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AudioMob, Black Owned Gaming Ad Company Reaches $110 Million Valuation in One Year

AudioMob is a Black owned gaming advertisement company created to help developers monetize their games through audio ads.

Their in-game audio advertising format allows gameplay and connects brands with highly engaged audiences. According to AudioMob, their clients see up to a 2000% increase in engagement when compared to banner ads.

AudioMob has been used in marketing campaigns for major artists like Nas and Justin Bieber, as well as brands such as Intel and Jeep.

Nas himself has commented, “It was interesting to witness the music react in a different landscape. It’s a dope medium for artists to connect with the globe.”

audiomob
AudioMob co-founders Christian Facey (left) and Wilfrid Obeng (right). AUDIOMOB

Founded in 2020, the UK-based company recently announced that it has successfully raised $14m for its series A funding, bringing its total valuation to a reported $110 million.

The funding will be used to expand the team in London and Abu Dhabi and develop more experimental audio technology. The company will also continue to file patents in more countries, build out its team and open up opportunities in other regions and markets.

Lead investors Makers Fund and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Additional investors include Sequoia Capital and Google which are known for producing unicorns including Snap and Epic Games alongside some music artists which takes total investment to date $16million.

Christian Facey, CEO at AudioMob told TechCrunch, “We’re thrilled to see investors’ excitement for AudioMob’s vision for long term success and our future. We’re on the precipice of innovating a whole industry with audio and now we’re able to build out our tech and team to ensure we’re disrupting the industry in the right way and ensure we eventually become a future tech industry unicorn.”

Wilfrid Obeng, CTO at AudioMob said, “We understand that consumers don’t want to be interrupted, advertisers want their ads to be heard and game developers want to ensure monetization does not affect retention. And now we have built products which meet all three needs.”

Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Trucking Company Grows to $4M in Revenue in three years

Fleeting is a Black owned trucking and fleet management services company with a vision to create a platform that improves the commercial freight industry by leveraging technology to match truck owners, drivers and shippers and brokers.

black owned trucking
Pierre Laguerre, Founder of Fleeting

In May of 2021, the Brooklyn, NY based company received a seed round investment of $500,000 from Kyrie Irving, NBA superstar and founder of new consulting firm, KAI 11 Consulting, and venture capital firm, Lockstep Ventures.

“I knew Pierre before he launched Fleeting and served as one of his mentors, so it was a no-brainer for me to stand behind him and invest in his company. He is an innovator and has taken great leaps to address the gaps in the trucking industry that have been overlooked for years. In addition, Pierre is using his company to help those ignored in the trucking world, such as women and formerly incarcerated individuals,” said Marcus Glover, co-founder of Lockstep Ventures.

In this interview with Fleeting’s founder, Pierre Laguerre, he shared:

  • How he ended up driving trucks early in his career.
  • What inspired him to start his own logistics company.
  • His thoughts on the current state of the trucking industry and where he sees the industry in the future.
  • Some of the biggest challenges in the trucking industry and how his company addresses them.
  • His motivation behind  helping disadvantaged people including the formerly incarcerated to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL)

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Tony O. Lawson


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Meet The CEO of Flutterwave, Nigeria’s Billion Dollar Startup

Launched in 2016 as a Nigerian and U.S.-based payments company with offices in Lagos and San Francisco, Flutterwave builds payments infrastructure that connects Africa to the global economy.

Flutterwave is also one of only four unicorns ($1 billion+ startups) in Africa. Two other unicorns are located in Nigeria—and one in Egypt.

We caught up with Flutterwave founder and CEO, Olugbenga “GB “Agboola to find out more about his company and its future plans.

flutterwave
Flutterwave Founder and CEO, Olugbenga “GB “Agboola

What inspired you to start Flutterwave?

We started Flutterwave due to the fragmented nature of payments in Africa— there were multiple ways of making and receiving payments within countries but cross-border payments remained a hassle. This made it difficult for individuals like myself or businesses to make or receive international payments in Africa. 

It was easier for me to send and receive money from the UK than to do the same from Lagos to Nairobi. We saw an opportunity to address this problem and worked with a group of passionate Engineers, Bankers, Designers, Builders, and Marketers to build Flutterwave, to simplify payments for endless possibilities.  

Today, we support international payments for over 34 countries and process payments across 150 currencies. We have over 300,000 businesses using our solutions to receive money from their customers and continue on their growth journey. 

During the lockdown, you helped set up digital storefronts for over 20,000 of your clients. Why was it important for you even though e-commerce isn’t part of your core business?

This was our own way of helping our customers cushion the impact of the pandemic. The lockdowns in 2020 meant that businesses that earlier depended on making physical sales were all out of revenue opportunities. We built out this solution to enable them to continue selling while they were at home. 

Flutterwave has over 25,000 businesses across Africa— some selling skincare, beauty products, others selling shoes and fashion items, etc on the Flutterwave Store. It’s interesting to note how small businesses are currently using the solutions and the huge opportunity this has for the future. 

Here are a few ways small businesses are using the solution. This barbecue Business—Smoked Barbecue in a Box offers home delivery with the support of Flutterwave Store. This cocktail company—Big Fish Cocktail offers unique drinks sold over the Flutterwave Store.  

flutterwave

What are some of your plans to offer payment services to US-based clients and companies?

We are excited for the opportunity to offer Flutterwave’s payment infrastructure to US-based clients and companies.  Currently, we are already working with merchants such as Uber, Netflix, and Microsoft on their expansion across Africa.  And, we have started talking to many other US-based merchants that have growth ambitions across the continent.  

We also have several strategic partnerships that will help us expand the services that we can offer to our merchant base and look forward to launching those in the near future for our US merchants.

What are your thoughts on the importance of African Americans being more involved in the African startup scene as founders and/or investors? 

First is the massive economic benefits and opportunities for African Americans to access the widely untapped trillion dollar economic opportunities both in Africa and in the US. By 2030, Africa will have 1.7 billion people and a combined consumer and business spending of 6.7 trillion U.S. dollars (Brookings). The continent is creating a new development path and harnessing the potential of its people and resources. 

Secondly is the socio-economic benefit. The African-American community can play a huge part in the prosperity of the continent by starting up or investing in businesses that will bring socio-economic change and employ more people on the continent. Advancing US-Africa trade, investment, and technology in Africa would unlock massive economic growth and increased prosperity for both regions.

flutterwave
Team Flutterwave

What future plans do you have that involve cryptocurrency?

We support our customers and help them in countries where they are compliant with the regulations. We are excited to explore diverse use cases of our solutions across the world and across various sectors in compliance with regulations guiding such sectors and countries. Our future plans include working with all stakeholders to better understand and use the technology in a way that protects the consumers.      

What advice do you have for those in the Diaspora that are interested in entering the rapidly growing tech startup space in Nigeria?

Just do it! Through skill share, knowledge share, and investments in the tech ecosystem, the African diaspora can help unlock some of the continent’s full potential. The best time to invest in Africa was a few years back.

The second best time is now. The continent is on the fast track in building cutting edge technologies across healthcare, payments, logistics, e-commerce and the market is readily available.

The regulators are also learning fast and catching up with the speedy innovations on the continent. Africa is rich in talent; the diaspora should consider looking inward for talents that can help build, run and scale their businesses. 

 

Tony O. Lawson


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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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