This Startup Wants To Build a Social Media Network for the Diaspora

Maintaining connections can be hard, even in the digital age. Many people, especially immigrants, talk about their struggles to remain connected to their home community and its culture. One founder, Ikechi Nwabuisi, is hoping to make all of that easier through The TRiBL Network.

Tribl describes itself as a “social network for the diaspora.” It’s a mobile app designed to instantly connect immigrants and multicultural people to their origin communities. The app specifically focuses on African, Caribbean, and South American communities.

Comparing itself to “carrying Little Africa in your own pocket” — Tribl uses people’s national identity and cultural affiliations to introduce them to familiar strangers near and abroad. Nwabuisi’s inspiration to launch Tribl came from some of his own personal experiences.

“As a first generation Nigerian American I’ve lived most of my life in-between two worlds,” Nwabuisi said. “Seeing the opportunity and talent that existed on both sides made me wonder how impactful it’d be to build a bridge between those communities.”

Since 1980, the Black immigrant population has increased fivefold, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2016, there were 4.2 million Black immigrants living in the United States. Having access to tech that caters to a growing community’s various needs is incredibly important.

“By focusing on building connections amongst immigrants here we position ourselves to become the WeChat for Africa, Latin America, and everywhere else,” Nwabuisi said.

Tribl is available all around the U.S., but it’s currently most popular in Houston, New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Cities have their own channels, so people can share content to them and find functions in their cities.

The app is still growing, but it already has plans to expand. The company has future plans to move to some of the origin countries of their primary users, Nwabuisi shared.

If you’re interested in getting connected today, Tribl is available in Google Play and iTunes.

Esusu is Innovating an Ancient African Saving Method

Without a rotational savings club, serial entrepreneur Abbey Wemimo would not have been able to afford to attend high school in Lagos. Fortunately, his mom participated in a partnership group through which family and friends contributed to a pool of money and took turns drawing from the total.

Communities throughout Africa and the Caribbean have long leveraged small lending circles, or Susu, as a mechanism to save money. Susus historically served as a financial tool for economic survival against complex financial systems or as a replacement for banking institutions.

Now, Wemimo and co-founder Samir Goel are modernizing this ancient African financing practice with Esusu, an app designed to help people create and manage rotational savings clubs. The team set out to make an impact in the communities where it matters most.

Rotational savings system is prevalent across the diaspora,” said Goel. “When immigrants move to America they continue to participate in this economic system, but there is no data captured or record of this system”

Goel and Wemimo want Esusu to serve as an empowerment tool for the millions of immigrants in the United States relying on this economic structure as a means to regularly save and borrow money.

Through the app, users can invite friends and family to join a group to make regular contributions towards a savings pot from which each member can withdraw funds. Esusu encourages accountability for users to save with ease and transform their financial futures with the option to build credit as a way to establish trustworthiness.

Since the nature of peer-to-peer banking systems is informal, positive behaviors from consistent participation is not reinforced, explained Goel.

Helping users build credit is one of the greatest value-adds, according to the founders. Esusu can report payment activity to credit bureaus, potentially helping its users build and benefit from a good credit score. The team also uses data to compile an “Esusu Score” to serve as an alternative proof of creditworthiness.

“We help introduce immigrants to the American financial system,” said Goel. “These folks will come to America and they’ll be constantly marginalized.”

The experienced entrepreneurs noted the challenges of building a product and business around a cultural expression common not only across the African diaspora but also in Asia and South America.

“It’s a challenge when two people don’t look like the stereotypical person in the venture capital space,” said Wemimo of engaging potential investors around the idea of Esusu. “But we’re challenging conventional wisdom and tearing down the walls in front of us.”

Esusu–founded in 2015–has raised a seed funding round of $400,000 led by Sinai Ventures since its official launch earlier this year.

This FinTech Company is Launching A New WeChat Money Transfer Service

African fintech company SimbaPay and Family Bank Limited— a leading bank in Kenya— have teamed up to launch an instant money transfer service from Kenya to China through WeChat. 

The companies report that small Kenyan businesses already use WeChat to communicate with their suppliers in China—Kenya’s largest trading partner. The partnership will help boost trade between the two countries as the new service is designed to help vendors overcome barriers in sending money to suppliers overseas.

SimbaPay co-founder Sagini Onyancha told Techcrunch a little more about the market his company is trying to get into.

“Kenya imports about $4 billion goods from China. That’s the total market that we’re getting into. We’re looking at a single digit market share of the transactional volume around that.”

SimbaPay and Family Bank project over 7 million customers and businesses in Kenya will be able to perform money transfers to WeChat Pay through Family Bank’s PesaPap mobile banking application and USSD service.

Users only need a mobile phone number to make a money transfer via SimbaPay service. Funds are instantly delivered to WeChat Pay recipients in Chinese Yuan. Through the app, senders can review the transaction and exchange rate before completing the payment.

“This is a huge milestone for us and our customers,” said Family Bank Chief Operations Officer, Godfrey Kamau in a press release. “We are glad to extend, more so to our SME customers, a solution that offers an instant, reliable, traceable and affordable channel to send money to their suppliers and business partners in China.”

SimbaPay also supports money transfer to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar, Niger, and India. The London-based fintech company launched in 2015 to aid digital money transfers across Africa.

The startup participated in Barclays Accelerator (powered by Techstars) in 2016.

Meet the Founder Revolutionizing Freelance Work

Cameron Sadler is an expert on freelancers and wants to help mold the future of work.

The founder is on a mission to help people learn a new craft and hone their freelancer skills through the Y-Combinator backed startup NewCraft. The platform is designed to help freelancers access opportunities with top companies and learn the skills needed to be successful in their role.

NewCraft—the internet’s learning management system—evolved as a space for freelancers to learn how to freelance their work, collaborate on projects, and search for contract workers. Sadler and his team developed two iterations of the product before landing on the current version of the platform.

The founder first toyed around with the idea of freelancers subcontracting work to other freelancers and also built a product delivering instant payouts to freelancers. Both products served thousands of users while ensuring customers learned how to become master freelancers.

“Over the last two years, I’ve seen just about every freelance work scenario,” Sadler said in a June 2018 YouTube interview. “I’m pulling all the data from our first two products and pushing them into our new product to generate more content and more freelance work scenarios.”

Sadler is a Texas native with a background in IT project management. He previously founded a startup called GF-17, Inc.–a co-working space for freelancers–and taught technology at a high school. He founded the company in 2017, according to Crunchbase, then launched the product in beta a few months ago.

The platform now facilitates helping companies search for talent through artificial intelligence on-boarding and helping freelancers seamlessly earn contracts through the skills-based training content.

“Our vision here is that everyone should have the opportunity to learn through work simulation,” said Sadler. “What that looks like is someone graduates high school or someone leaves college early, they can essentially enter a work simulator and see exactly what it’s like to work at a company like Airbnb and Dropbox.”

NewCraft participated in the Y-Combinator accelerator program where the startup received $120,000 in seed funding this year.

Cameron Sadler will be participating in the AfroTech Cup Pitch Competition. Check out the live stream starting at 2 o’clock to see him and other founders pitch their ideas.

 

Meet the Founder Revolutionizing The Future of Work Through Y-Combinator-Backed Startup, NewCraft

Cameron Sadler wants to help mold the future of work through a carefully crafted learning experience that innovates the way we acquire new skills online.

The founder is on a mission to help people learn a new craft and hone their skills through the Y-Combinator backed startup NewCraft, a platform designed for anyone interested in discovering, sharing and building learning experiences.

NewCraft evolved as a space for people to learn how to freelance their work, collaborate on projects, and search for contract workers. Sadler and his team developed two iterations of the product before landing on the current version of the platform.

The founder first toyed around with the idea of freelancers subcontracting work to other freelancers and also built a product delivering instant payouts to freelancers. Both products served thousands of users while ensuring customers learned how to become master freelancers.

Now, the former computer information systems teacher is taking his education background and applying it to NewCraft to help people master new skills in hours and days instead of months and years.

“Once we did it for freelancers, we knew we could do it for everyone that is learning online,” said Sadler who officially launched NewCraft last month.

NewCraft—the internet’s learning management system—allows users to engage in two experiences: interactive missions and Super Smart flashcards.  Anyone can create an interactive mission that takes users through a “learn by doing” skill-building experience on the platform. Super Smart flashcards are designed to integrate into the users’ workflow through spaced repetition learning. The flashcards appear with new information and overtime learners build new skills.

“I’m a former teacher, this is my dream teaching tool,” said Sadler. “I found the traditional classroom setting to be pretty outdated and not great for the new workforce.”

Sadler is a Texas native with a background in IT project management. He previously founded a startup called GF-17, Inc.–a co-working space for freelancers–and taught technology at a high school.

“I wanted to create something that made education and work identical,” the founder said. “Something where someone felt like they weren’t going to a class, but are learning by doing.”

NewCraft participated in the Y-Combinator accelerator program where the startup received $120,000 in seed funding this year.

“Our mission is to change the way people learn and work online. Make it possible for everyone to discover learn and share learning experiences,” said Sadler.

NewCraft is set to launch publicly before the end of Q4.

Cameron Sadler will be participating in the AfroTech Cup Pitch Competition. Check out the live stream starting at 2 o’clock to see him and other founders pitch their ideas.

 

Black Founders Give Black Founders Advice About Fundraising

Photo: Unsplash

In 2016, 253 venture capital funds raised $41.6 billion, a 10-year high, and invested it into promising startups. There is so much money floating around to help founders realize their dreams, yet less than 1% of venture funding goes to black founders. So how can black founders learn to appeal to venture capitalists and secure the bag for their tech businesses?

This is where Founder Gym comes in. Only seven months old, Founder Gym was created to help solve the funding gap and ensure more venture capital gets deployed to underrepresented founders, including black founders. Via an intense five-week virtual bootcamp, selected founders are given the structure, accountability and connections needed to advance their entrepreneurial endeavors. In its first two cohorts, Founder Gym graduated 70 founders, 50% of whom are black.

We recently asked our black founders what advice they could give to other black founders who aspire to raise capital for their business. Here is what they said:

“Be conscious of the struggles you will face, but move as if there were none. You cannot use the struggles as an excuse, and cannot let them paralyze you in fear. Remember, there are more people that want you to win than you realize.”

        –  Delores Brown, Founder of Agbara Life.

Find your allies. Sometimes they will be other people of color, sometimes they will be powerful white people who believe in you and are willing to help you ‘catch the cab,’ so to speak.”

        –  Derrick N. Ashong, Founder and CEO of Amp.It

Creating real momentum is your #1 collateral in investor conversations. When your story is based on real, proven momentum it leans every investor conversation in your favor. Momentum and results rule the day – no matter who sits across the table.”

        –  Al Nolan, Founder and CEO of Notearise

Don’t limit your fundraise amount for fear of not being funded.  Determine your operating cost plus savings (breathing room) for the next 18 months. This is the amount you ask for . . . no less.”

      –   Makazi Ife Mtingwa, Founder and CTO of Funderlust

Find other black founders who have been where you are trying to go. They have insights that can prevent you from stumbling on the same roadblocks and challenges.”

       –   Jasmine Shells, Co-Founder and CEO of Five to Nine

“Embrace your differences and know that your view is different than many others. Share your view and show that this is a potential business opportunity.  Be comfortable in your skin and know that you’re great even when being in a room full of the majority.”

        –   Darren Harris, CEO of PannTV

“You will have to work twice as hard. But there are a slew of resources and people who want to see you succeed and that will make themselves available to you. Find your support network.”

        –  Quincy Ewell, Co-Founder of PannTV

Treat being different as an advantage. Most founders have a hard time standing out and for better or worse, if you are in this game, you will. You will also have the unique opportunity to be a role model for those looking to follow in your footsteps, so make the most out of your opportunity to influence and inspire others.”

        –  Tegan Spinner, Founder and CEO of Lokalist

“Ask for help and engage in the community. You don’t know what you don’t know! By asking questions and being around others in the industry you’ll start to notice your blind spots and improve your business.”

        –  Chanel Melton, Founder of Rose Gold Drop Ship

“Stop believing what is said about being black in tech and create your own narrative. Know that you are not alone in this journey and also don’t ignore your health. There’s no point of becoming a successful founder if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor.”

        –  Michael Purnell, CEO of, Sievent

“Go for it! All the tools exist to put an idea out there and test the waters. The market does not care about the color of your skin, but they do care about how you can improve or add something new to their lives.”

       –  Tammy Bowser, Founder of, Rodexly

Seek out mentorship from someone that is in your industry. Also, don’t just build a ‘team;’ put people around you that believe in your dream as much as you do.”

       –  Eric Warner, Founder and CEO of, Style Trail

Be like Beyoncé. She has a discipline that is unmatched and her work ethic is applicable in any industry. The miracles happen when you show up and show out every single day.”

        –  Faye Hayes of Playloops

“Focus on building a real business and not chasing funding. Funding isn’t promised to anyone, and especially not us. Don’t bet your company on it.”

        –  Damien Peters, Chief Product Officer of, Wealth Nior

“There’s always a ton of excuses and reasons that could stop you from starting on your idea but don’t let fear or a lack of resources stop you from getting started. Dr King said, ‘You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step,’ and this is something I try to live by.”

       – Darian Edwards, Stack of, Start Stacking

“Don’t let the people around you dull your ambition. Instead, expect the criticism and use it to improve your pitch.”

       – Tashoma Vilini, Co-Founder and CEO of Nitrate

“Stay strong and stay focused. It’s easy as a black entrepreneur to lose focus or to feel less than. In order to succeed you need to believe in yourself, dig deep and grind until you get what you’re seeking.”

      –  Jelica Baker, Founder and CEO of, Saddle Shoppe

“We’re often taught to go to school, get a job, have a family, etc. If you want to go on a route that your parents, family and friends haven’t been on, you need to surround yourself with people who are just as daring as you and understanding of the entrepreneurial process. You’ll need that support system.”

     –  Netta Dobbins, Co-Founder and CEO of, Mim Connect

“Learn as you grow! Make adjustments but never compromise your integrity for money or a bad partner.”

      –  Kyle Frazier, Co-Founder and COO of, Hue for Every Man

Don’t ever let anyone put you in a box. There are no limits to your success and no boundaries to your magic.”

      –  Ryan Boyd, Founder & CEO of, Shelf Space

Validate your ideas and test your assumptions of the market rapidly and often. Customer discovery is an ongoing process and may involve talking to strangers more often than you’d like.”

      –  Kishau Rogers, Founder and CEO of, Time Study

“Understand that it will be lonely. Find a tribe of other entrepreneurs early and this will help you get through the days you feel like giving up. This will also give you early access to potential testers and customers.”

     –  Lennie J. Carter, Founder and CEO of, My Tru Circle

Build a great network, ensure you find balance, be yourself and authentic to who you are and enjoy the process. You write your own story.”

      –  Paris Petgrave, CEO of, We Love Work

“Get really clear on your ‘why,’ The glamorous media-rich stories of tech founders, great talent and the promise of wealth when successful will not last long. Having a strong ‘why’ will keep you all in when there is no money, no team and no support. Surround yourself with people who support you for you, not just for what you are doing. Be open, be teachable and find ways to have fun.”

    –  Kimberly Y. Moore, Co-Founder and CEO of, Go Together

Often times, the best advice an underrepresented founder can receive is the advice of someone who has the same or a similar identity and set of lived experiences. They understand the nuances of your circumstance and can empathize with you in a way others may not be able to. Building community and gaining access to the collective wisdom of a network is incredibly important and empowering. This is also especially true when it comes to fundraising. It requires a community. A community to educate the founder on what to do, a community to introduce the founder to the right people, and a community to inspire the founder to persevere past all the obstacles they will surely face. With that type of community, more underrepresented founders can win! 

Learn how you can join the Founder Gym community by visiting their website, and if you have questions, email hello@foundergym.com

Patreon acquires Kit, creators can now include merch in subscriptions

Photo: Medium

Patreon helps content creators sell monthly content subscriptions to its fans. Currently, 2 million patrons are backing more than 100,000 of their favorite creators on the platform. Kit is a startup that launched with the idea to help people discover products worth getting while influencers are able to share their favorite products and earn revenue from the sales. With Patreon’s recent acquisition of Kit, monthly subscription packages will now be able to offer so much more in the way of merchandise, which will further encourage subscriptions at higher monthly tiers than before.

With the acquisition, Kit, which has raised $2.5 million since it was founded, is able to continue its commitment to “connecting creators and fans and followers and to making it easier to reward creativity and expertise.” Patreon, which has a valuation of nearly $450 million, plans to build an open merchandise provider platform. Creators who are already using Kit will not lose their revenue streams during the transition.

“We’re elated to join Patreon and work on merch, and look forward to developing features that will give creators a simple way to deliver their products to their members,” said CEO and Co-founder of Kit, Camille Hearst.

The terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed.

This $36 Million Fund Is For Black Women Founders — And “It’s About Damn Time”

Photo: Backstage Capital

Arlan Hamilton isn’t new to supporting underrepresented founders. Whether that means women, people of color or LGBTQ founders, Hamilton (founder of Backstage Capital) and her team have been there. So it comes as no surprise that they were able to bring their “It’s about damn time” fund to life. At the United State of Women Summit, Hamilton announced that Backstage Capital launched a $36 million fund that will invest in black women founders, $1 million at a time.

 

 

“This has been in the works for several months,” says Hamilton in an exclusive email to AfroTech. “It had a few iterations, but in the last couple of months, I made the decision that the money would go to funding black women specifically and $1 million at a time, specifically. It was very intentional and something that … I knew would probably get pushback from some people, but I have the greatest conviction around it. There’s a lot that goes into raising a fund of this size when you’ve had less than $5 million under management as a new fund manager, but I was up for the challenge.”

Before the year is up, Backstage Capital will be investing in two to three companies, the first of which should be announced in June or July. The remaining investments should be announced throughout the fall.

Following the announcement of the companies receiving funding this year, Hamilton said she anticipates funding about five to six companies in 2019.

In an industry that still sees an underrepresentation of black women, a fund like this is incredibly important. The fund will focus in on a population that has largely been ignored — only 0.2% of venture capital funding goes to black women.

“There have been daily challenges,” says Hamilton. “And when you’re attempting to do something like this that is breaking new ground, most of it has been in changing the hearts and minds of people who have been working in an industry for years and decades and getting them to see the light.”

Backstage Capital will remain industry and regionally agnostic when evaluating the thousands of companies they anticipate seeing this year, open to any industry and any field as long as they’re led by black women founders.

One piece of advice that Arlan shared about knowing whether taking venture capital money is right for your company or not is to understand that you are essentially taking on new partners in your company and that you’re giving away equity that you start out with.

“My advice would be to first see if you could do it on your own, if you can bootstrap,” she says. “If you can find some friendly checks (which isn’t always easy, obviously, but sometimes it’s available), if you can generate revenue, if you can make money from your company without needing to raise. There have been several companies that have done that to great success. They never raised a penny of venture capital, and they’ve gone on to do amazing things. So it’s important to really decide if this is right for you, to really do your homework, to listen to other founders who have gone through it, to really have a strong grasp of what you’re getting yourself into. It’s not for everyone, and it’s a serious matter.”

And although this fund will no doubt change lives and help change the landscape of tech, Hamilton knows there is so much more work to be done.

 

 

“We are no longer accepting the scraps at the end of the dinner table in venture capital and beyond as black women,” says Hamilton. “We asked nicely, and now it’s our turn.”