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.

Study: Small Business Owners Often Skip Paying Themselves

When you own your own business, there’s a lot of different challenges that may come up, especially when it comes to money. According to a new survey by Kabbage, small business owners often skip paying themselves in order to control cash flow.

Founded in 2008Kabbage is an online financial services platform, where small businesses can receive access to automated funding in minutes. For the survey, Kabbage ended up polling 500 successful entrepreneurs.

The survey revealed that many small business owners will go multiple months in a row without paying themselves. According to Kabbage, 26 percent of business owners went two to six months without paying themselves, while another 25 percent went more than six months without a paycheck.

“Having owned multiple small businesses before founding Kabbage, I am intimately familiar with cash flow challenges,” Kabbage’s CEO Rob Frohwein said. “Sleepless nights were my reality when waiting on customer checks and thinking through needed expenditures.”

While the results of the survey might be unsurprising to some entrepreneurs, it still speaks to the unique challenges people face when trying to launch a small business.

In fact, a survey from small business financing firm Guidant Financial found that 80 percent of Black entrepreneurs said lack of capital was the most challenging part of running a business, as reported by Black Enterprise.

What’s important to note about Kabbage’s survey is that these aren’t people whose businesses are brand new or already struggling. On average, the participants have run successful companies for 10.5 years.

This Startup Connects Patients With Rides to the Hospital In Rural Communities

For many patients, just getting to their doctor’s appointments is an uphill battle. Medical or cost restrictions may make public transportation and ride sharing not a viable option. Nearly 4 million adults and children with chronic conditions miss or delay medical appointments each year, because they don’t have a ride.

On the other side of the equation, hospitals often have a hard time finding quality transportation partners that are reliable. Many don’t follow instructions or provide a quality of care that meet the standards of the hospital.

Entrepreneur Erica Plybeah saw this gap between the patients and the hospitals firsthand with her own type-2 diabetic grandmother, a double-leg amputee who used a wheelchair for the latter part of her life. Her main transportation was her daughter, Plybeah’s mom, who worked full-time and had a hard time getting her back and forth to doctor appointments. There was no access to other forms of transportation in their small town.

Thanks to almost a decade in clinical IT, Plybeah gained experience finding technical solutions for hospitals and clinics. “As I worked with hospitals more, I’ve learned that transportation and how it affects the health of patients is a huge problem, not just in Memphis but across the country.” According to a new report, 20 percent of a patient’s health is linked directly to medical care, but social and economic factors account for another 40 percent, including nutrition, housing, education and access to transportation.

Plybeah entered a medtech-focused pitch competition and, after hearing the direct feedback from hospital administrators, moved forward with creating cloud-based patient transportation solution MedHaul.

“We’re helping eliminate transportation barriers for patients and poor and rural community. We are a platform that connects hospitals and clinics with quality transportation providers in their communities. We focus on providing rides for any type of patient regardless of their various needs,” says Plybeah.

Currently, hospitals must go through their rolodex of transportation providers, leaving voicemails with each, until one of them is available to book the ride for the patient. The process is inefficient and often leads to sub-par patient care. “Hospitals usually just pick the first one that they see… then on the flip side, the transportation providers don’t have the accurate information because everything was a phone call,” Plybeah says.

With MedHaul, caseworkers and nurses log on to the platform, add a patient’s basic demographics and caregiver information (for example, if they’re in a wheelchair or non-emergency stretcher) and the platform filters the top providers that fit that criteria. The chosen provider picks up the ride through the platform and receives details on the patient and an optimized route.

The hospital, clinic or nursing home can track when the driver is on its way, similar to other ride sharing companies, and the caregiver gets updates from the patient for peace of mind.

To screen providers, MedHaul looks through the Medicaid basic transportation standards in each state and adds a few criteria of their own to make sure they’re on boarding only the top providers in the area. The team makes an on-site visit to inspect the company’s vehicles and meet the staff after they reach out. Pending all approvals and insurance coverage, the provider can be live on the platform within a week.

Hospitals and healthcare agencies pay for access to the patient transportation management platform on a SaaS model. The client buys a specific ride package for a flat fee every month, and refills their rides on a recurring basis.

The startup has two active pilots with Memphis hospitals and two more starting in the next few weeks. They have completed pilots with insurance carriers and emergency agencies as well.

“While there are a couple of competitors across the country, I think what MedHaul does stands out because we’re actually targeting the communities that need this service the most, where transportation and healthcare are not easily accessible,” says Plybeah. According to the National Rural Health Association, 670+ rural hospitals are at risk of closing, making transportation a larger issue in low-income, rural areas.

“My experience in healthcare gives me a unique insight into how you actually create a software solution for a hospital — how it would be implemented, how they use it, and what they would pay for it.”

Ready to build upon her newly-acquired lessons from the Google for Entrepreneurs Black Founders Exchange program, MedHaul is looking to raise additional funding toward the end of this year to scale their operations to additional cities, onboard new providers, and grow the engineering team to refine the platform.

This piece originally appeared in Hypepotamus

Techstars’ Startup Weekend in New York Will Focus On Diverse Talent

Accelerator program Techstars is bringing underrepresented tech talent together for a weekend of brainstorming and prototyping in New York City.

Techstars Startup Weekend is a 54-hour long event for participants of diverse backgrounds to form teams and pitch new business ideas to a panel of judges from the startup and VC industry.

Startup Weekend organizers are using the weekend to create a space for women and minority innovators to access resources in the startup world. Through targeting this underrepresented audience, Techstars hopes to address the gaps in funding and opportunity in tech.

“Once we bring everyone together and they get to work, we have no doubt that the outcome will be a display of capable and qualified entrepreneurs of all types– with ideas that can shape tomorrow,” they wrote on the event site.

Last month, the accelerator announced its partnership with digitalundivided—an entrepreneurship incubator for Black and Latinx women founders—to increase support for women entrepreneurs.

Digitalundivided’s groundbreaking ProjectDiane2018 report shows Black women-led startups have raised $289 million in venture capital funding since 2009, while Latinx-owned startups led by women raised a total of $1.36 billion in venture capital funding.

This accounts for .0006 percent and 0.32 percent of the $424.7 billion in total venture funding raised since 2009.

Startup Weekend will feature speakers like Jason Leder, Head of VC & Startup Partnerships at Google and Marcia Mitchell Partner Operations Manager at ff Venture Capital. Participants will also work alongside mentors to help develop ideas.

First place teams will have an opportunity to be interviewed for a series on Entrepreneur.com.

Get full event details and purchase a ticket to claim your spot.

4 Roles to Fill When Launching a Startup

Behind every startup is a great team. In the early days of a startup, there’s often  one person performing multiple roles. In the beginning, a one-person team is the most cost-effective way to do things. However, as the business grows, there will be an increase in tasks and a need for a team. 

In the beginning of launching a startup, it’s important to establish a team of people who are willing to put in the time to succeed. The founding team of a startup is the foundation for its. It determines the path and the outcome the startup will take. It requires building a strong team that’s able to manage critical areas of your business to make it a success. One of the main challenges of developing a strong team is figuring out the most critical roles to fill first.  

Here’s four places to start:

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)- The Dreamer aka the Boss

The Chief Executive Officer is usually the founder, leader and the face of the startup. The CEO is a primary role and is responsible for upholding the mission of the startup. They’re passionate about the mission and are the boss of everyone and responsible for everything. Most importantly, they hire and build the senior team and make all the final calls.

Chief Product Officer (CPO)- The Visionary aka the Product Guru

The Chief Product Officer knows the ins and outs of the products and can recognize problems and offer solutions. Similar to the CEO, the CPO has to understand the mission and goals of the startup. The product officer is not only responsible for utilizing various technologies to build a product or service—but they’re also responsible for finding ways to use technology and information to create a successful business model.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)-The Monkey Maker 

The Chief Financial Officer handles the money. The person has an integral role on the founding team because they access the growth and profitability of the startup, which is key to getting investors. The person in this role creates budgets and financing strategies. They create systems that monitor your company’s financial health.

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)- The Architect 

The Chief Marketing Officer oversees the marketing and sales strategy. The CMO will be an expert in your industry and will help position your product, discern it from your competitors, enlist distributors, and make customers crave what you’re selling. In today’s business world, marketing is a part of every business, making a CMO a critical role to fill when launching a startup.

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

In today’s entrepreneurial world, to go from “idea” to “execution,” a startup needs a team to make it all happen. Filling these critical roles will help build a team to help you reach your goals. In the end, you have to have a strong team launch your startup into success.

 

Black Women Raise Wants To Build a Community for Black Women Founders

The story of Black women founders is all too familiar.

Despite being the fastest growing group of female entrepreneurs, the median amount of funding raised by Black women is $0, according to digitalundivided. Overall, Black women have raised just .0006 percent of all tech venture funding since 2009.

Entrepreneur Dee Poku Spalding wants to reframe this narrative.

She launched the inaugural Black Women Raise symposium last Friday convening Black female founders and business leaders committed to addressing the ability to raise growth capital, scale up and create pathways for the women behind them.

“Yes, we encounter barriers but despite that, we are strongly innovating in our fields and building incredible businesses that compete comfortably in the marketplace,” she said in a statement.

The event served a dual purpose of providing founders with practical resources and an open forum for voicing frustrations.

Founders participating in the program included Marah Lidey, founder of Shine Text, a messaging app helping young people achieve self-care, and Jewel Burk, founder of Amazon acquired tech company PartPic.

Programming also included a panel discussion on insights from investors like Charles Hudson, founder, and managing partner of Precursor Ventures, and Sutian Dong, a partner at Female Founders Fund.

“Are Black women fundamentally higher-risk investments?” asked Asmau Ahmed, founder of Plum Perfect and SVP at Bank of America, during a panel titled “Understanding The Investor Mindset.”

Poku Spalding is not new to helping create opportunities for women. She is also the founder of Women Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Network, a network designed to create a community for women in the workplace.

“I wanted to build the type of strong community and network around this group that other founders get to take for granted,” she said.

Black women who raised less than $1 million in 2017, raised an average of $42,000. On average, 39 percent of venture capital deals at the Series A stage were $25 million or larger in 2017, according to Pitchbook.

 

 

This Founder is Building a Community for Black Women to Thrive at Work

Millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa make the dangerous and arduous trek to the wells each day, sometimes walking an average of 3.7 miles to access clean and safe water for their families. The powerful idea of women from different tribes banding together to accomplish a goal inspired entrepreneur Krystal Scott to launch a space for professional Black women to connect.

The Well Space launched on International Women’s Day in March 2018 and aims to provide an authentic network of career-driven Black women based on genuine relationship building.

After nearly a year of building the community from scratch, The Well has just reopened the waitlist for women to apply to join the Tribe and launched a new website along with the rollout of new member benefits.

“A lot of what we need to advance in our career can be gotten from our relationship with other people,” said Scott, founder, and CEO of The Well. “It’s really important for Black women to remember that we are a tribe. We are a community.”

The community-based platform will now allow each of its members to create and maintain their own profile on the website with the ability to directly message others. Members will also have access to a directory of The Well members by location and industry.

Other perks include a program featuring discounts and freebies from Black-women-owned brands and a 12-week mentorship program.

“When I first launched, I was thinking about The Well being a coworking space,” recalled Scott. “But, I didn’t want the community to be limited to just a physical space.”

“We’re building that infrastructure as a community for women to meet in an intentional way,” she added.

Since its launch, The Well has hosted a number of networking events in New York City. From happy hours at Ode to Babel–a Black-woman owned bar and lounge in Brooklyn–to Karaoke nights for members. Scott said the focus is on social ways for Black women to meet.

The platform, currently in beta, has just under 200 members across the United States, Spain, and Canada.  The community connects virtually during video meetups, and collaborate daily via email and group messaging. 

Scott—who has a background in public policy and non-profits—sought to create an environment for Black women to thrive at work after her own journey navigating the workforce and finding that she was often the only Black woman in the room.

“It’s really hard to talk to someone who isn’t a Black woman about things that are happening at work because you’re a Black woman,” she said. “There is a shared experience that Black women have in the workplace.”

The recent Women in the Workplace 2018 study published by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company found nearly half of women of color are often the “onlys” of their race at work and over 80 percent face microaggressions.

Despite efforts to improve diversity, the study found women of color only make up 17 percent of entry-level employees and 4 percent of C-suite executives.

Black women are 40 percent less likely than men to receive the first promotion to manager, reflecting the largely stagnant progress for the advancement of women in the workplace overall.

“We’re underrepresented in the workplace because we’re undervalued,” Scott said noting Black women need more support as entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and in terms of being paid.

Black women were on average paid 61 percent of what white men were paid in 2017, according to Census data. Black women’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent—the highest among women from all of the largest racial and ethnic groups—yet, the gap persists.

Despite the Women in the Workplace study finding stating that more Black and Latina women are requesting promotions and raises at the same rate as their white counterparts, they don’t get the same outcomes.

As the conversation around equity in the workplace wages on, Scott says she and her team are ready to expand programming and continue to provide the space for Black women to support and help each other get across the finish line.

“Black women enjoy each other’s company,” said Scott. “We understand each other in a way that’s really beautiful and really powerful.”

Photo credit: Nneka Peters

This Tech Startup Wants To Make Sure People of Color See Themselves In Greeting Cards

Culture Greetings is making greeting cards more inclusive with diverse images and themes that speak to communities of color.

The online greeting card startup was founded by tech entrepreneur and business psychologist, Dr. Dionne Mahaffey, who saw a need to create culturally relevant greeting cards that can’t be found in stores.

“It’s important for us to be able to see ourselves in products,” Mahaffey said. “Something bearing an image of us with sayings that are specific to us as a people.”

Culture Greetings is innovating the slow and antiquated process of searching for the perfect card in the store and making it easier for people to create and send a greeting card to anyone in the U.S.

According to the American Greeting Card Association, the average American sends 25 to 30 cards each year, with the most popular being birthday cards.

The act of sending someone a greeting card is still meaningful, but now Culture Greetings is giving users the ability to customize cards catered to people of color in minutes.

“There are other automated greeting card services, but none that deliver cards that have a specific cultural nomenclature,” Mahaffey said.

The Atlanta-based company launched just in time for the holidays last month with over 700 greeting cards (and growing), mostly designed in-house by Mahaffey herself. The tech entrepreneur also works with award-winning cartoonists Quinn McGowan and artist Steve R. Allen whose work can be found in the National Museum of African American History.

“My goal was to design a culturally relevant greeting card platform that would become a leading destination for Black consumers. That’s the beauty of being able to code. We programmers can build whatever we dream,” said Mahaffey, who worked in tech for over two decades.

Users can choose from a wide variety of cards for different occasions, use the online tool to write a personalized handwritten note plus add a gift card. The custom built automation software then prints, stamps, and mails the card to be delivered the next day.

“It gives the same experience of someone receiving handwritten cards, but it takes the sender the same amount of time it takes to write a social media post,” she said.

The company plans to launch a series of Black history cards in February. The platform is also set to launch an iOS and Android app in 2019.

Mahaffey is the founder of several businesses including the WhereU app, a directory of Black-owned businesses.

University In Toronto To Launch Fellowship For Black Entrepreneurs

Ryerson University in Toronto is launching a program aimed at helping Black-led startups secure seed funding and mentorship from other Black entrepreneurs.

The Black Innovation Fellowship will focus on incubating startups with tech-enabled products, though companies don’t need to be a “screen-based business.”

“Black entrepreneurs in Canada face distinct barriers to access, from access to seed capital to fewer publicly-recognized role models,” said Dasha Pasiy, a media relations officer at the Toronto university. “For some groups of black Canadians – like newcomers and women – these challenges can be multiple and magnified.”

The program is funded in part by real estate entrepreneur Isaac Olowolafe Jr., President of Dream Maker Corp.–an organization offering capital to seed early-stage startups.

Entrepreneurs will get help seeking venture capital and networking with opportunities to pitch to potential investors. Program participants may also receive seed funding from Olowolafe’s investment fund.

The program will start accepting applications in the new year for its first spring cohort.

Red Bay Coffee Founder Keba Konte: “Coffee is Africa’s Gift to The World”

For Keba Konte, coffee is a work of art.

The Bay Area-based photojournalist started Red Bay Coffee in 2014 after he saw an opportunity to fuse his passion for photography and roasting to create a space for all people to consume art experiences over a carefully brewed cup of coffee.

Red Bay’s headquarters, or  “Coffee Dojo” as Konte calls it, is located in Oakland, CA. There he and his team roast small batches of coffee and run a wholesale business importing and supplying coffee to other cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, and tech businesses.

“We have cafes, but 75 percent of our revenue comes from our wholesale program,” explained Konte.

The company has supplied coffee for numerous tech giants in and around San Francisco including Salesforce, Twitter, Airbnb, and most recently, Facebook.

“We’re fueling the tech industry,” he said with a laugh.

While big tech clients are great for business, selling coffee is just a piece of Red Bay’s story.  It’s become a pillar in the community.

In the Fruitvale neighborhood — where Red Bay is based — the company opens the space for the community to host events, which are often produced by local residents who use the 6000 sq ft warehouse roastery to screen films, launch products, host lectures, and even put on ballet performances.

“My home is Oakland,” said Konte. “The spirit of Oakland is in line with Red Bay Coffee’s mission. There is an entrepreneurial and artistic spirit in the water here.”

According to the National Coffee Association, the coffee industry is responsible for more than 1 million jobs in the U.S. economy. Konte wants Black people to be a part of that economic opportunity.

He founded Red Bay on the mission of creating the best coffee and empowering people to become excited about pursuing careers in the coffee world. Konte said the company is also dedicated to supporting coffee entrepreneurs and mentoring aspiring coffee shop owners.

“We try to encourage more Black people to enter the space of coffee,” said Konte. “I evangelize for Black people to participate in this industry in everything from education and tech to equipment and marketing.”

Konte is a San Francisco native who launched his entrepreneurial career as a photographer chronicling everything from the Bay Area hip-hop scene in the early 90s to the historic election of Nelson Mandela.

Konte has always been a coffee connoisseur. He opened Guerrilla Cafe in Berkeley, CA and later bought Chasing Lions Cafe in San Francisco. He had a desire to make his art available to the masses and saw coffee shops as a way to open a public space without exclusivity.

“As my art career grew, the value of my art grew and it became less accessible. There were fewer people who could purchase it,” he explains why he adorned the walls of his cafes with his artwork. “I felt like coffee could bring people together. The coffee shop is like a daily art exhibit”

Anxious to expand into a new area of the industry, he began teaching himself how to brew specialty coffee by watching YouTube videos and simply experimenting out of his garage in Oakland.

“I saw a lot of similarities in my artistic career and coffee,” he said. “In art, we create exhibits with lighting, tempo, and mood. In coffee, there is an art to crafting it from the way it’s roasted to the latte designs.”

At the heart of Konte’s business is Africa— a key inspiration of his when roasting coffee. The artist traveled to the continent on numerous occasions during his career as a photographer and returned as a coffee entrepreneur to develop relationships and buy coffee directly from African farmers.

“Much of my artwork was centered around Africa,” he said. “Africa being a primary place I was already doing a lot of my work, I saw a tremendous opportunity as an African American coffee roaster to roast a product that came directly from Africa.”

Red Bay Coffee does not shy away from honoring the continent saying “Coffee is Africa’s gift to the world.” Konte sees their relationships with farmers on the ground as Red Bay’s competitive advantage.

“Companies should be paying homage,” he said of recognizing Africa’s contribution to coffee. “I see it as my inheritance, but Africa is still playing a small role in picking and processing coffee and has not borne the fruit of the labor of the coffee market.”

The National Coffee Association reports that the coffee industry generates nearly $28 billion in taxes and approximately 1.6 percent of the total U.S. gross domestic product.

Konte says Red Bay’s next big focus is opening more retail locations. It currently has three, but that the company is currently raising money to open more retail spaces.

“We just won a contract for the Oakland International Airport and we’re establishing new coffee shops in Richmond,” he said.

The company also has plans to open a hub in Los Angeles next year that serves as a roastery and a training ground for baristas.

“The broader impact we’re hoping to have is not just the jobs and opportunities we create, but in how we influence our industry in particular and how we influence other people doing business,” said Konte.