Browse Tag

venture capital

1 min read

$136M Agribusiness Fund Aims To Boost Food Security in Africa

Agribusiness is a term used to describe the enterprises involved in the production, processing, and distribution of food for consumer use.

In Africa, agribusiness is responsible for 70% of employment and about 25% of the continent’s GDP. Due to its enormous agricultural potential, the African agribusiness sector is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2030.

Zebu Investment Partners is a pan-African private equity fund with offices in Ghana and South Africa. It was established to build strong companies in the food value chain and improve food security in Africa.

agribusiness
Brian Frimpong, Managing Partner at Zebu Investments

In this interview with Brian Frimpong, Managing Partner at Zebu Investments, we discuss:

  • The reasons why his firm is focused on agribusiness investments
  • Current and emerging opportunities in the agribusiness sector
  • The ways technology is improving food security in Africa
  • Co-investing with funds based outside of Africa
  • The growing interest in Africa from African-American fund managers

Tony O. Lawson

2 mins read

645 Ventures, Black Owned VC Firm Closes Two Funds, Totaling $347M

645 Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm that partners with exceptional founders who are building iconic companies.

They invest at the Seed and Series A stages and help founders scale to the growth stage.

Today 645 Ventures announced its oversubscribed fourth fund, Fund IV, alongside the launch of the firm’s first opportunity fund, Select I.

The closing of these two funds, totaling $347M, tracks the venture firm’s exponential growth, scaling the portfolio to 50+ companies, 15 team members, two offices, and eight exit events since its inception in 2014.

645 ventures
645 Ventures founders Nnamdi Okike and Aaron Holiday

In another statement made today, co-founder Nnamdi Okike stated, “With our $194m Fund IV, we are doubling down on our early-stage strategy of investing in exceptional Seed and Series A companies. We can invest $1-$5m at the Seed, and up to $10m at Series A. We lead, co-lead, or participate, and look forward to partnering with early-stage funds.

We raised our $153m Select I Fund with the aim of enhancing our value proposition for founders. With this fund, we are focused on re-investing in our existing portfolio companies at the Series B+ stage, with investments up to $15m in a non-lead capacity.

Particularly in this funding environment, we’re excited to be able to support our companies as a follow-on investor, while partnering with growth and multi-stage funds who lead these rounds.”

With the close of Fund IV and Select II, the New York-based firm now manages over $550M in AUM across five funds, with more than $400M to deploy over the next few years to early-stage founders building new infrastructure software, SaaS, and consumer startups that are built on new technology inflections.

The firm is currently hiring for new roles. You can find more information here.

 

Tony O. Lawson

3 mins read

Black Owned Supply Chain Logistics Company, Saltbox Raises $35 Million

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

Today, the Atlanta-based company announced a $35 million Series B funding round.

saltbox

The investment was co-led by Cox Exterprises Inc and Pendulum, a strategic growth investing and advisory platform designed for founders and leaders of color and previous investor in Saltbox.

This Series B round brings Saltbox’s total funding to $56 million. The round also included investment from Playground Global, XYZ Capital, Fundrise, Kapor Capital, Wilshire Lane Capital, Colliers, Lincoln Property Company, Flexport and Overline among others.

Funding will support developing Saltbox’s core technology stack powering its end-to-end logistics platform for small and growing ecommerce businesses.

“Supporting small-and medium-sized businesses as they navigate the challenges of their entire logistics stack, from warehousing, to shipping and more has been our main goal since day one. The next step for Saltbox is to advance our logistics and fulfillment technology while also continuing to expand our physical, human-centric spaces for members,” said Saltbox CEO and Co-Founder Tyler Scriven.

saltbox
Tyler Scriven

In 2022, Saltbox more than doubled its growth, expanding its flexible warehouse network to ten locations, including new co-warehousing locations in Alexandria, VirginiaDuarte, CaliforniaCarrollton, TexasArden Hills, Minnesota; and a second location in Atlanta’s Upper Westside neighborhood to support its flagship facility.

The company also opened its first-ever fulfillment hub in Dublin, Ohio – a strategic location in the Columbus, Ohio market that allows members to reach 67% of the total U.S. population via 2-day shipping.

This momentum follows a successful 2021, in which Saltbox expanded its footprint into the Los Angeles area in Torrance, as well as DenverDallas-Fort Worth, and Seattle. It also launched fulfillment offerings tailored to SMBs. Saltbox closed its Series A round of $10.6 million in March 2021.

Later this year, Saltbox plans to open locations in two new cities: Tempe, Arizona and Doral, Florida, with additional plans to open a second Florida location early next year in Tampa, Florida.

Of Saltbox’s more than 500 members across its ten co-warehousing locations, more than 70 percent are ecommerce companies that sell physical goods directly to consumers.

These SMBs span numerous industries including fashion and apparel, health and beauty, home goods, resale, and tech in the hardware and services sectors. Half of Saltbox member businesses are led by women or people of color.

Tony O. Lawson

2 mins read

Black Owned Proptech Startup, REZI Secures $100M to Expand Nationwide

REZI, a real estate technology company offering “Occupancy-as-a-Service” for rental property owners, has secured $100M in debt financing from Stratos Credit, announced on Tuesday by Sean Mitchell, CEO & Co-founder at REZI.

rezi

This funding comes at a time of rapid growth at the NYC-based company. It has expanded into several new markets across the country, including Los AngelesSan Francisco, and most recently, Austin, after securing a deal with Rastegar Property Company to lease-up over 200 vacancies across nine of the firm’s developments.

REZI will leverage this new $100M in capital to expand its offerings to more property owners in existing and new markets. The company uses innovative technology including machine learning algorithms to accurately predict rent prices, vacancy timelines, and credit losses.

It then uses those insights to guarantee leasing performance for property owners who work with them.

“Stratos has been a core strategic partner of REZI since 2017. This facility marks the next phase in our relationship and the beginning of a new and exciting time at REZI as we expand our service across the country and launch more products for property owners, investors, and renters alike” said Sean Mitchell.

Leveling the renting field for everyone

REZI leverages the latest tools in technology, analytics, and finance to get rid of the old inefficiencies to focus on empowering both tenants and property owners.

For landlords, they remove risks from the equation by guaranteeing their income and taking over every aspect of the renting process. For tenants, they offer a fast, easy, and free experience to find their next home, removing removed broker fees and replacing unnecessary bias with financial eligibility and secure background checks.
2 mins read

Black-Owned Skincare Brand,Topicals Raises $10 Million

Topicals is a Black-owned skincare brand devoted to solving chronic skin issues such as hyperpigmentation, eczema, and psoriasis.

Topicals was founded in 2020 and has grown 675% in sales year-over-year as of November 2022.

Today, the company announced $10 million in new financing to continue the innovative production and sufficiency of the brand. The funding round was led by CAVU Consumer Partners.

The historic occasion marks Founder and CEO Olamide Olowe as the youngest Black woman ever to raise more than two million in venture-backed funding.

The funding will be used to further propel Topicals’ omnichannel growth, drive new hires, support channel expansion, and fuel brand marketing awareness.

“I love to keep the company fresh and new, with [employees] who understand beauty or maybe who don’t understand beauty but are coming in with a different point of view,” said Olowe. “We’re looking for people from different industries who can continue pushing a cultural narrative but also have experience because scaling a business is a bit formulaic.”

The company will also continue its mission of raising awareness around the connection between mental health and skin conditions.

To date, Topicals has donated more than $50,000 to support nonprofits providing mental health resources for marginalized communities. To expand this mission, Topicals is launching a 12-month accelerator program designed to provide nonprofits in the mental health space with leadership training, mentorship, and business advisory.

In addition to CAVU, Topicals has garnered an extremely diverse portfolio of investors including Gabrielle UnionKelly RowlandHannah Bronfman, Bozoma Saint John, Yvonne Orji, and Marcy Venture Partners.

Topicals has now raised a total of $15 million in outside funding to date.

-Tony O. Lawson

3 mins read

Resilia, Software Provider For Nonprofits, Raises $35 Million

After nearly a decade of advising nonprofits and grantmakers of all sizes, Sevetri Wilson set her sights on using technology to transform the nonprofit sector.

In 2016, she launched Resilia, a software solution that enables nonprofits to increase capacity and funders to go beyond their grant allocations with technical assistance, coaching, and capacity-building support.

Resilia has over 15,000 nonprofit users and enterprise customers including Oxfam America, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Goldman Sachs’s One Million Black Women Initiative, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the United States Tennis Association Foundation, and The Boston Foundation.

The company has experienced over 300% annual revenue growth while growing net revenue retention by greater than 150%.

On Thursday, the New Orleans and NYC-based company announced that it has closed $35M in a history-making series B round to further help nonprofits increase their day-to-day capacity and funders scale impact through resources that extend beyond just a monetary grant.

The round was co-led by Panoramic Ventures and Framework Venture Partners. Returning investors include Mucker Capital, Callais Capital, Cultivation Capital, Engage Ventures, SoftBank Group’s SB Opportunity Fund, Kimble Ventures, The Jump Fund, and Fearless Fund. New investors include Goldman Sachs Asset Management Fund, Chloe Capital, Gaingels, Mana Ventures, and others.

The latest funding will be used to scale Resilia’s technology platform and expand access to the sector by bringing more North American organizations into its ecosystem—and comes at a time when 86% of U.S. grantmakers provide capacity-building support to nonprofits through investments in areas such as leadership development, fundraising, evaluation and learning, communications, technology, collaboration, or DE&I.

Further, capacity-building assistance “beyond the grant” [such as Resilia’s platform] is a key pathway for funders seeking to support equity and justice efforts, according to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

“Our goal at Resilia has always been to provide nonprofits with access—something our team has worked tirelessly to do,” said Wilson in a recent press release. “This latest investment gets us closer to realizing our vision of democratizing philanthropy by reallocating power over its decision-making and resources as well as providing more seats at the table.”

While Black and Latina women founders received less than 1% of VC funding combined in 2021, Resilia’s latest capital raise marks another historic feat: it is the largest raise ever for a solo Black female-founded tech company, and also marks the largest VC raise of a female founder in the state of Louisiana.

Resilia first made history when it closed an $8M Series A in 2020, the highest venture capital raise by a woman-founded tech company in the state of Louisiana.

With close to $50M in venture capital to date, Resilia’s latest funding round marks the largest raise ever for a solo Black woman-founded tech company.

-Tony O. Lawson

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2 mins read

Investing in Assistive Technology to Empower The Disabled

According to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 U.S. adults is living with a disability — 61 million in total.

The global market for assistive technology estimated at $23.3 billion in the year 2020, is projected to reach a size of $32 billion by 2026.

Accessibility or assistive technology can include mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware, software, and peripherals that assist people with disabilities in accessing computers or other information technologies.

Moaz Hamid is the founder of Mvmt Ventures, a venture studio and venture fund on a mission to advance accessibility and disability technology.

He previously served as general manager and partner with Google and helped with the emerging market growth for Maps, Apps, and Search. Before that, he helped Microsoft bring smartphones to the forefront of its agenda in the emerging market. Moaz also led the investment, strategy, and launch of the smartphone company HTC and many other global brands.

In this interview with Moaz, he shares:

  • Common misconceptions about what it means to be disabled.
  • The personal challenges and experiences that inspired him to focus on this space.
  • The different ways assistive technology is being used to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.
  • The trends he is noticing in the assistive technology space.
  • The reasons why startups focused solely on assistive tech have a more difficult time raising capital.
  • What he looks for in a company before investing.

Don’t forget to LIKE the video and SUBSCRIBE to our Channel.

-Tony O. Lawson

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LISTEN BELOW

4 mins read

Incredible Health, a Black-Owned Nurse Staffing Platform, Raises $80M and Grows to a $1.65B Company

Incredible Health is a Black owned staffing platform that helps nurses find their next permanent role, and employers hire permanent, specialized nurses in 20 days or less.

As a career marketplace for permanent healthcare workers, Incredible Health puts nurses in the driver’s seat. Hospitals apply directly to nurses rather than the other way around. The first and only platform to focus on permanent employees rather than contractors, Incredible Health is already used by over 600 top hospitals nationwide.

Last month, Incredible Health announced it has secured $80 million in Series B funding, bringing the company’s valuation to $1.65 billion.

Now the highest valued tech-enabled career marketplace in healthcare, the company has radically transformed not only how nurses are hired but the experience of nursing itself.

This new funding will support the company’s initiatives to help health systems and their employees manage surging patient care demand.

“Nurses are the backbone of the US healthcare system, and they deserve the well-staffed teams and tools to not only succeed, but also feel fulfilled in their careers,” said Iman Abuzeid M.D., CEO and co-founder of Incredible Health. “Our model has met the moment and changed the paradigm for both nurses and healthcare providers in the most challenging time in U.S. healthcare. We’re excited to accelerate our growth to affect even more change.”

incredible health
Incredible Health cofounders Iman Abuzeid and Rome Portlock.

Base10 Partners led the round as part of their Advancement Initiative, a fund designed to align the success of tech companies with wealth creation for underrepresented minorities.

Incredible Health achieved a milestone year in performance, reporting more than 500% increase in revenue in 2021. More than 10,000 nurses join the marketplace every week and the company has reduced the average time to hire to 14 days from the industry standard of 82 days.

Sixty percent of the top-ranked hospitals in the U.S., including Stanford Health Care, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, NYU Langone Health, Northwestern Medicine and 600 more hospitals use Incredible Health for their permanent staffing needs.

Its offerings are more urgently needed than ever: the U.S. is on track to be one million nurses short by the end of 2023, and 75% of nursing student graduates cite staffing shortages as their main concern in entering the field.

Incredible Health will deploy its capital directly into rebuilding the shrinking nurse workforce. With the aim to continue expanding Incredible Health to new markets for health systems and nursing talent, the company will use this funding to:

  • Optimize every aspect of the hiring workflow with machine learning technology, including screening and matching, to an increasingly personalized and automated experience for both healthcare workers and employers
  • Support nurses and other healthcare workers over the course of their entire careers, beyond finding permanent jobs, including skill growth, scheduling services, mobility and relocation support, cross-training, and educational scholarships
  • Enhance Incredible Health’s tech-enabled nurse community with personalized advice and content ranking, ensuring that Incredible Health continues to be the largest online community of nurses and other healthcare workers
  • Expand and scale to 90% of the U.S. nurse workforce, and support healthcare worker roles beyond nursing that have critical shortages

Incredible Health has 180 remote employees in 35 states and continues to hire at a rapid pace.

To join Incredible Health’s expanding team, visit the careers page here.

-Tony O. Lawson

Access exclusive content about the latest business trends and investment opportunities. Sign up for a premium membership.

4 mins read

Tradeblock, a Black Owned Sneaker Trading Platform Just Raised $9 Million

Tradeblock, a Black owned sneaker trading platform has raised over $8.9 Million dollars in funding from investment partners Courtside VC, Trinity Ventures, and Concrete Rose Capital.

From its humble beginnings in 2020, with just 300 users and just under 5000 shoes, Tradeblock has experienced exponential growth in its 2 years of operation, amassing more than 1 Million shoes listed in users’ virtual closets this year.

The monumental growth of the online marketplace can be attributed to the platform’s unique consumer experience that was key in the vision of making Tradeblock a reality.

Co-Founder and CEO Mbiyimoh Ghogomu, along with Co-Founders Darren Smith and Tony Malveaux, sought out to bridge the gap for passionate collectors who were losing the battle against bots on sneaker drops and those who cannot afford rapidly increasing resale prices; increases that are largely driven by resellers cornering the market on popular shoes for the sole purpose of profits.

Tradeblock will use the proceeds from the financing round to help further invest in growth in its sneaker business as well as expanding and improving its one-of-a-kind authentication and logistics operation, which involves inspecting and authenticating shoes from both sides of the trade simultaneously in a complex and highly-interconnected process.

Additionally, Tradeblock will be investing in more data science capabilities to enhance the customer experience as it continues to define the virtual bartering experience by developing the marketplace further.

The funding raised within this round brings Tradeblock closer to its north star of providing accessibility in the resale market for those who should not let high and unjust prices define the attainability of their dreams and culture and also of ensuring that the marketplace offers the best in class services for its members.

Tradeblock is also driven by a deep passion for building a company that actually resembles the people it serves. “Black and brown communities have always been the backbone of the sneaker industry and sneaker culture,” says Co-Founder and CEO Mbiyimoh Ghogomu. “Showing those folks that they can be the owners and operators of this industry as opposed to just consumers is both a point of pride and a deeply rooted responsibility for everybody at Tradeblock.”

The Tradeblock team embodies this sentiment of representation within their workforce: besides having three Black founders, Tradeblock’s workforce is more than 80% BIPOC, and the senior leadership team is over 75% BIPOC.

Tradeblock | Secure Sneaker Trades

The marketplace is set for a rolling close to end their Seed II round and is expecting an additional $4.5 Million in investment by the end of it. Tradeblock aims to redefine the basis of sneaker culture by focusing on their pillars of community, accessibility and sustainability.

The mission and vision resonate with the public and trumpet the goal of leveling the playing field for the BIPOC community who has played a tremendous role within the culture that is the foundation of the sneaker industry.

“Tradeblock is revolutionizing the way forward for the new emergent asset class of footwear. The founding team’s understanding of the nuances of culture and tech gives them an unfair advantage in the industry and the team’s desire to lead with inclusion, representation, and authenticity also provides them with unique and meaningful organic engagement,” says Tradeblock angel investor Jason Mayden, a former Nike and Jordan footwear designer who now serves as President of Fear of God Athletics.

The marketplace’s continual growth goes to show the long lasting impact it will have within the sneaker industry for years to come.

Tony O. Lawson

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1 min read

She Leads a $20M Investment Fund Focused on Black Tech Founders

In this Black investor spotlight, we’re speaking with Lise Birikundavyi.

Lise is Managing Partner at BKR Capital, a Toronto based, $20 million venture capital fund built to invest in Black founders in the technology space.

When Lise took on this role, she became the first Black woman to lead an institutionally-backed venture capital fund in Canada.

In this interview, Lise shares:

  • What led her to become a venture capitalist.
  • Her view on how capital is dispersed in different regions.
  • An overview of the Canadian VC landscape.
  • Promising markets she’s interested in and why.
  • Advice for those who are interested in starting an investment fund.
  • Whether or not the current economic climate has influenced BKR’s investment strategy.
  • What her game plan would be if she were a startup founder seeking capital.

Tony O. Lawson


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