Browse Tag

venture capital

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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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Creating a Black Investment Syndicate That Invests Nationally and Internationally

As someone who is interested in investing in projects around the world, I’m intrigued by the idea of a Black investment syndicate, a group of Black investors and investment firms that combine resources to invest on a global scale.

Ken Goodwin shares my interest in this concept. Ken is the Senior Managing Principal & President of Jeanensis, a global advisory firm that has developed its expertise in the areas of FinTech and RegTech, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and more.

In this interview, we explore several ideas, including a Black investment syndicate, a group of Black investors, private equity, and venture capital firms that pool resources to invest on a global scale.

Ken also shares details on what it takes to be a successful investor, his STEM work with HBCU’s, and the investing sectors he considers recession-proof.

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Tony O. Lawson


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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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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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This Black Owned FinTech Payroll Startup Has Raised Almost $11M

Gig Wage is a Black owned Fintech startup that builds modern payroll, payments, and banking tools for the Gig Economy.

As of a few weeks ago, Gig Wage has now raised $10.7M in total equity funding. The funds will help with its growth in areas that include sales, marketing, and ongoing product innovation.

We caught up with founder, Craig J. Lewis to find out more about his business.

Black owned fintech
Gig Wage founder, Craig J. Lewis

What inspired you to start Gig Wage? 

In 2016 I read a report from McKinsey on the Global Independent Workforce aka the Gig Economy and it struck me that no one was really servicing the businesses that pay these workers.

I thought to myself, “We can become the payroll technology for the Gig Economy.” It also really scratched an itch I had to leverage payroll to impact the end user experience (the people getting paid). Gig Wage was an opportunity to be B2B2C and help everyone involved.

To what do you attribute the rapid growth of your business? 

The Gig Economy was rapidly expanding and Gig Wage was growing really fast pre COVID but COVID19 has definitely been an accelerant. The increased need for delivery has been the main area of growth we’ve seen.

black owned fintech

How does Gig Wage benefit employers? 

Gig Wage provides all the technology and tools businesses need to pay contractors/freelancers/gig workers in a fast, flexible, and modern way. Also by having 1099 specific software helps with classification concerns.

Where do you see your business in 5 years? 

Global with a 10 figure valuation.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Get started, keep going.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Investment Firm Has Helped African Startups Raise $60M

Nichole Yembra is the Founder and Managing Director of The Chrysalis Capital, a $15M Africa and Diaspora early stage tech fund, and The Chrysalis Advisors, a strategy and investment advisory firm.

In this interview, we discuss:

1) African startups being forced to solve “African problems” vs Global problems (3:30)

2) The African Startup ecosystem (10:11)

3) Funding Bias – Foreign Black Privilege (13:00)

4) The need for government to create infrastructure and regulation that helps entrepreneurs (16:00)

5) The importance of supporting women founders (22:45)

6) Advice for founders looking for funding (25:15)

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Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Credit Building App Raises $2.3M

Today, Esusu, a platform that aims to dismantle barriers to housing, announced the closing of $2.3 million in seed extension bringing total capital raised to $4 million.

Humble Beginnings

The name Esusu is a Yoruba word that describes informal savings in traditional African societies.

Co-founder Abbey Wemimo came up with the idea for the app when his family, led a single mom of three, struggled to afford his education. His relatives had to pool their resources to afford his education, and his mother contributed much of the money.

Abbey Wemimo

The Platform

Esusu’s rent reporting platform captures rental payment data and reports it to credit bureaus to boost credit scores. This enables tenants to build credit while property owners can encourage on-time payments. Esusu currently operates in over 30 states and covers over 200,000 rental units.

“Esusu’s vision to use data to eliminate the racial wealth gap is driven by the role that credit and housing play in financial stability and wealth accumulation in the United States. Our fundamental belief is that where you come from, the color of your skin or your financial identity shouldn’t determine where you end up in life. We are privileged to join forces with world-class investors to address these systemic issues through the innovative use of data,” said Esusu Co-Founders, Abbey Wemimo and Samir Goel.

Currently, less than 1% of rental payments are reported into the credit bureaus despite being the largest expense for most Americans. According to HUD and Urban Institute, rental data is one of the strongest predictors of a tenant’s credit risk.

Esusu’s model presents a profitable solution for property managers to help keep renters in their homes while equipping financial institutions with the data to underwrite renters with limited credit history.

We are experiencing the greatest public health crisis in a century, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and accelerating income inequality. Concomitantly, we are dealing with systemic racism that stifles the promise of America. “At Esusu we have a unique opportunity to challenge the status quo by using our platform to dismantle barriers to housing for working families and over the longer horizon, eliminate the racial wealth gap,” continued Abbey Wemimo and Samir Goel.

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned VC Firm in London Is Raising £100 Million to Invest in Black Founders

Recent reports have found that less than 1% of venture capital is invested in Black businesses in the US and the number for the UK is no better.

London based, Impact X Capital Partners is a Black owned venture capital firm that is raising £100 Million ($131 million) to support underrepresented entrepreneurs within the entertainment, media, tech, health, and digital industries.

We spoke with Ezechi Britton. Founding Member, Principal & CTO in Residence at Impact X Capital about several topics including:

  • The need for diversity in the tech industry
  • The importance of investing in Black founders
  • How entrepreneurs can position themselves to be attractive to investors

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Tony O. Lawson


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