Home Community The Rising Black Founders Building In the South

The Rising Black Founders Building In the South

by Hype Staff

During Black History Month, it’s important to learn about and reflect on the leaders and innovators that have contributed to black history thus far. But we at Hypepotamus also like to look forward, making educated predictions about the future of innovation — the individuals that are now, and will soon, be making history.

With that in mind, and with many recommendations and suggestions from our friends, we’ve put together a list of Southeastern startup founders that we think represent the next rising generation of Black startup founders.

Beyond a great idea, commitment to their startup’s mission, and demonstrated traction, our criteria for this list was fairly loose: these companies are at varying stages of growth and traction. Some, like Goodr, Mixtroz, and BANDWAGON, have passed the $1-million fundraising mark. Other, such as The Labz and Aquagenuity, are still pushing toward launch.

As one of our list makers, Harold Hughes of BANDWAGON, says in a Medium post about Black History Month, this list serves to “highlight people that can serve as role models, icons, and mentors for the next generation.” Know of any other founders we should highlight? Let us know!

Kerry Schrader (CEO) and Ashlee Ammons (COO), Mixtroz

Homebase: Birmingham, AL

What they’re building: Mixtroz is a networking app that helps dissipate the awkwardness experienced when meeting new people at conferences and live events. The app matches like-minded attendees for a curated networking experience and the event host gains valuable data about their attendees.

Co-founders’ background: Schrader has more than 25 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies, and Ammons was LeBron James’s first intern before transitioning into a career as an events producer, working with large brands like Coca-Cola and A-listers such as Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z.

Traction and funding: After winning a $100K investment in May 2018 at Rise of the Rest’s Birmingham stop, the Mixtroz team was able to raise a $1 million seed round. The team moved their HQ from Nashville to Birmingham after going through the Velocity Accelerator and pivoted their revenue model to a SaaS platform. The co-founders have been selected as keynote speakers at Google’s International Women’s Day event in Atlanta.

Jasmine Crowe (CEO), Goodr

Homebase: Atlanta, GA

What she’s building: Goodr is a blockchain-based on-demand food waste pickup startup. The platform connects companies and venues such as Turner Broadcasting, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and the Georgia World Congress Center, with drivers who pick up their surplus food and deliver it to soup kitchens and shelters where it is needed.

Founder background: Crowe worked in the food security space for years before coming up with the concept for Goodr’s technology. Each weekend, she organized “Sunday Soul”, a pop-up restaurant for homeless individuals in downtown Atlanta.

Traction and funding: Though it seems like Goodr is everywhere lately, it’s worth noting that the startup has been in operation for less than three years. In mid-2018, Goodr raised a $1.25 million seed round led by Precursor Ventures with participation from Trail Mix Ventures, Halogen Ventures, Techstars, Soymet Energy, and various angels including Partpic founder Jewel Burks. They completed the Techstars Anywhere accelerator program in 2018 and have since expanded to Washington D.C., with several new cities coming soon. They’ve also garnered serious press in Forbes, Inc, The Oprah Magazine, Fast Company and more.

Amari Ruff (CEO), Sudu

Homebase: Atlanta, GA

What he’s building: Sudu is an end-to-end machine learning platform that matches small carriers with larger shippers to optimize supply chain efficiency, reduce carbon footprints, and maximize space and mileage. They work specifically with minority, women, and veteran-owned trucking firms to help Fortune 1000 companies reach their supplier diversity incentives.

Founder background: Previously, Ruff worked at, founded, and scaled telecommunications services provider businesses.

Traction and funding: After securing funding from Atlanta Seed Company and others, Sudu was accepted into the inaugural cohort of Engage Ventures, the largest strategic grouping of corporations in a venture capital fund in the country, in 2017. They have since secured additional funding from Atlanta-based rapper TI and Harlem Capital. They were named a Top 10 Company to Watch by Venture Atlanta in 2018.

Reginald Parker, Ph.D. (CEO), Optimal Solar

Homebase: Durham, NC

What he’s building: Optimal Solar‘s solar module, VIA, solves a costly issue that occurs with traditional solar energy capture methods, where you can lose up to 25 percent of the heat due to infrared light. The product creates 40 percent more solar inputs per operating footprint.

Founder background: Parker is an MIT engineer graduate with more than 20 years in consulting and technology commercialization. He spent seven years working on R&D for Optimal Solar, after focusing his MIT studies on biological polymers.

Traction and funding: After winning the Google for Entrepreneurs’ Black Founders Exchange Program pitch competition at American Underground, Parker received an invitation to join Backstage Capital’s three-month Backstage Accelerator. Optimal Solar is currently working with the City of Atlanta on a project that could yield $2 million in profit when completed.

Roshawnna Novellus (CEO), EnrichHER

Homebase: Atlanta, GA

What she’s building: This fully-accredited crowdfund platform allows anyone to contribute to funding vetted women-led businesses in non-dilutive loans of $50,000-$75,000 total.

Founder background: Dr. Novellus has a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering, a Masters of Science in Information Technology, and Bachelors in Business Management Economics and Computer Engineering. She became interested in alternative investments after seeing how few institutional funds go to diverse founders, and completed the Pipeline Angels Fellowship, a program focused on angel investing.

Traction and funding: EnrichHER was largely bootstrapped for its first few years, but raised a small funding round in 2018. They plan to raise additional capital this year. The startup will present as a finalist in this year’s SXSW Pitch event and was accepted into the Techstars Anywhere cohort.

Harold Hughes (CEO), BANDWAGON

Homebase: Greenville, SC

What he’s building: BANDWAGON uses blockchain to help event organizers and venues confirm the validity of digital tickets and avoid fraudsters, while increasing fan engagement through attendance data. The startup recently expanded from college football into other sports, venues, and festivals.

Founder background: In addition to being a passionate sports fan himself, Hughes has a background in sales and business development in corporate America. He’s currently pursuing a graduate certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Stanford University.

Traction and funding: The fan analytics startup has raised funding from Backstage Capital, Blue Vista Ventures, and Black Angel Tech Fund for a total of $1.3 million. They’ve processed over one million tickets through their platform so far and surpassed their equity crowdfunding campaign goal last summer. BANDWAGON was accepted last month into the eight-week inaugural IBM Blockchain Accelerator, in partnership with Columbia University in New York.

Sevetri Wilson (CEO), ExemptMeNow

Homebase: New Orleans, LA

What she’s building: A SaaS platform designed to help non-profits first incorporate as a 501(c)3 and, as they grow, stay complaint and manage staff. ExemptMeNow alerts organizations about any compliance changes at the local and federal level. The startup offers an enterprise model for foundations, corporations, and cities.

Founder background: Wilson’s interest in technology first came to fruition during her time as a Bill and Melinda Gates Scholar and Ambassador. She founded strategic communications firm Solid Ground Innovations to help non-profits grow their marketing and branding presence, and that’s when she noted the gap in compliance for smaller non-profits.

Traction and funding: In the summer 2018, Wilson became the only black women entrepreneur in Louisiana to raise more than $1 million in a funding round. To date, she has raised about $3 million for her startup.

Farrah Allen (CEO), The Labz

Homebase: Atlanta, GA

What she’s building: This cloud-based, blockchain-powered collaboration platform lets musicians and creatives work together while automatically archiving, time stamping, and storing all their work to prevent copyright infringement and legal challenges. Think a super-secure Google Drive for music.

Founder background: Allen’s extensive background in management consulting with clients like Delta, WestRock, and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office provided her with deep insight into what productive collaboration looks like and how it can power a project to success.

Traction and funding: The Labz amassed a sizable user pipeline even before launch, with over 4,000 signed up for the beta at the end of 2018. The team completed Comcast NBCUniversal’s The Farm accelerator and was one of five startups chosen to present at the 2018 A3C Startup Spotlight. In 2019, they look forward to a splashy platform launch in March at the SXSW Conference and Festival’s Release It event, where startups launching a new product or service presents to a panel of high-profile judges.

Sheena Allen (CEO), CapWay

Homebase: Atlanta, GA

What she’s building: Capway is a financial literacy and digital banking app that caters specifically to financially-underserved millennials, including those that are unbanked and underbanked. The platform offers both educational content, and financial products such as pre-paid and bank-issued debit cards.

Founder background: Capway’s founding team hails from Mississippi, the state with the highest population of financially undeserved residents. Allen designed her first financial app in her senior year of college before founding her first company, Sheena Allen Apps.

Traction and funding: Capway garnered $20,000 in funding from the Queen City Fintech accelerator program. Following program completion, they raised a pre-seed round from Backstage Capital and Liberty Bank, the second largest African-American owned bank.

Doll Avant (CEO), Aquagenuity

Homebase: Atlanta, GA

What she’s building: Aquagenuity is a data-as-a-service platform that provides real-time, actionable data about water quality to consumers, companies, and cities. The blockchain-powered platform, labeled the “world’s largest water database” by Google, can be accessed free by consumers through a mobile app; and provides a water quality score and health recommendations for corporations and city officials.

Founder background: The Harvard-educated data scientist was named a Global Impact Fellow at NASA’s Research Park in Silicon Valley for her water research, which was inspired by a family member’s health issues.

Traction and funding: Aquagenuity has been bootstrapped to this point, winning prize money from the 2018 Jack Daniels Pitch Distilled competition (as well as a Wired magazine feature). Avant went through the Village Capital Pathways program and the Coca-Cola BridgeCommunity.

Damola Ogundipe (CEO), Yemi Adewunmi (CPO), Civic Eagle

civic eagle

Homebase: Atlanta, GA

What they’re building: This cloud-based civic technology platform tracks the status of legislation and proposed bills within government, using AI. It’s used by lobbying firms and advocacy groups to follow and stay informed about specific issues at the federal and state level.

Founder background: Ogundipe has a business education and a background in African American Studies and social issues. Adewunmi served as a senior policy analyst for the New York State Assembly, one of the biggest state legislatures in the country, and is an award-winning designer.

Traction and funding: Civic Eagle is backed by Backstage Capital, Camelback Ventures, Techstars, and The Farm by Comcast NBCUniversal. They graduated from The Farm accelerator program in 2018 and are currently enrolled in the Techstars Anywhere accelerator. They also recently pitched as a top 10 finalist in the Extreme Tech Challenge at the Consumer Electronics Show, a competition which is backed by Richard Branson.

You may also like