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25 Black Entrepreneurs Making Waves

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February 10, 2020

Throughout history, Black entrepreneurs have faced unique challenges in America, one of which is the lack of access to capital. Business funding gives life to new ideas, which might otherwise be lost, appropriated, or manipulated. 

The problem still remains, as Black entrepreneurs are less likely to receive venture capital funding. Yet, these entrepreneurs continue to start new businesses, despite these odds, furthering a rich legacy of Black innovation and advancement. An Ewing Marion Kauffman foundation study revealed that Black owned businesses often start with three times less capital than white owned businesses. Some, like those below, are getting funded and disrupting the status quo in a variety of industries. These 25 Black entrepreneurs have built successful companies in logistics, tech, retail, and more, setting new standards for business.

25 Black Entrepreneurs You Need To Be Paying Attention To

1. Asmau Ahmed, Founder of Plum Perfect

  • Total Funding Raised: $10M+
  • Investors Include: 37 Angels, Kapor Capital
  • HQ: New York, New York

Asmau started as a chemical engineer but soon transformed her passion for innovation. The Columbia grad founded Plum Perfect, an app that scans a users’ selfie to find the perfect makeup for their skin tone – including the various tones of women of color. Listed as one of five “Top Women in Digital”  Asmau Ahmed focuses on extracting business value from innovation. 

Photo source: Asmau Ahmad, Plum Perfect CEO: Lessons on Building a Business in Tech (She Leads Africa)

2. Adelanwa Adesanya, President & Co-Founder of Moving Analytics

  • Total Funding Raised: $2.5M
  • Investors Include: OCA Ventures, Stanford University, Impact Engine, Blueprint Health
  • HQ: Los Angeles, California

Adelanwa Adesanya is an engineer turned entrepreneur that merged technology with healthcare to improve cardiac attack care. His company, Moving Analytics, provides a digital rehabilitation program that helps hospitals implement home-based care to patients. His clinical protocols and technology help maintain quality care outside of a hospital setting.

3. Amari Ruff, Founder & CEO of Sudu

  • Total Funding Raised: $1M
  • Investors Include: Atlanta Seed Company, Plug and Play, Harlem Capital Partners, Engage Ventures
  • HQ: Atlanta, Georgia

Previously the CEO of R2 Trucking Solutions, Amari now manages Sudu, a technology-based logistics company. They use data and analytics to help companies ship their freight efficiently using a network of carriers. 

4. Angela Benton, Founder & CEO of Streamlytics

  • Total Funding Raised: Undisclosed
  • Investors Include: Issa Rae
  • Culver City, California

Angela founded NewME Accelerator, the first accelerator for minority founders. She was featured on CNN’s award-winning documentary, Black in America. At the helm of Streamlytics, she uses data to measure what media people are consuming across streaming platforms.

5. Ashifi Gogo, Founder & CEO of Sproxil

  • Total Funding Raised: $2.3M
  • Investors Include: MassChallenge
  • HQ: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Growing up in Ghana, Ashifi Gogo was first introduced to technology via cell phones. By the time he was thirty, he founded a technology company based on them. Sproxil is a supply chain management and consumer engagement company designed to prevent counterfeit goods.  They also help companies protect their brand and engage their customers.

6. Cashmere Nicole, Founder, CEO & President of Beauty Bakerie Cosmetics Brand

  • Total Funding Raised: $7.6M
  • Investors Include: New Voices Fund, Unilever Ventures, Charles Phillips, Blue Consumer Capital
  • HQ: San Diego, California

Cashmere became a young mom at only 16. That experience inspired her to work hard to give her daughter the best life possible. Beauty Bakerie is a cosmetics company that focuses on long-lasting, smudge-free makeup for a wide range of skin tones.

Photo source: Beauty Bakerie’s Cashmere Nicole Isn’t Just A Brand CEO — She’s A Makeup Activist (Bustle)

7. Chris Bennett, CEO & Co-Founder of Soldsie

  • Total Funding Raised: $5M
  • Investors Include: First Round Capital, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Uncork Capital
  • HQ: San Francisco, California

Chris founded Soldsie to make it easy for small businesses to monetize their Facebook pages. Customers provide their payment information to Soldsie, after which they can buy products by merely commenting on the stores’ pages. For the sellers, Soldsie includes a full administrative dashboard to help them manage their inventory and user comments.

8. Kathryn Finney, Founder & CEO of Digitalundivided

  • Total Funding Raised: Self-funded
  • HQ: Atlanta, Georgia

Kathryn founded Simply Good Media after building the Budget Fashionista into a global brand, including a bestselling book titled How to Be a Budget Fashionista. Now, she is the CEO of Digitalundivide, an economic empowerment program encouraging the growth of black entrepreneurs by helping women of color obtain funding.

Photo source: ‘This is Wakanda’: the Black tech entrepreneurs taking on Silicon Valley (The Guardian)

9. Damola Ogundipe, CEO of Civic Eagle

  • Total Funding Raised: $2.3M
  • Investors Include: M25 Ventures, PurposeBuilt Ventures, The Syndicate Fund, Incite Ventures
  • HQ: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Born in Nigeria, but raised in the Midwest, Damola sees America as a land of opportunity.  Fascinated by the democratic process, he sought out ways to improve businesses’ understanding of local and federal laws and regulations.  Civic Eagle provides software that analyzes regulations and legislation without the manual work so that companies can be sure to stay in compliance. 

Photo source: How Civic Eagle’s pivot to B3B boosted revenue and won over investors (Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal)

10. Kimberly Bryant, Founder & Executive Director of Black Girls CODE

  • Investors Include: General Motors, Kristy Tillman
  • HQ: Oakland, California

After a successful career in pharmaceuticals and biotech, Kimberly founded Black Girls CODE in 2011, which she has grown into an international organization. The nonprofit has reached more than 3000 students so far and continues to grow. She was highlighted as one of “The 25 Most Influential African-Americans in Technology” by Business Insider in 2013.

Photo source: Kimberly Bryant – Public Speaker (Speakerpedia)

11. Diishan Imira, Founder & CEO of Mayvenn

  • Total Funding Raised: $36M
  • Investors Include: Essence Ventures, MaC Venture Capital, Impact America Fund, Muse Capital
  • HQ: Oakland, California

Diishan graduated from Georgia State school of business and developed a strong background in international trade logistics. He co-founded Mayvenn in 2012 when he realized that 95 percent of African American salons did not retail the products their customers wanted. Mayvenn makes the process of selling compatible products in a salon setting easier.  

Photo source: How he got Silicon Valley to invest in hair extensions (CNN Business)

12. Frederick Hutson, Founder & CEO of Pigeonly

  • Total Funding Raised: $6.6M
  • Investors Include: Y Combinator, The Social Entrepreneurs Fund, Tim Draper, Kapor Capital
  • HQ: Las Vegas, Nevada

After spending four years in prison, Frederick realized that people needed an easier way to communicate with their incarcerated loved ones, encouraging felons to stay connected to their community. He founded Pigeonly, which allows users to send physical photos and greeting cards to inmates via their phones. 

Photo source: Former Inmate Turns Life Around with Successful Business (BlogWallet)

13. Christopher Gray, Founder & CEO of Scholly

  • Total Funding Raised: $40K
  • Investors Include: Lori Grenier, Daymond John, Dorm Room Fund
  • HQ: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Chris first became known for earning more than a million dollars in scholarships to attend Drexel University. He leveraged his expertise to found Scholly, an online platform that helps students find and win the scholarships they need to afford their education. He also sits on the investment committee of First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund.

14. Jasmine Crowe, Founder & CEO of Goodr

  • Total Funding Raised: $1.1M
  • Investors Include: Precursor Ventures, Halogen Ventures, Trail Mix Ventures, Kairos
  • HQ: Atlanta, Georgia

Jasmine Crowe believes everyone should eat. She founded Goodr, a company that aims to reduce food waste by leveraging technology. Using their logistics, analytics, and security, businesses can donate extra food to nonprofit organizations and earn tax deductions in the process. The platform, enabled by the blockchain, benefits hungry people, the donor businesses, and the environment. Jasmine Crowe was also featured on our list of 50 female entrepreneurs everyone should know. 

Photo source: Meet the Entrepreneur Disrupting the Food Industry For Good (Techonomy)

15. Jason Njoku, Founder & CEO of IROKOtv

  • Total Funding Raised: $30M
  • Investors Include: Canal+, Kinnevik AB, Tiger Global Management
  • HQ: Lagos, Nigeria 

Jason has brought Nigerian cinema to a global audience through IROKOtv. IROKO was founded in 2010 and has since accumulated the largest Nollywood (a portmanteau of Nigeria and Hollywood) catalog in the world. He was named the CNBC Africa West Africa Young Business Leader in 2013 and one of Fast Company’s Top 1000 Most Creative People in Business in 2014. 

Photo source: iROKOtv Boss Jason Njoku shares how His Wife Mary Built ROK from Ground Up (BellaNaija)

16. Jessica Matthews, Founder & CEO of Uncharted Power

  • Total Funding Raised: $12.5M
  • Investors Include: NIC Fund, Lingo Ventures, BBG Ventures, Magic Johnson Enterprises
  • HQ: New York, New York

Jessica invented the SOCCKET ball, a soccer ball that generates power when it is played with, at 19. She then became CEO of Uncharted Play and, at 26, Executive Director of KDDC, a hydropower dam in Nigeria. She was included on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2014 and named one of the “10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs” by Fortune in 2011.

Photo source: Disney Invests in Company Sert to Disrupt Global Power Infrastructure (Black Enterprise)

17. Kunbi Tinuoye, Founder & CEO of UrbanGeekz

  • Total Funding Raised: Undisclosed
  • Investors Include: RainbowPush, Creative Startups
  • HQ: Atlanta, Georgia

Kunbi Tinuoye transformed a career in journalism into a startup focused on minorities in technology, science, and business.  With little initial funding, she formed UrbanGeekz, a digital news platform. In a short amount of time, the site achieved viral success, with large advertisement revenue.

18. Morgan DeBaun, Founder & CEO of Blavity

  • Total Funding Raised: $9.4M
  • Investors Include: GV, 500 Startups, Knight Enterprise Fund, Harlem Capital Ventures, Comcast Ventures
  • HQ: Los Angeles, California

Morgan noticed that her fellow Black millennials were not being catered to by the media, so she created Blavity. It creates and curates culturally relevant content for Black millennials and sends it to them directly.

Photo source: Blavity’s CEO Morgan DeBaun Gives Lessons On Leveling Up (Essence)

19. Ryan Williams, Co-Founder & CEO of Cadre

  • Total Funding Raised: $133.3M 
  • Investors Include: Andreessen Horowitz, Ford Foundation, Thrive Capital, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners
  • HQ: New York, New York

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Ryan attended Harvard and worked in Goldman Sachs. He leveraged his experience in the financial sector to develop Cadre, an online marketplace connecting real estate investors and operators. Cadre makes it easy for investors to manage their investment and gain liquidity by selling their interest in the secondary market. 

Photo source: Company giants have backed this revolutionary firm (Property PortalWatch)

20. Natasia Malaihollo, Founder & CEO of Wyzerr

  • Total Funding Raised: $2.1M
  • Investors Include: Connetic Ventures, Rough Draft Ventures, The Brandery, StartFast
  • HQ: Covington, Kentucky

Natasia studied law and worked as a patent specialist before founding her first startup, Sooligan. She then founded Wyzerr, a platform that allows brands to integrate customer feedback in real-time. The platform helps brands quickly fix issues, and consistently make incremental improvements to their product.

Covington-based startup Wyzerr revolutionizes consumer data collection (Cincinnati.com)

21. Paul Judge, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Pindrop Security

  • Total Funding Raised: $212.8M
  • Investors Include: Vitruvian Partners, Goldman Sachs, Citi Ventures
  • HQ: Atlanta, Georgia 

In addition to Pindrop, a voice fraud prevention company, Paul is also the founder of Luma and the TechSquare Labs incubator. Pindrop helps banks, insurers, and retailers identify their customers by voice, reducing fraud and improving the customer experience. 

Photo source: Atlanta’s ‘Godfather of Tech’ Has Big Ambitions for the Black Mecca (The Plug)

22. Reham Fagirl, Co-Founder & CEO of AptDeco

  • Total Funding Raised: $2.5M
  • Investors Include: Great Oaks Venture Capital, Y Combinator, SV Angel
  • HQ: New York, New York

Reham founded AptDeco to help people buy and sell amazing furniture online. AptDeco offers a verified community of buyers and sellers, as well as pick-up, delivery, and payment options. AptDeco takes the stress out of buying furniture online.

Photo source: How a Creepy Incident Prompted AptDeco’s CEO to Launch Her Startup (Observer)

23. Ryan Wilson, Co-Founder & CEO of The Gathering Spot

  • Total Funding Raised: $5M
  • Investors Include: Valor Ventures
  • HQ: Atlanta, Georgia

Private Clubs have been popular for decades, but The Gathering Spot reimagines the experience. Ryan developed the club to give creative professionals a place to connect, network, and develop a dynamic community that will help them achieve their goals. 

Photo source: Founders of Black-Owned Private Member Club The Gathering Spot Talks Purchasing A3C And LA Opening (Forbes)

24. Sheena Allen, Founder & CEO of CapWay

  • Total Funding Raised: $20K
  • Investors Include: Valor Ventures, Queen City Fintech, Stacked Capital, Backstage Capital
  • HQ: Austin, Texas

Sheena was inspired to build CapWay when she was a college student trying to manage her money. Designed to help the underbanked, Sheena did not come from a technical background. She majored in psychology and film and regularly speaks about the challenges she faced in building a tech career.

Photo source: Sheena Allen: Founder & CEO of CapWay and Sheena Allen Apps (Medium)

25. Zack Smith, Co-Founder & CEO of Jobble

  • Total Funding Raised: $13.9M
  • Investors Include: Vestigo Ventures, AXA Venture Partners, Fullstack Ventures, Social Starts
  • HQ: Boston, Massachusetts 

After years in the gig economy, Zack Smith tried his hand at entrepreneurship, eventually founding Jobble. Jobble is a Boston startup that provides clients access to a verified workforce of flexible, on-demand staff. 

Photo source: Making the gig economy work with a click (The Boston Globe)

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