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startups

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From Homeless Refugee To Creating a $100 Million Investment Fund

Kanyi Maqubela is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist based in New York. He was born in Soweto, a township outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, during apartheid. To escape this life-threatening environment, his family moved to the United States as refugees in 1986.

 Kanyi Maqubela
Kanyi Maqubela, cofounder of Kindred Ventures | Credit: Techies

After arriving in the U.S., he and his parents lived in a homeless shelter and were on food stamps until his mother got a job as an ESL teacher at Fashion Institute of Technology, and his father got a job as a cashier and coat checker at the Museum of Natural History. (His parents are now accomplished educators.)

Temba Maqubela
Kanyi’s parents, Vuyelwa and Temba Maqubela

In 2014, Kanyi and co-founder Steve Jang, raised $56 million to create Kindred Ventures. The fund has invested in over 40 companies located in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa. Previous Kindred Ventures investments count companies like Uber, Coinbase, and Virgin Hyperloop One.

Kindred Ventures recently closed its second fund with $100 million in capital commitments from a mix of major university endowments, foundations, fund-of-funds, and strategic investors.

Kanyi is also the co-founder of Heartbeat Health — a platform that invites patients who are at risk of heart disease and other chronic ailments to talk remotely with experts for care management.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Calendly, The Black Owned Scheduling App, Just Raised $350M, and Is Now Valued At Over $3Billion

Calendly is a Black owned scheduling app, designed to make the process of finding meeting times easy. Currently, about 10 million people use the platform on a monthly basis.

Today, Calendly announced that they have closed a $350 million investment which now values the company at more than $3 billion. OpenView Venture Partners, along with new investor Iconiq Capital, were part of the investment.

black owned scheduling app
Tope Awotona, Founder and CEO of Calendly

Tope Awotona founded Calendly in 2013. Since then, the Atlanta based company has been very popular and very profitable.

Last year, the company made about $70 million in subscription revenues and is projecting revenues will get to $1 billion in the near future.

The investment will be used to provide liquidity for early shareholders and employees as well as continue product innovation, according to the announcement. The software startup also added two new senior executives at the end of 2020 to grow its employees and revenue.

black owned scheduling app

“Our profitable, unique, product-led growth model has led to Calendly becoming the most used, most integrated, most loved scheduling platforms for individuals and large enterprises alike,” said CEO Tope Awotona. “While we considered outside investment an unnecessary distraction, we made the decision to partner with OpenView and Iconiq because of their insight and extended network within the tech industry.”

 

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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