Home Feature American Underground and Google for Startups Welcome Black Founders Exchange Cohort

American Underground and Google for Startups Welcome Black Founders Exchange Cohort

by Holly Beilin

Durham, North Carolina’s American Underground, one of the largest tech hubs in the Southeast, will welcome 11 high-potential entrepreneurs to the fourth annual Black Founders Exchange later this month.

This program is run in partnership with Google for Startups, which counts AU as one of its global centers.

The Exchange, held from September 22-27, is a week-long bootcamp that helps entrepreneurs scale their companies and preps them for fundraising. It attempts to address the outsized low VC funding rates that minority entrepreneurs continue to face, despite increased attention to the issue.

The program’s goal is for at least half of the participating startups to raise funding within nine months. The 19 companies from the last three cohorts have raised over $10.8 million in total since completing the program.

“The American Underground believes that economic opportunity increases when there is a diverse and inclusive startup ecosystem. Our Black Founders Exchange program is uniquely designed to both address the challenges and celebrate the experiences of being a Black founder in tech,” says AU General Manager Molly Demarest.

The tech hub, which supports over 300 startups, claims that a full 50 percent of those companies are led by a woman and/or a person of color.

“The traction and success delivered by the alumni to date is evidence that this is the premier program for early-stage, Black founders nationally. We are excited to continue our partnership with Google for Startups in welcoming our fourth cohort,” says Demarest.

The 2019 companies, chosen from over 160 applications, are tackling industries from healthcare to financial services to real estate, supply chain, social media and energy. Five out of the 11 are from the Southeast while the rest will travel to Durham from across North America.

Throughout the week, workshops and meetings will be facilitated by investors and Google mentors. The Exchange ends with a Google for Startups Demo Day where founders pitch to a room of investors.

black founders exchange

The Exchange also coincides with Durham’s annual Black Wall Street Homecoming event. This entrepreneur conference celebrates the history of the city’s Parrish Street, also called ‘Black Wall Street’, which helped build up a density of leading African American businesses in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.

The Black Founders Exchange companies are:

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