Browse Tag

venture capital

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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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Saltbox Raises $10.6 Million To Provide E-Commerce Businesses With Logistics Support

The pandemic has accelerated the growth of the global e-commerce industry. Not only are more people shopping online than ever before, more people are also starting online businesses. According to Shopify, one of the largest digital retail platforms, online store creation on its platform rose 79% in 2020 over 2019.

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

saltbox

Saltbox has private “warehouse suites”, loading dock access, a self-service packing center, warehouse equipment for use, a photography stage, and more, all specifically geared toward e-commerce and retail entrepreneurs.

The startup was founded on the premise that the need for “co-warehousing and SMB-centric logistics enablement solutions” has become a major problem for many new businesses that rely on online retail platforms to sell their goods.

Many of those companies are limited to self-storage and mini-warehouse facilities for storing their inventory, which can be expensive and inconvenient, noted Saltbox CEO, Tyler Scriven.

saltbox

Their Atlanta location opened in November 2019 and has 27,000 square feet of space, all of which is full, according to Scriven.

Recently, Saltbox raised a $10.6M Series A round to accelerate its expansion across the United States. They also recently opened a 66,000-square-foot warehouse near Dallas. The Dallas area location marks the first expansion for the company outside Atlanta since it launched in 2019. They plan to expand into Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles next.

Tony O. Lawson


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Venture Investment Opportunities in the Caribbean

Dmitri Dawkins is a Jamaica based entrepreneur and investor. He serves as managing director at Graft Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on scaling Caribbean-based businesses.

investment opportunities

In this interview, we discuss the investment climate in Jamaica and what effects the pandemic has had on opportunities there.

We also discuss some misconceptions about the Jamaican economy as well as the unique advantages and challenges that the Caribbean region has compared to US or European markets.

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Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Venture Capital Firm Raises $110 Million Seed Fund

MaC Venture Capital is a Black owned venture capital firm that invests in technology startups across a broad range of business sectors, including fintech, e-commerce and marketplaces, interactive media, connectivity, enterprise SaaS, space and aerospace, logistics, and more.

Today, the Los Angeles and Palo Alto based company announced it has raised its inaugural $110 million seed-stage fund. This is the largest investment received by a majority Black owned fund. They plan to use the funds to invest in 40 seed-stage companies across the globe, targeting $1 million for each initial investment.

“Although we are investing at a founder’s earliest stage, with a minimum viable product and early traction, we ground ourselves in seeking big opportunities — companies that have the potential to scale quickly, change an industry, and bring something net-new to society. We look for ambitious founders who want to build billion-dollar category leaders,” said Adrian Fenty, managing general partner.

“We evaluate investments based on the merits and potential of their ideas, not just resumes, to find value in founders where others might not. This brings us differentiated deal flow and the ability to look around corners to identify white space in areas that are often overlooked. Not only do we have the opportunity to really change the way capital is allocated by investing in more Black and Brown founders, we can also power companies that are closing the opportunity gap for large groups of people and create more diversity across a wide range of verticals,” said Marlon Nichols, managing general partner.

“With MaC Venture Capital, our mission is to invest in visionary founders who are building the future we want to see. And a big part of that is thinking about culture and how it’s shifting, changing behaviors, and eventually guiding new social norms. Our cultural investment lens stays ahead of that, leveraging research to identify how consumers and companies will spend their time and money in the future and looking for investment opportunities that will ultimately participate in those shifts,” said Michael Palank, general partner.

“I don’t think there’s another fund that looks anything like us,” said Charles D. King, general partner. “We represent a very diverse range of perspectives, skill sets, and networks, bridging Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., and we leverage that to support our founders. And we have the ability to broker mission-critical introductions that can cement a company’s trajectory, whether in technology, business, politics, entertainment, or finance.”

The firm intends to make 40 investments with this new fund, with an average investment of $1 million. The fund’s limited partners include Foot Locker, Inc., Goldman Sachs, Greenspring Associates, Bank of America, Howard University, MacArthur Foundation, the University of Michigan, State of Michigan Retirement System, and Mitch and Freada Kapor, among others.

Related: Black Owned Venture Capital, Private Equity & Angel Investment Firms

Tony O. Lawson


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Africa Focused Flutterwave Now Valued at Over $1 Billion after $170 Million Investment

Founded in 2016, Flutterwave is a payment processing company that makes it easier to do business across the Continent by allowing users to make international payments in their own currencies.

Yesterday, the San Fransico based company announced that it has secured $170 million from a group of international investors as part of a successful Series C round.

flutterwave
Flutterwave Ceo and co-founder, Olugbenga Agboola
The round was led by growth-equity firms Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global Management with participation from new and existing investors. The fundraise brings the total investment in Flutterwave to $225 million and values the company at $1 billion.
flutterwave
Flutterwave Co-founder, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

“We may consider the possibility of listing in New York or a possible dual listing in New York and Nigeria,” Flutterwave’s CEO and co-founder Olugbenga Agboola told Reuters on Tuesday.

This latest investment, made a year after Flutterwave announced a partnership with Visa and Worldpay, highlights the growing interest in the booming payments market in Africa.

 

Tony O. Lawson


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BlocPower, A Black Owned Climate Technology Startup Just Raised $63 Million

BlocPower is a Black owned climate technology startup that transforms antiquated buildings into greener, smarter, and healthier facilities with efficient heating and cooling systems.

blocpower
Donnel Baird, founder and CEO of BlocPower

Buildings account for around 40% of US energy consumption.  Small and medium sized buildings overconsume energy per square foot because they do not usually have the capital and technical expertise to access high efficiency equipment for their buildings.

Keith Kinch, Co-Founder of BlocPower

As a Public Benefit Corporation, BlocPower partners with utilities, community leaders and institutions, and building owners to identify unhealthy, energy-wasting buildings (non-profits, houses of worship, schools, small businesses or multi-family residences) to retrofit.

blocpower

Their machine learning platform determines which retrofits will produce the most energy savings at scale and uses the cloud and IoT to gather data and remotely monitor energy consumption.

By installing modern, efficient, all electric heating and cooling equipment, BlocPower improves indoor air quality and reduces or eliminates fossil fuel use, saving building owners 20 to 70 percent on energy costs.

blocpower

To fund these projects, BlocPower created an innovative financing solution that enables small and medium sized building owners to bring energy efficiency improvements to their properties with no out-of-pocket cost.

Yesterday, the company announced a $63 million Series A round. The round, which was comprised of $55 million in debt, and $8 million in equity, was led by American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, AccelR8 and The Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, with participation from Kapor Capital, Elemental Excelerator, CityRock Venture Partners, The Schmidt Family Foundation and Salesforce Ventures.

Retrofit project investors are repaid using utility bill savings generated by the solar and energy efficiency retrofits.

So far, BlocPower has completed retrofits in more than 1,000 buildings in New York City and has projects underway in 24 cities, including PhiladelphiaMilwaukee, and Oakland.

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Lending App Raises $10 Million To Help Borrowers Avoid Predatory Lenders

SoLo is a Black owned lending app that was formed in 2018 to create a viable, non-predatory option for moments when life happens. The Los Angeles based company is on a mission to help the millions of Americans that are experiencing financial hardship due to pandemic.

SoLo connects lenders and borrowers with access to loans under $1000.00 and allows borrowers to set their own terms and provide appreciation tips to lenders who agree to fund a loan.

Black Owned Lending App

SoLo also allows lenders to make loans based on personal preferences. You can filter the marketplace according to what factors are most important to your lending strategy e.g., payback date, borrower history, etc.

“Even before the pandemic, 70 percent of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, and many didn’t have $400 in their savings account,” Travis Holoway, co-founder and CEO of SoLo Funds told Crunchbase News. “More than half of the country has been waiting on $600 for more than six months.”

Black Owned Lending App
Rodney Williams (L) and Travis Holoway are the co-founders of SoLo.

The startup’s rapid growth (2,000% growth in 2020) has helped it raise $10 million to fuel expansion across the country. The latest round was led by ACME Capital, and includes Impact America Fund, Techstars, Endeavor Catalyst, CEAS Investments, and others.

Tony O. Lawson


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New Partnership Creates a $300 Million Tech Fund, The Largest in The Southeast

Dr. Paul Judge, serial entrepreneur, investor, and co-founder of TechSquare Labs, has spent nearly 20 years developing and launching new tech companies in Atlanta. Yesterday, it was announced that he and Marik Buffington, CEO of Atlanta’s BIP Capital, have partnered to form Panoramic Ventures.

Panoramic Ventures is an Atlanta based venture capital firm that focuses on diverse founders and university startups located in the Southeast, Midwest, and other regions across the country where high-potential companies are often overlooked. The firm plans to open new doors for overlooked founders, giving more entrepreneurs access to capital to build leading tech companies.

The goal for its first fund is $300 million, according to the partners, and will focus on funding startups from their seed stage to Series B.

Judge, a Morehouse and Georgia Tech grad, is also the co-founder and executive chairman of Pindrop, co-founder of Purewire (acquired by Barracuda), and CTO of CipherTrust (acquired by Secure Computing).

Panoramic Ventures
Paul and his wife, Tanya Sam, director of Partnerships at TechSquare Labs

He recognizes that “the thing that’s missing is a meaningful venture capital firm that’s anchored here and that’s really active across multiple stages.”

“[If we] put our efforts together we could make a new firm that really fills that gap and is there to support everything that Atlanta and the Southeast really deserves to be over the next decade,” Judge added. “The $300 million size is really intentional because we can be active at the seed stage but we can also lead Series As and lead Series Bs.”

“After years of building companies as an entrepreneur and angel investor, I felt that I could have a greater impact by working with more founders, which is why we created Panoramic Ventures,” said Judge. “As a minority who has built companies outside of the traditional tech hubs, I know what it is like to be an overlooked founder. From Atlanta to Miami, from the Southeast to the Midwest, Panoramic wants to back promising founders and extend capital opportunities that may not have previously existed.”

 

Tony O. Lawson


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From Homeless Refugee To Creating a $100 Million Investment Fund

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

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

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

Temba Maqubela
Kanyi’s parents, Vuyelwa and Temba Maqubela

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

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

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

 

Tony O. Lawson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

black owned scheduling app

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

 

Tony O. Lawson


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