’s five-year, no-collateral loans carry a 4 percent interest rate, and repayments are interest-only the first two years.

The Self-Help Federal Credit Union administers the loans. Community members can support loans by taking out certificates of deposit at Self-Help. As with all CDs, their money is federally insured. In lieu of collateral from the entrepreneurs, Runway raised philanthropic money to act as a guarantee — for every $1 it lends, it has $1 sitting in an account at Self-Help as a backstop.

San Francisco’s RSF Social Finance provided some of that backstop capital.

GW “Chef” Chew explains the benefits of a plant-based diet to a customer at the Veg Hub in Oakland. The Runway Project provided advice to Chew, coaching him on his business and marketing plan. Photo: Photos by Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

“It was a real moment of joy for me and for Jessica to do that,” said Lynne Hoey, RSF’s senior director of credit, adding that there’s “a multibillion-dollar market opportunity to fund entrepreneurs” who otherwise are shut out.

Along with the Runway loans comes help in the form of retreats, peer support groups and weekly coaching from Oakland’s Uptima Business Bootcamp.

Uptima co-founder Rani Langer-Croager chairs Runway’s credit committee, helping to identify and screen loan applicants.

“These loans have provided immediate impact for each of these entrepreneurs we work with,” she said. “People who might previously have had to put inventory on a credit card were able to have more-favorable terms to open brick-and-mortar stores, to buy vehicles.”

One entrepreneur bought a truck for her mobile florist business; another bought a vehicle for business-to-business deliveries; another opened a mall kiosk for her beauty products, and another opened a lemonade stand in a kiosk on Valencia Street.

Moreover, the initial funding helped Runway’s early cohort raise at least $100,000 more in backing. “It takes money to raise money,” Langer-Croager said.

Stevonne Ratliff got a $20,000 Runway loan last year for Beija Flor Naturals,an eco-friendly line of beauty products.

“You need capital to expand, but it’s pretty difficult to find,” she said. She was making all her products by hand, so she couldn’t make enough to supply large retailers. The Runway money allowed her to outsource production of her two top sellers — hair care products Creme Brulee for Kinks, Curls and Coils and Maracuja Beauty Milk.

GW “Chef” Chew hands a drink to a customer at the Veg Hub in Oakland. The Runway Project helped Chew land a manufacturing site in Vallejo.
Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Besides offloading the “soul-draining” manufacturing, she appreciated the mentorship. “You have a group of advisers working together for your success,” she said. “They’re saying, ‘Go for this, we’re here to support you.’

“It gave me confidence to go for things I wouldn’t otherwise have gone for because I was so cash-strapped,” she said. She participated in Essence magazine’s annual festival in New Orleans, a high-end beauty show in New York and a pitch competition in Florida — which she won, landing a $25,000 grant. “When you have money in the bank and support, you feel a lot more confident,” she said.

Norwood summed Runway up like this: “We’re at the intersection of love, finance and culture. We don’t just look at products; we understand people at their core.”

Source: San Fransisco Chronicle