Browse Tag

venture capital

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Black Owned Insurtech Startup in UK Hits Billion Dollar Valuation

Insurtech is a term that barely existed five years ago. It is used to describe the use of technology to disrupt the insurance industry. Because the global market is expected to reach $60 billion by 2028, companies operating in this space are attracting a lot of investor attention.

One such company is Marshmallow, a Black owned insurtech startup that recently reached a valuation of over $1.25 billion, becoming the newest and one of only two Black owned billion dollar (pound) startups in the UK.

The valuation came after an $85 million funding round, bringing the total amount raised by the company in the last year to more than $100 million.

Founded in 2017, by Oliver Kent-Braham, his twin brother Alexander Kent-Braham, and David Goate, the company aims to modernize the insurance industry by using data to provide more affordable auto insurance to customers who fall outside the typical “good risk” profile. These often include immigrants, expats, and people traveling within the UK.

Marshmallow has expanded its staff by more than 200% in the past year to around 170 people, and also plans to use its funding to hire 400 more over the next two years and to expand overseas and into other types of insurance beyond the auto segment.

“Customers are voting with their feet — and they clearly want a modern insurance offering,” Oliver Kent-Braham, co-founder and chief executive of Marshmallow, said.

Tony O. Lawson


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Barbershop App theCut Raises $4.5M, Has Helped Barbers Generate $500M in Revenue

theCut is a mobile platform for barbers and clients modernizing the barbershop experience. Today, the company announced that they have raised $4.5 million in new funding.

The Northern Virginia-based startup provides information and reviews on barbers for potential customers while also helping barbers manage mobile payments, appointments, and other back end tasks.

Clients can easily search for and discover new barbers, then book and pay for haircuts at their convenience. After completing an appointment, clients can review the barber and shout out a job well done.

Barbers can then manage all those clients, appointments, and payments with one easy to use tool.

Founded in 2016 by high school best friends, Obi Omile Jr. and Kush Patel, theCut has successfully booked 2 million appointments by over 350,000 clients who visited 22,000 barbers across the country. This has helped barbers generate more than $500 million in revenue since the app launched.

Nextgen Venture Partners led the funding round and was joined by Leadout Capital, Elevate Ventures, and Singh Capital. This brings total funding to $5.35 million.

The new investment will be used to hire additional talent, marketing and grow the business across the country.

Tony O. Lawson


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South African Payment Platform Yoco Raises $83M For Expansion

You’ve probably heard the phrase “small business is the backbone of the economy” before, and for good reason: it is true. Small businesses employ a huge percentage of workers around the globe.

But in countries like South Africa, where more payments are going digital and more customers are looking to swipe their debit and credit cards, smaller businesses still largely do not accept digital payments, potentially missing out on customers accustomed to not carrying any cash.

The fintech company Yoco has decided to tackle this problem head on, using its portable card machines as a way for small businesses and merchants to accept digital payments in person.

yoco

Yoco’s Strategy

Yoco’s strategy to gain a foothold in the industry is twofold: the company aims to be the most recognizable brand in the market and to make the adoption of their portable card machines as seamless as possible for their customers.

And this strategy appears to be working, as the company boasts that it is adding up to 500 merchants a day and has processed over $1 billion in payments, and growing. The company is carving out a market for itself and building a reputation in the process.

$83 Million In Funding

It’s no wonder that Yoco was able to raise $83 million from the Dragoneer Investment Group, a major investor in Chime and Square as well. This makes Yoco the most valuable startup in all of South Africa.

It has raised the most funding of any startup in South Africa and is only third across the entire continent. Yoco plans to use this investment to deliver new products to their customers, such as QR payments and a peer to peer money transfer. As they grow and add new features, they are only cementing their market dominance.

Expanding To New Regions

Yoco is looking past South Africa for growth: The startup is looking at rapidly expanding throughout all of Africa and into the Middle East. This provides an excellent growth opportunity as many merchants throughout these regions are still dealing mostly with cash at the moment but are interacting with customers who are increasingly going digital.

And with word that the company is hiring former employees from Paypal and Uber, Yoco is poised to reach exciting new heights in the fintech sector.

 

Written by Johnny T. Ross


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Squire, The Black Owned Barbershop App Hits $750 Million Valuation

Back in December 2020, we reported that Squire, a barbershop management application, received a $59 million investment that almost tripled its valuation, from $85 million to $250 Million.

That funding round was led by Iconiq Capital, which invests on behalf of high-profile tech executives including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.

Today, the company announced a new round of funding that actually has tripled its valuation to $750 million.

Tiger Global led this new Series D round, which totals around $60 million and included participation from Iconiq Capital, Charles River Ventures, and Trinity Ventures.

In March of 2020, Squire’s revenue went from zero, when all barbershops closed, to between $10 million to $20 million 10 months later.

As “outside” continues to open up, both founders are confident that the company will benefit from serving even more barbershops that will begin using Squire to manage their operations.

In the words of Squire Co-founder, Dave A. Salvant, “The marathon continues.”

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Breakr Raises $4.2M to Amplify New Artist’s Music With The Help of Influencers

Breakr is a music marketing marketplace startup founded in late 2020. It recently announced that it has raised $4.2 million in seed funding. The announcement comes after Breakr has garnered attention from a long list of investors, including rap artist Nas.

“Independent artists have more opportunities than ever to break through, but those opportunities have required busywork that should’ve been solved already,” said Breakr’s co-founder and CEO, Tony Brown, in a recent interview. “Problem 1? Spending all day messaging to try and get your song heard. TikTok influencers have been pushing songs to the top of the charts, and with the shift to Twitch and Instagram Live DJ sets during the pandemic, we knew the world needed a solution.”

The app will serve as a marketplace where up-and-coming artists can connect with social media influencers and get their music heard, while influencers get paid to host listening sessions. Breakr has already produced over 150 million views for independent artists, put thousands of dollars into influencers’ pockets.

“We’ve worked with companies as big as Warner and Sony, as small as the SoundCloud rapper, and everybody in between,” mentioned founder and head of Product Ameer Brown, who formerly worked at Adobe.

The founders, including Ameer Brown, Dan Ware, and Rotimi Omosheyin, met while attending Florida A&M University. The group of studies witnessed the power of one-to-one communication and word-of-mouth marketing by promoting successful parties on campus.

“I immediately knew it would be the future. Having cultural icons like Erykah Badu and Dave Chapelle rock with my music and amplify me on their platforms was major for me. Now, with Breakr, we can make this happen for artists and influencers at every level,” said Tobe Nwigwe, an artist and one of Breakr’s co-founders.

As the world of music business and commerce continues to change, we’ll look to startups like Breakr to provide a solution to monetization for both artists and influencers alike.

Written by Reese Williams


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Jetstream Raises $3 Million to Improve African Cross-border Trade

Jetstream, a Ghanaian technology-driven logistics company, just landed $3 million in seed funding to solve one of Africa’s biggest problems: the lack of coordination at its ports.

“These are exactly the types of problems that technology solves,” said Miishe Addy, cofounder of Jetstream.

Addy founded the startup with Solomon Torgbor in 2018 to help African businesses by aggregating private sector logistics providers at the ports and borders of Africa, and then bringing them online. This way, companies could have better visuals and control over their cross-border supply chains.

“We are different from a more siloed freight management system because we are leveraging financing…so that shipments can be tracked every step of the way. We are bringing many of the local providers online for the first time,” Addy mused.

Since Africa increased its share of international exports from 80% to 90% between 2000 and 2017, there’s been a growing demand for the continent to be less commodity-dependent and diversify its exports.

Africa needs to revitalize its notoriously slow and costly ports to create more opportunities and encourage intracontinental trade. For Ghanaian native Torgbor, Ghana is the perfect place to plant Jetstream’s roots. The West African country can be a thriving hub for intercontinental trade as it’s home to the largest container terminal in West and Central Africa, Port Tema.

Jetstream isn’t just making waves in the world of commerce, however. Data suggests that women-led startups in Africa attract as little as 15% of the total VC investments available in the continent. Addy hopes that Jetstream’s win will lead to more women leaders being funded.

Technology and data are at the forefront of Jetstream’s business model, and according to Addy, these two elements might bring the future that Jetstream envisions to life.

“We see a future where trade running on Jetstream’s digital rails has a powerful competitive edge on logistics. Jetstream is to cross-border logistics what Flutterwave is to fintech in Africa.”

 

Written by Reese Williams


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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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Collab Capital Raises $50 Million To Invest In Black Founders

Collab Capital is an Atlanta-based investment firm on a mission to establish an institution that provides a viable pathway to sustained wealth for the Black community.

In 2018, the firm launched with $2 million in capital, a $50 million target, and a mission to focus on investing in Black founders specifically.

Despite being told that their focus on Black founders was too narow and that there aren’t enough qualified Black founders to back, Collab Capital perservered and today announced that they have now raised over $50M to invest in the best Black led early stage startups over the next few years.

Black founders
Collab Capital founders: Barry Givens, Jewel Burks Solomon and Justin Dawkins

Backers include Apple, Goldman Sachs, Google, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mailchimp and PayPal, making it one of the largest funds closed from an entirely Black-led firm solely committed to Black founders.

The firm will invest in 50 startups across the US over the next 3–5 years. The majority of the investments will fund companies in cities like Atlanta,  DC, Houston, Detroit, St. Louis, and New Orleans, which have a high concentration of Black entrepreneurs and a low concentration of risk capital.

Tony O. Lawson


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Upsie Raises $18.2 Million To Offer Lower Priced Consumer Warranties

Upsie is a more affordable warranty option for your electronic devices, appliances, and fitness equipment. They offer the same warranties and coverage as other companies and cost up to 70% less.

“I’m sure you’ve walked into a Best Buy or a Target, and when you’re checking out somebody at the register is offering you a warranty. But what most customers don’t know is that you’re paying as much as 900% more for that warranty than you should,” Upsie founder Clarence Bethea told TechCrunch.

upsie
Upsie founder, Clarence Bethea

“There’s no transparency at the register and you never get to ask what’s covered and what’s not covered, or what should you do if you need to make a claim.”

Upsie just finalized an $18.2 million Series A round that Bethea hopes will encourage other Black founders.

“Getting more dollars to Black and Brown founders is always top of mind in conversations—there’s still such a deficit,” Bethea said. “Today represents that it’s possible.”

True Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based firm, was the lead investor in the round. Other Twin Cities-based firms such as Matchstick Ventures and Bread & Butter Ventures also participated.

Tony O. Lawson


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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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