Browse Tag


4 mins read

Black Owned Wealthtech Startups to Keep an Eye On

In the rapidly evolving realm of Wealthtech within the financial technology landscape, a powerful movement is underway to democratize access to wealth-building tools and opportunities.

In this article, our focus turns to three founders who are creating platforms that transcend traditional barriers and unlock new pathways to prosperity.

Amidst a sea of algorithms and digital interfaces, these founders have harnessed technology to drive change and challenge the status quo.

Plainr, DFD Partners, and PaceUP Invest, led by individuals with diverse expertise and experiences, are reshaping how individuals approach wealth management, investment, and financial education.

Black Owned Wealthtech Startups


black owned wealthtech
Lydia Ofori

Plainr is a financial services AI software company helping financial services teams accelerate and improve decision-making, automate tasks to reduce workflow frictions, and get insights from data. Plainr was founded by Lydia Ofori, a CFA and CAIA charterholder with over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry.

Plainr’s platform aggregates financial services specific unstructured and structured data to train and fine tune open sourced large language models and proprietary machine learning models. This allows financial services teams to get insights from data that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain. Along with this, Plainr enables customization and proprietary data integration on their secured platform which further enables financial services companies including wealth techs to tailor usage to their specific needs with transparent insight into underlying models.

PaceUP Invest 

black owned wealthtech
Rukayyat Kolawole

PaceUP Invest, a fintech startup established in 2021 by Rukayyat Kolawole, CFA, MBA, aims to empower women and marginalized communities in the realm of finance. Leveraging Kolawole’s extensive 16-year experience in the financial industry, the company offers a comprehensive suite of services. These include educational courses, financial planning, wealth management, investment analysis, and a supportive community, all geared towards enabling clients to realize their financial aspirations.

PaceUP Invest’s core values encompass financial inclusion and empowerment. As a female-founded and led enterprise, it is dedicated to equipping its clientele with the necessary tools to take charge of their financial futures and make positive strides for themselves and their families.


black owned wealthtech
Devon Drew

DFD  is a platform designed to empower smaller asset managers, particularly those who have been historically underrepresented, to efficiently expand the distribution of their investment strategies. Founded by Devon Drew, a seasoned professional with over 16 years of experience in the asset and wealth management industry, DFD is reshaping the way asset managers connect with financial advisors and investors.

Leveraging a comprehensive approach, DFD taps into a diverse range of data sources, including publicly accessible information, insights from social media platforms, and data related to advisor searches and interactions. By harnessing the power of these data streams, DFD is able to craft precise matches between asset managers and the most compatible financial advisors.

by Tony O. Lawson

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Interested in investing in Black founders? If so, please complete this brief form.


5 mins read

Black Tech Saturdays: Empowering Detroit’s Tech Ecosystem

In the resilient and innovative city of Detroit, Black Tech Saturdays is paving the way for Black entrepreneurs and founders to succeed.

We caught up with the visionary founders Johnnie and Alexa Turnage, to learn more about their transformative initiative and its impact on the Detroit tech community.

Black tech Saturdays
Alexa Turnage (L) and Johnnie Turnage (R)

The inspiration behind Black Tech Saturdays

The journey into the world of tech can often be challenging, and for founders of color, it can feel like the odds are stacked against them. Alexa and Johnnie shared their motivation, stating, “We had to learn really fast and oftentimes felt like the spaces weren’t designed for us to succeed.” Recognizing a shared experience among many in the community, they decided to take action.

Black Tech Saturdays began organically while working on their MVP fundraising platform at Newlab in the Michigan Central building. They started inviting other tech enthusiasts to join their weekly meetings, and it soon became clear that there was untapped potential in the room. The initiative gained momentum, and when the first public meeting was announced on April 29th, 25-30 individuals showed up. From there, the movement continued to grow, evolving into what it is today.

Milestones and Accomplishments

Since its inception, Black Tech Saturdays has grown from just a handful of participants in a conference room to nearly 500 attendees on Saturdays. With approximately 3,500 unique attendees in total, the impact is undeniable.

The organization’s accomplishments extend beyond numbers. They’ve helped founders secure significant deals, connected entrepreneurs with access to capital and networks, and provided essential soft skills training.

Support from federal, state, and local governments, as well as partnerships with foundations and VC firms, have reinforced their mission. Elected officials, celebrities, and government representatives have also joined the cause, elevating the narrative around Black Tech and sharing invaluable knowledge and resources.

Hosting events like the Venture 313 2nd annual celebration and participating in national conversations about entrepreneurship advocacy have further solidified Black Tech Saturdays’ position as a driving force for change.

The Future of Detroit’s Tech Ecosystem

When asked about the future of Detroit’s tech ecosystem, Alexa was optimistic. She emphasized a shift in the narrative, with a focus on abundance, collaboration, and a movement they call “#Togetherwecan.” The culture of supporting one another and celebrating successes is key to this transformation.

Detroit is on the path to becoming a federal tech hub, opening doors to more resources for the city’s growth. By centering the innovation conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion, the city is poised to become a thriving tech hub that welcomes and empowers everyone.

Advice for Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

Their advice for individuals, companies, or organizations looking to make a positive impact on diversity and inclusion in the tech industry is clear. They stress the importance of supporting entrepreneurs, building communities, and creating safe spaces for authentic growth. Addressing specific areas needing improvement within an organization is also crucial.

Johnnie and Alexa invite those interested in improving their ecosystems or organizations to reach out, as collaboration and strategic planning can help advance the mission of diversity and inclusion in tech.

Getting Involved with Black Tech Saturdays

To get involved with Black Tech Saturdays and support their mission, interested parties can explore various avenues:

  1. Sign up as a founder.
  2. Sign up as a job seeker.
  3. Sign up as a partner.
  4. Connect with Johnnie and Alexa on Linkedin.
  5. Follow Black Tech Saturdays on Instagram 

As Black Tech Saturdays continues to grow and make a significant impact in Detroit and beyond, these opportunities offer a chance to be part of a movement that’s redefining the future of tech.

by Tony O. Lawson

➡️Interested in investing in Black founders? Please complete this brief form.

2 mins read

Fantasy Sports Stock Market, PredictionStrike Secures $10 Million

PredictionStrike, a fantasy sports stock market that allows fans to buy and sell shares of professional athletes, announced yesterday that it has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

The round was led by Bullpen Capital, with participation from MaC Venture Capital, Sixty8 VC, Correlation Ventures, Elevate Capital, Gaingels, and HighSage Ventures.

The new funding will be used to expand PredictionStrike’s platform and reach new users. The company plans to add new sports leagues and countries, develop new features and products, and grow its marketing and sales team.

PredictionStrike is a unique and innovative way for fans to engage with sports. The platform allows fans to put their knowledge of sports to the test and potentially make money by making accurate predictions about the performance of athletes.

“There’s something revolutionary and fulfilling about helping Americans turn their pastimes into financial opportunities,” said Deven Hurt, Co-Founder and CEO of PredictionStrike. “With PredictionStrike, we’ve taken a new approach to participating in sports and leveled up to encourage and inspire our users to learn and understand how to invest. We’re committed to finding new ways to connect fans with athletes and building a platform where sports fans can invest in what they know”.

The company’s business model is based on charging fees and subscriptions. PredictionStrike charges a 2.5% fee on all trades, which is paid by the buyer or seller of the shares. Users also subscribe to receive lower transaction fees and gain access to other perks, such as the ability to trade more shares and participate in more contests.

PredictionStrike has seen rapid growth since its launch in 2021. It has over 100,000 users and has processed over $15 million in transactions.

by Tony O. Lawson

➡️Interested in investing in Black founders? Please complete this brief form.

4 mins read

5 Things Investors Look for Most in a Pitch

Pitching your startup to investors is a pivotal moment in the journey of any entrepreneur. It’s your opportunity to convey your vision, demonstrate your potential, and secure the financial backing you need to turn your dream into reality.

But to succeed, you must understand what investors are really looking for in a pitch. In this article, we’ll break down the five most critical elements investors pay attention to when evaluating startup pitches, supported by data and facts.

1. Compelling Problem-Solution Fit

Investors are acutely interested in the problem your startup addresses and the solution it provides. To capture their attention, your pitch should clearly define the pain point you’re targeting. According to research by CB Insights, 42% of startups fail due to a lack of market need. This underscores the importance of demonstrating a compelling problem-solution fit.

Actionable Tip: Back your claims with data and customer testimonials showcasing the demand for your solution. Highlight how your product or service is unique and more effective than existing alternatives.

2. Market Opportunity

Investors want to know that your startup operates within a sizable and growing market. They’re looking for a substantial addressable market that can support rapid growth. A study by Statista revealed that the global tech startup ecosystem was valued at over $3 trillion in 2020, emphasizing the vast opportunities available to innovative companies.

Actionable Tip: Utilize market research to validate the market size, trends, and your potential share of it. Investors want to see that you’ve thoroughly analyzed your market and understand where your startup fits in.

3. Strong Business Model

Your pitch must present a clear and sustainable business model. Investors are keen to know how your startup plans to generate revenue and eventually become profitable. According to Crunchbase, 29% of startups fail because they run out of cash, emphasizing the importance of a robust business model.

Actionable Tip: Provide detailed financial projections and explain your path to profitability. Highlight your monetization strategy, pricing model, and customer acquisition plan.

4. Traction and Milestones

Investors seek evidence that your startup is gaining traction and achieving milestones. Metrics such as user acquisition, revenue growth, and partnerships are essential indicators of progress. According to PitchBook, startups that secure funding typically have a median of two years of operation and have raised around $1.3 million before their initial funding round.

Actionable Tip: Showcase your key performance indicators (KPIs) and growth trajectory. Highlight any noteworthy achievements or partnerships that demonstrate your startup’s potential for success.

5. Strong Team

Investors often say they invest in people, not just ideas. Your team’s expertise, experience, and commitment are critical factors in the investment decision. A Harvard Business Review study found that startups founded by teams with complementary skills are more likely to succeed.

Actionable Tip: Introduce your team and emphasize their relevant expertise. Highlight their past accomplishments and how they are uniquely positioned to execute your startup’s vision.

SBLK Ventures is committed to connecting Black-led startups with our network of investors. If you are a startup that is raising capital, we invite you to fill out this form to be considered.

2 mins read


On the evening of June 8th, we hosted an extraordinary “SHOPPE BLACK Pitch Night” featuring a group of exceptional startups.

The event was held in partnership with Shark Tank and Values Partnerships in order to identify exceptional contestants for the upcoming season of the show.

From pet products to eco-friendly breweries, here are some of the most impressive new businesses to take the stage:

Lick You Silly Pet Products

Lick You Silly Pet Products is a company that makes 100% all-natural dog treats. They were founded in 2016 by Barbara Clarke-Ruiz, who wanted to create healthy and delicious treats for her own dog.


Femly is a Baltimore, Maryland-based company that manufactures and sells plant-based and environmentally friendly period care products. The company was founded in 2016 by Arion Long, who wanted to create a more sustainable and body-friendly alternative to traditional feminine hygiene products.

Black Viking Brewing

Black Viking Brewing is a Montgomery County, Maryland-based brewery founded in 2020 by Jamil Abdur-Raoof and Shaun B. Taylor. They are the first Black-owned brewery in Montgomery County. Black Viking Brewing’s mission is to create a diverse community of beer drinkers where everyone is welcome, and where the warrior spirit is celebrated

Smyle Nation

Smyle Nation is a clear aligner company founded by Dr. Herman Butler in 2016. They offer affordable clear aligner treatment for mild to moderate crowding and spacing. Smyle Nation offers a straighter, whiter smile in as little as four months.

Work BnB

Workbnb is a B2B travel platform focused on the needs of traveling workers. The company was founded in 2017 by Yeves Perez and Daj’Anique Staples. They offer an efficient and user-friendly platform that ensures traveling workers have access to safe and decent housing, eliminating the need for extended stays in hotels and motels.


Sproxxy is a public relations software solution for the speaking circuit, powered by AI. It helps brands find high-value conference opportunities to speak, pitch to conference organizers, track and manage booked speaking opportunities, collaborate across teams, and quantity business impact.

by Tony O. Lawson


➡️Interested in investing in Black founders? If so, please complete this brief form.

6 mins read

Unleashing the Potential of Investing in Black-Owned Consumer Brands

Over the past few years, there has been an increasing acknowledgment of the significance of supporting, funding, and investing in Black-owned consumer brands.

One of the most promising areas for investment in Black-owned businesses is the consumer goods sector. This sector includes a wide range of products and services, such as food, beverages, personal care products, and apparel.

Black-owned consumer brands frequently introduce innovative products that cater not only to the requirements of Black consumers but also to a wide range of customers. Furthermore, these brands tend to prioritize social consciousness and actively contribute to their communities.

By highlighting recent statistics and projections, we will shed light on the potential for investors to make a significant impact while reaping financial rewards.

Food & Beverage

The Food & Beverage industry represents an enticing opportunity for investors looking to support and invest in Black-owned businesses. According to a report by Nielsen, Black consumers spent $153.5 billion on food and beverages in the United States in 2022. This represents a 4.1% increase from the previous year.

Black-owned food and beverage brands have been gaining recognition for their innovation, authenticity, and cultural appeal. These brands offer unique flavors and culinary experiences that resonate with a diverse customer base.

Additionally, investing in this sector aligns with the rising demand for healthier and ethically sourced products, as many Black-owned brands emphasize organic, sustainable, and locally sourced ingredients.

Household Goods

Investing in Black-owned household goods brands presents an opportunity to tap into the growing market for products that cater to diverse lifestyles and aesthetics. The home goods industry has seen a surge in demand in recent years, with consumers seeking products that reflect their individuality and cultural heritage.

According to a 2021 report by Statista, the global home goods market is projected to reach $855 billion by 2025. Black-owned brands are poised to capture a significant share of this market by offering distinctive designs, quality craftsmanship, and products that celebrate diversity and inclusivity.

Investing in this sector not only supports the growth of Black-owned businesses but also allows investors to capitalize on the demand for unique and culturally resonant home goods.

Health & Wellness

The Health & Wellness sector is another promising area for investing in Black-owned consumer brands. As more people prioritize their physical and mental well-being, the industry has experienced substantial growth. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness market is expected to reach $6.5 trillion by 2025.

Black-owned health and wellness brands have emerged as leaders in providing products and services tailored to diverse communities. These brands focus on holistic approaches to wellness, incorporating cultural traditions, natural ingredients, and inclusive marketing strategies.

Investing in this sector allows investors to support initiatives that address health disparities, promote self-care, and tap into a rapidly expanding market.

Apparel & Accessories

The Apparel & Accessories industry offers a wealth of investment opportunities within the realm of Black-owned consumer brands. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, the global fashion industry was valued at $2.5 trillion in 2021 and is projected to reach $3.3 trillion by 2030.

Black-owned fashion and accessory brands are gaining momentum, capturing the attention of consumers who seek unique and culturally relevant designs. These brands showcase the rich heritage and creativity of Black communities, blending traditional aesthetics with modern trends.

By investing in this sector, investors can contribute to the growth of Black-owned fashion businesses and tap into the rising demand for diverse and inclusive fashion.

Personal Care & Cosmetics

Investing in Black-owned personal care and cosmetics brands presents an opportunity to capitalize on the increasing demand for inclusive and culturally relevant beauty products. The global cosmetics market is projected to reach $648 billion by 2027, according to a report by Grand View Research.

Black-owned beauty brands have been at the forefront of pushing for greater diversity and representation within the beauty industry. These brands offer a wide range of products that cater to diverse skin tones, hair textures, and beauty needs. By investing in Black-owned personal care and cosmetics brands, investors can support the development of inclusive beauty products while tapping into a rapidly growing market.

Recent statistics indicate that Black consumers spend a significant amount on personal care and beauty products. According to Nielsen, Black consumers in the United States spend nine times more on ethnic beauty and grooming products than any other demographic.

This highlights the immense potential for investors to tap into this market by supporting and investing in Black-owned brands that not only cater to Black consumers but also attract a diverse range of customers.

by Tony O. Lawson

➡️ Advertise your Business

➡️Interested in investing in Black founders? If so, please complete this brief form.


1 min read

SHOPPE BLACK & SHARK TANK Partner to Discover Black Entrepreneurial Gems

In an extraordinary collaboration that celebrates the convergence of entrepreneurial spirit and television entertainment, we are thrilled to announce our partnership with Shark Tank and Values Partnerships to identify exceptional founders for the upcoming season of this groundbreaking show. 

Our goal is to discover and amplify the voices of entrepreneurs who embody the spirit of creativity, determination, and business acumen. We aim to create a powerful pipeline for entrepreneurs who may not have had the same level of exposure or opportunities to reach the broader market.

Fun fact: The first business to pitch and strike a deal on Shark Tank was Black-owned.

This collaboration acknowledges the incredible legacy of Black entrepreneurs and seeks to bridge the gap by identifying outstanding founders from various backgrounds.

So, how does it work? To curate the upcoming season of Shark Tank, we will leverage the marketing expertise and extensive network of SHOPPE BLACK, including the involvement of our investment arm, SBLK Ventures.

By tapping into our strong connections within the Black business community, we will identify promising entrepreneurs who exhibit exceptional potential and closely align with Shark Tank’s casting criteria.

We invite all exceptional founders to seize this incredible opportunity and apply for an opportunity to be cast on Season 15 of Shark Tank.

Complete this form for your chance to pitch at SHOPPE BLACK Pitch Night on June 8th @ 7PM ET

4 mins read

The Importance of Angel Investors in Bridging the Funding Gap for Black Founders

The startup ecosystem can often be a challenging space for Black founders to navigate. Overall, Black entrepreneurs typically receive less than 2% of all VC dollars each year while companies led by Black women receive less than 1%, according to data from Crunchbase. This is a stark contrast to the fact that Black Americans make up nearly 13% of the U.S. population.

One of the reasons for this disparity is the lack of access to funding. Angel investors can be an important alternative source of capital for Black founders, helping to level the playing field and create more opportunities for success.

Access to Capital

One of the main reasons that angel investors are important for Black founders is that they provide access to capital that may not be available through traditional funding channels. Banks and other financial institutions are often hesitant to lend money to startup founders, especially those who are just starting out.

This is particularly true for Black founders who may not have the same networks or connections as their white counterparts. Angel investors, on the other hand, are often more willing to take a chance on a new business idea and are willing to provide the funding needed to get the business off the ground.


In addition to providing access to funding, angel investors can also offer valuable expertise and mentorship. Many angel investors are experienced entrepreneurs themselves, with a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that come with starting a new business.

They can provide guidance on everything from business strategy to fundraising to marketing and sales. For Black founders who may not have access to the same networks and resources as their white counterparts, this mentorship can be incredibly valuable.

Overcoming bias

Another benefit of working with angel investors is that they can help Black founders overcome some of the biases and barriers that exist within the traditional funding ecosystem. Unfortunately, many investors have unconscious biases that can affect their investment decisions.

This can make it difficult for Black founders to secure funding, even if they have a great business idea. Angel investors, on the other hand, may be more open-minded and willing to invest in a diverse range of founders and ideas. This can help Black founders overcome some of the systemic barriers that exist within the startup ecosystem.

Building networks

Finally, working with angel investors can help Black founders build important connections and networks within the startup ecosystem. Many angel investors are well-connected within the industry and can introduce founders to other investors, mentors, and potential customers.

This can be especially valuable for Black founders who may not have access to the same networks and resources as their white counterparts. By building these connections, Black founders can increase their chances of success and create more opportunities for themselves and their businesses.

Overall, angel investors can be an important alternative source of capital for Black founders. By providing access to funding, expertise, mentorship, and networks, they can help level the playing field and create more opportunities for success.

As more Black founders enter the startup ecosystem, it’s important that they have access to the resources they need to thrive. Angel investors can play a key role in making this happen.

Interested in investing in Black founders? If so, please complete this brief form.

15 mins read

Colorwave: Driving Diversity and Equity in the Startup Ecosystem

Colorwave is a program designed to increase access to opportunities and support for underrepresented leaders in the tech industry.

In this interview, John Roussel, the Executive Director at Colorwave, shares how the organization is working to build a more equitable and inclusive innovation economy.


What inspired the creation of Colorwave?

Colorwave was born to address the lack of opportunity available to professionals of color within America’s booming venture-backed startup ecosystem.  

While the global start-up economy is worth more than $3.8 trillion (Startup Genome) and has been an engine for societal change and wealth generation for many, communities of color, notably Black and Latinx, have been broadly excluded and underrepresented in this space. In 2020 alone, 14 companies generated nearly $450b via IPO. However, Black, Latinx, and Native Americans were not in leadership of most of the companies. In addition, those most likely to experience the substantial economic upside of a tech company are often the earliest employees – this lack of representation exacerbates wealth inequality within this sector.  

Black and Latinx workers comprise 31% of the US workforce combined. Yet, they are just 12% of the tech workforce (Kapor Center). They are even more sorely underrepresented at the highest levels of tech, comprising roughly 7% of all tech leadership roles (Kapor Center) and less than 5% of startup executive roles (MaC Ventures/Kauffman). Early start-up employee pools often rely on network-based hiring; however, at least 67% of white citizens have white-only networks (PRRI). This lack of diversity often creates less inclusive work environments, as illustrated by many of the large tech companies’ annual diversity reports. The lack of opportunity for communities of color in the workplace has contributed to various societal and business issues.

John Roussel, Executive Director at Colorwave

Beyond these sobering facts of underrepresentation in the innovation economy, Colorwave’s origin story shares a connection to my own personal and professional experience. While growing up in California during the era of multiple tech booms in the late 90s (AOL, Netscape, eBay, Amazon) and early 2000s (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Skype, Youtube), a few things were clear. First, there was little understanding of these nascent technologies within my networks and community as a Black man and almost no pathway to finding a job at these companies at the earliest stages.

Despite being a student in the Bay Area at one of the top places to find talent, UC Berkeley, these companies and industries might as well have been on another planet in terms of our two worlds being connected. The net effect of this as a mid-career professional is that many of my peers went into ‘stable’ jobs in government, legal, nonprofit, healthcare, etc., mainly due to network, knowledge, and access gaps. While others went on to make large or mini-fortunes by working in venture-backed tech, my friends and I remained locked out of this sector’s career and economic upside.

Armed with this proximate understanding of the problem, we officially launched our first program, the Colorwave Fellowship, in January 2021 with 22 fellows. This program was designed to do the following: 

  • Help working professionals from traditionally marginalized communities better understand the venture-backed startup ecosystem
  • Learn about what it’s like to work in a venture-backed startup
  • Support the job search and preparation for open roles across the ecosystem
  • Connect them to growing companies through our venture and startup partnerships

Please describe your model

Colorwave takes a two-pronged approach to make the VC-backed startup sector more equitable and inclusive.

  1. On the talent side, we recruit high-potential, early-to-mid-career professionals of color as Colorwave fellows. Candidates participate in a free, virtual, eight-week educational and networking program that helps them understand and navigate the venture-backed startup industry more effectively. At the end of the eight weeks, we facilitate connections and placement in roles with our partner companies and the startup sector more broadly. Upon completion and placement, we continue to engage program alums with career pathways, industry networking, and entrepreneurship advisory support.
  2. On the industry side, we partner with venture capital funds, their portfolio companies, and other venture-backed startups to unlock access to opportunities for our fellowship participants and support companies in building more inclusive pipelines and organizational culture practices.  

Ultimately, Colorwave is building a virtuous network of investors, startups, and diverse talent committed to making the innovation economy more equitable and inclusive of all communities. 

In just two years, nearly 300 fellows across 60 cities have completed our program. More than 100 and counting have transitioned into new roles across the innovation economy, with most seeing an average $52K increase in their total compensation. We are building a movement to inject more leaders of color into the startup ecosystem. We are encouraged by the progress we have seen thus far and hope to continue growing our movement and impact.   

How do you select partners? Which have you identified as doing impactful work in this space?

We take a targeted approach to our fund and company partners. We prioritize partners committed to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion and are aligned with our organizational mission to increase access to opportunities for underrepresented leaders. 

A few of our fund partners have made impactful efforts to advance inclusion within the ecosystem. One is Concrete Rose Capital which has not only built inclusion into its investment approach but has also committed to giving 50% of its fund carry to non-profit organizations helping to close opportunity gaps for communities of color.

In addition, at the fund level, Concrete Rose supports its portfolio companies in designing inclusive cultures from Day 1, helps connect those companies to diverse talent as they scale, and connects companies to their well-respected network of operators and LPs. Seven of our alumni have worked within their company portfolio network. We believe they’re building a model that demonstrates outsized returns and transformational social good are not mutually exclusive and can co-exist in investing.   

Another fund partner we work closely with who is doing transformative work to build more inclusivity in the space is Insight Partners. In 2020, the fund announced a bold commitment to support diversity, equity, and inclusion within the fund’s broad sphere of influence. We have worked closely with their Talent Center of Excellence to support connecting candidates to roles across their expansive portfolio of companies. In addition to supporting their portfolio companies in tracking and benchmarking key diversity metrics, we were excited that their pledge removed minimum commitment requirements for Insight’s future funds to enable HBCU Endowments to invest and that they recently were an LP in Monique Woodard’s of Cake Ventures most recent fund announced in January 2022.

A more recent partner, Andreessen Horowitz’s Cultural Leadership Fund, is also doing impactful work to attract Black LPs into their funds and building out a network of cultural icons, talent, and community organizations to broaden access to the tech ecosystem. These particular funds’ management fees and carry generated are donated to nonprofit organizations showing their commitment to doing well and doing good.     

A few other funds and portfolios that have caught our eye include Base10 Ventures, with their Advancement Initiative aimed at leveling the playing field for HBCU endowments and their students. Additionally, Kapor Capital has focused on investing in new companies that close gaps of access for all and often integrate efforts with the SMASH program and Kapor Center into their company support. Lastly, Slauson & Co., via its investment thesis and Friends & Family program, has prioritized broadening access for traditionally overlooked communities.    

All of these efforts are helping to advance inclusivity in the ecosystem. Meaningful change will occur when embedding more inclusive practices into investing criteria, company building, and organizational culture development becomes the norm across the sector.  

 How do you identify ideal candidates for your program?

Our programming prioritizes early-to-mid career, underrepresented professionals with transferable skills to a startup environment. 

The majority of our fellowship participants have come from referrals. Our program has a 100% recommendation rate. We accept candidates twice per year, usually during the Spring and Fall. Applicants undergo a two-part screening process: an initial application review and a virtual interview with our Interview committee, including staff and alumni.

The typical candidate has roughly six years of work experience, proven functional experience, and a desire to transition to a venture-backed startup. Participants come from various industries, including consulting, banking/finance, big tech, higher education, nonprofits, and government. Roughly 75% have non-technical backgrounds such as finance, HR, operations, and strategy. Another 25% are technical, which includes engineers, product managers, data scientists, and designers.    

We encourage candidates to check our website and Linkedin pages for application alerts and other opportunities to join our talent community.     

Can you share any success stories or notable achievements that your organization has had in placing Black talent in these types of roles?

To date, our fellowship program has supported roughly 300 fellows across 60 different cities and six countries. Approximately 110 and counting have transitioned into roles across the venture-backed startup ecosystem. Once placed, our most recent survey in 2021 found that fellows experienced a $52k increase in their total compensation when transitioning. 

There are many success stories from our first couple of years, but the stories below demonstrate different ways people find successful outcomes. 

  • Colorwave Industry Network – Through our relationship with a fund partner, Insight Partners, one of our alumni connected to a growing clinic trials SaaS company. He took a role under the CFO, seeing both a jump in his salary and earning equity ownership in the company, which is an essential aspect of our curriculum and model. More on this here
  • Colorwave’s Peer Network – Four of our alumni could transition to a late-stage, e-commerce company by connecting with a previous alumni who connected them to roles across the company. Three of those who transitioned came from higher education and nonprofit roles, which significantly improved their salary and provided them with company stock options. More on this here
  • Colorwave’s Curriculum and Resources – A recent alumni leveraged the curriculum to narrow down roles at several startups. Using our resources and tools, she landed a job with a growth-stage healthcare startup helping to scale their model. She now has a meaningful role at one of her top-choice companies. 

What future do you envision for Colorwave?

We envision a future where many of our alumni are in prominent positions across the startup world as executives, entrepreneurs, and investors. We see our alumni as leaders who will help transform the future of tech and societal change by holding seats at companies and within industries that are shaping society. In their personal family legacies, they will represent generational change by accessing more opportunities and income to help close the wealth gap and improve their local communities.  

In this particular segment of our economy, we want to play a supportive role in getting companies to think about and embed inclusive practices in their earliest stages. We’ll know our efforts at Colorwave and so many others within this space are impactful when we no longer need to ‘make the case’ for diversity; instead, it is a modus operandi for a successful high-growth business.

by Tony O. Lawson

Interested in investing in Black founders? If so, please complete this brief form.

2 mins read

5 Ways To Evaluate a Startup Investment Opportunity

Conducting due diligence on a startup investment opportunity is a crucial step in the angel investing process.

By following these steps, you can make a more informed decision on whether to invest in a startup and minimize your risk as an investor.

Step 1: Research the Industry and Market

Analyzing the market and industry in which a startup operates is the first step in evaluating an investment opportunity.  This entails understanding the market’s size and potential for expansion as well as the major players and current trends in the sector. It’s critical to identify any obstacles or difficulties that the startup may encounter in the future.

Step 2: Assess the Business Model

After you’ve thoroughly researched the industry and market, the next is to assess the startup’s business model. Understanding the startup’s revenue streams, target customer base, and unique value proposition are all part of this. It is essential to determine whether the startup’s business model is long-term sustainable and scalable.

Step 3: Analyze the Financials

The next step is to review the startup’s financial statements, which include the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. This will give you an idea of the revenue, expenses, and profitability of the startup. It is critical to determine whether the startup has a positive cash flow and a viable path to profitability.

Step 4: Evaluate the Team

Another important aspect to consider is the startup’s team. This includes assessing the experience, skills, and track record of the management team, as well as the overall culture and dynamics within the company. It’s important to evaluate whether the team has the ability and drive to execute on their business plan and achieve their goals.

Step 5: Assess the Valuation

Finally, it’s important to assess the startup’s valuation. This includes evaluating the startup’s current funding round and the terms of the investment, as well as the startup’s valuation in comparison to other similar companies in the industry. It’s important to ensure that the valuation is reasonable and in line with industry standards.

by Tony O. Lawson

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