The VC ecosystem is starkly homogenous—long associated with its lack of diversity and representation. In 2018, just 3% of US venture capital partners were Black, according to the 2021 NVCA-Deloitte Human Capital Survey. There’s a major lack of investment dollars flowing into Black-founded startups, too. TechCrunch has reported that Black women founders are particularly impacted by a lack of funding opportunities—receiving just 0.27% of all US VC dollars.
In 2022, our list of Black founders and investors to watch celebrates a small fraction of the Black leaders and innovators who are making impacts in their communities, industries and beyond. The list, which was expanded from 53 to 66 founders and investors this year, features some familiar faces and some new names. To learn more about the criteria for being included in this list and/or how to submit a Black founder or investor for a future update, scroll to the end of this article.
Black founders in edtech
These founders are innovating across the education technology (edtech) space—an industry vertical that refers to companies developing software and hardware solutions to enhance teaching practices and improve learning outcomes for students. Always vital, the tools being created in this sector were especially needed during recent years, when virtual and hybrid learning became essential. In fact, in the first 10 months of 2021, investors funneled $13.8 billion into edtech startups.
Dr. Johnetta MacCalla
Co-founder and CEO of Zyrobotics, the developer of inclusive, educational technologies for the diverse needs of children with differing abilities.
Co-founder and CEO of Wonderschool, a Bay Area-based network of modern early education programs to ensure all families have access to high-quality early childhood care.
Founder and CEO of AllHere, a chatbot software designed to reduce chronic absenteeism and foster success among students. Using artificial intelligence, the startup's virtual advisor communicates 24/7 via automated two-way texting, proactively sending nudges and leveraging a customized knowledge base to ensure each family and student receives the right support at the right time. Named one of Forbes 30 Under 30, Smith managed family engagement, child development and personalized learning research at schools across the East Coast.
Black founders in fintech and blockchain
Financial technology (fintech) companies use the internet, algorithms, and blockchain and software technologies to offer or facilitate financial services traditionally provided by banks. Fintech investors and entrepreneurs continue to reap the rewards of an acceleration in digital transactions. Through the first three quarters of 2021, fintech—one of dozens of industry verticals tracked by PitchBook—crammed a decade’s worth of exits into nine months. To dive deeper into fintech, download our Q3 2021 Emerging Tech Research: Fintech report.
Founder and CEO of Atlanta-based CapWay, a mobile banking and fintech company with the mission to restore trust and provide a fair opportunity to learn and grow wealth for all.
Co-founder of Dallas’ CollateralEdge, a fintech platform that provides banks with innovative, automated solutions to bolster the credit profile of loans and allow greater underwriting flexibility.
Founder of Stackwell, an early-stage startup on a mission to attack the racial wealth gap by empowering a new community of Black investors—specifically Black millennials and Gen Z. Launched in early 2022, the app combines pre-built portfolios based on risk, educational resources and behavioral nudges in order to address the pervasive underinvestment and unbanking of Black people in the US. Prior to founding Stackwell, Rozier-Byrd worked at firms including State Street and WilmerHale.
Founder of Guapcoin, a blockchain and cryptocurrency startup created to amplify the economic voice of the Black community in Greater Atlanta and beyond.
Founder and CEO of Oakland-based LendStreet, a lending platform designed to help people get out of debt, rebuild their credit and get a fresh start.
Co-founder of Black Men Talk Tech and New York City fintech startup Fundr, a platform designed to automate, diversify and democratize seed funding.
Co-founder and CEO of Curu, a SaaS lead-recovery platform based in Denver that helps lenders and loan marketplaces grow their new accounts by recovering their rejected applicants.
Co-founder and CEO of Perch, a no-cost platform that allows users to build credit with nontraditional payments like Netflix subscriptions and rent. Perch also provides a library of financial literacy content to educate and empower millions of Americans who are underbanked and underserved by traditional finance systems. After being denied a loan to cover the cost of his college tuition due to a lack of credit score or history, Broughton founded his startup as a Gen Z-first approach for building and repairing credit.
Founder of WealthyLife and CreditRich, an app that teaches young people about credit management, personal finance and entrepreneurship through gaming.
Black founders in media and entertainment
The founders in this category are active in the production, distribution and sale of entertainment-related products and services—which can include everything from movie theatres and production companies to record labels. Closely related, media startups and their founders seek to disseminate news, entertainment and information through varied channels, like TV networks, print and digital publications and gaming platforms.
Founder and CEO of New York City’s Group Black, a first-of-its-kind media collective and accelerator rooted in the advancement of Black-owned media properties.
Co-founder with André Jones of The Tenth Magazine, a bi-annual publication that documents the history, culture, ideas and aesthetics of the Black LGBTQ community.
Co-founder and CEO with Ben Arnon of Color Farm Media, a Los Angeles-based developer and producer of content for movies, TV, streaming and podcasts that elevates underrepresented voices in media.
Founder and CEO of Blavity, a media platform focused on serving the multifaceted lives of Black millennials.
Co-founder and President of Los Angeles’ Moving Analytics, a digital cardiac rehabilitation and prevention program, delivered via mobile platform and health coaching.
Founder of Kiira Health, a Los Angeles-based telehealth platform for collegiate women focused on addressing women’s health inequities.
Founder and CEO of Mae, a culturally competent digital health platform that connects Black expectant mothers with critical resources to drive positive pregnancy outcomes. Headquartered in New York City, Mae works in concert with healthcare payers and states to address the significant disparities in maternal health outcomes for Black moms across the US. Prior to founding Mae in 2020, Hardigan worked at Pfizer for a decade in strategy, platform and innovation roles.
Founder and CEO of CourMed, a Dallas-based startup that provides end-to-end concierge delivery of healthcare products and services to homes, condos, offices, hotels and more.
Founder of Expectful, a subscription meditation and sleep platform for hopeful, expecting and new parents. Headquartered in New York City, the startup calls itself a haven of holistic care for moms, providing empowerment, reducing anxiety and building community to combat the wellbeing crisis facing millions in the US. Prior to founding Expectful in 2020, Nathalie worked at Silicon Valley startups for more than a decade, including at Airbnb, Google Shopping and eBay.
Founder and CEO of The Difference, a New York City-based on-demand therapy technology that uses AI to connect users with live, licensed therapists via phone, app or smart speaker.
Co-founder with Brittany Brathwaite of Kimbritive, a New York-based startup offering consulting services and workshops for Black women on topics like healthy relationships, pleasure, consent and other sexual health and wellness topics.
Founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Zero Grocery, a plastic-free online store that delivers fresh, high quality groceries and everyday goods at wholesale prices across the Bay Area and Los Angeles, utilizing reusable glass jars to reduce waste.
Founder of Austin’s Journey Foods, a SaaS and AI-powered platform intended to help food businesses develop, manage and launch nutritious food products.
Founder and CEO of Air Protein, the developer of a meat alternative technology designed to create protein out of ordinary carbon dioxide. The proprietary process for creating air-based meat takes hours—not months—from the elements found in the air we breathe. Dyson is also the co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Kiverdi, a startup that uses NASA-inspired technologies to convert carbon dioxide into people- and planet-friendly bio-based products.
Founder of GOODR, an Atlanta-based food waste diversion platform that tracks an organization’s surplus food from pickup to donation, delivering social and environmental impact reporting analytics.
Founder and CEO of Mercaris, a market data service and online trading platform for organic, non-GMO and certified agricultural commodities based in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Black founders in beauty, skincare and haircare
The founders in this section are creating goods and services to support peoples’ self-care journeys—from on-demand haircuts to vegan makeup. When we look and feel our best, we’re empowered to show up and put our best foot forward in all things. These founders know that! They also know what a huge market opportunity beauty represents—in 2021, 258 beauty industry VC deals netted $2.46 billion in capital raised, according to PitchBook.
Founder of Hairbrella, a rainwear company headquartered in Atlanta that combines fashion and function to keep hair dry and protected from the elements.
Founder of London’s TRIM-IT, the first app-powered mobile barbershop, delivering high-quality haircuts straight to your doorstep in a high-tech barbershop in a van.
CEO and Co-founder of Squire Technologies with Dave A. Salvant, a booking and payment platform that connects people with great barbers worldwide. Headquartered in New York City and founded in 2015, Squire is also a management platform for barbershops—allowing them to engage their customers, process bookings and payments and manage inventory. Forbes profiled both co-founders in 2021, spotlighting how the former finance guy and the former corporate lawyer ditched their careers to build a massively successful barbershop app.
Founder and CEO of the direct-to-consumer shaving and bodycare brand OUI the People, based in Brooklyn.
Co-founder and CEO of ShearShare, a Texas-based B2B app that matches licensed beauty professionals to unused salon space in 330+ cities and 11 countries.
Founder of Beauty Bakerie, a cosmetics line offering long-lasting vegan and paraben-free makeup, headquartered in San Diego.
Kristen Jones Miller
Co-founder and CEO of New York City’s Mented Cosmetics, an upscale beauty line created for women of color—including what Essence calls the “best nude lipsticks we’ve ever worn.”
Founder and CEO of Oakland’s Mayvenn, a web-based and mobile point-of-sale app that allows salons and stylists to provide retail products to their clients without having to buy or hold inventory.
Black founders in travel, tourism and leisure
It’s been a tough few years for the travel industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but hope for the 2022 travel season exists and these founders are using technology to facilitate better travel opportunities and experiences. An area of travel PitchBook is tracking closely is sustainable tourism, one of 138+ emerging spaces covered in our platform. Sustainable tourism is the idea that travel should have a positive impact on the environment, culture and economy of the destination being visited, and we may see more startups in that space in future updates to lists like this.
Co-founder and CEO of Airfordable alongside Emmanuel Buah, a company that democratizes travel by allowing users to book a flight for a fraction of the upfront cost and the rest in recurring payments.
Founder and CEO of Austin’s Localeur, which provides access to a global community of local insiders and authentic recommendations on where to eat and drink in over 200+ cities, plus travel tips, road trip guides and personalized itineraries.
Founder and CEO of North Carolina’s RewardStock, a platform that offers information on credit cards for travelers to earn, track and use reward points to book trips.
Black founders in business and productivity software
In an era of tech tool proliferation and complicated tech stacks, these founders are using technology to increase business productivity. From streamlining internal teamwork to facilitating product design and development, these founders are creating one-stop-shops to make businesses and teams run more smoothly.
Founder of 4Degrees, a SaaS platform headquartered in Greater Chicago that provides relationship-building recommendations and intelligent guidance on expanding team networks.
Founder of Yac, an app designed to cut down on meetings and calls with voice messages, searchable transcriptions and asynchronous screen sharing.
Founder and CEO of Staat, a sync tool that brings together data for actionable, at-a-glance views to see how work is moving from one central place. Staat allows users to create, remix and act on top of existing collaboration tools to speed up your workflow. Sabreah is also the CEO of Thought Factory, a marketing innovation studio located in Atlanta, San Francisco and New York, and an advisor for Hairbrella. She previously founded Partnr, a creative marketplace that uses AI to help creators build and manage their business.
Co-founder and CEO of Malomo, an Indianapolis-based shipment tracking and customer marketing platform for e-commerce brands that helps its users generate revenue and increase customer loyalty.
Founder and CEO of Gildform, headquartered in Detroit, an on-demand jewelry design and manufacturing platform that helps brands create jewelry from concept to creation—starting with a sketch.
Founder and CEO of Calendly, the modern scheduling platform for high-performing teams and individuals accelerating business forward. Headquartered in Atlanta and founded in 2013, Calendly is a powerful yet simple automated scheduling tool that takes the work out of scheduling check-ins, meetups and meetings so that users can be more efficient with their time and energy. Prior to Calendly, Awotona spent the majority of his career in enterprise software sales at companies like IBM and Dell Technologies. He’s also a board member for SalesLoft.
Black founders in mentorship, coaching and career readiness and placement
The founders highlighted in this section play a critical role in facilitating professional growth for people of all ages and life stages. From supporting new coding pros through job training and bootcamps to mentor-matching apps, these founders are working to cultivate curiosity, passion, expertise and professionalism that’ll propel working professionals further in their careers.
Co-founder and CEO of San Francisco’s Career Karma, an app created to help job training programs find qualified applicants, as well as match people with coding bootcamps to support them throughout their careers.
Co-founder and CEO of The Mentor Method, a mentor-matching platform based in Austin that connects tech leaders with change-making mentors.
Founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, a Chicago-based co-learning and -working community that economically empowers LGBTQ+ people and allies with practical, career-readiness skills.
Founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE, a global nonprofit that teaches computer programming and tech skills to girls and young women from underrepresented communities.
Founder of /dev/color, a nonprofit community for Black software engineers to help each other grow into industry leaders.
Founder of All Star Code, a program that teaches youth of color to code, as well as co-founder of Giving Gap, a donor platform that connects donors and volunteers to Black-founded nonprofits in the US.
2020 was a year of promises from venture capitalists to address diversity at their firms and portfolio companies by making more concerted efforts to support equitable representation across the landscape. While a new industry certification is gaining momentum, Black investors are still underrepresented at firms across the US. The investors here represent a small portion of the Black investors at work every day in the private markets; they’re pushing back against the industry’s historically homogenous makeup and opening the door for more Black investors and investors of color.
Co-founder and managing partner of Harlem Capital Partners. He, alongside Jarred Tingle, built the New York City-based venture firm in 2015 to change the face of entrepreneurship by investing in diverse founders.
Abyah Nycole Wynn
Co-founder and managing director at Santa Monica’s Twenty65 Fund, a fund that works exclusively with socially responsible startups led by women and people of color.
Osei Van Horne
Managing partner of sustainable growth equity investing at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, J.P. Morgan’s growth equity investing practice focused on climate action. Van Horne is also the head of his firm’s social impact commitment to Project Black. Prior to his current role, Van Horne was managing director and co-founder of the technology division of Wells Fargo’s growth equity practices. He is on the board of advisors of the Women’s Venture Fund, an All Raise mentor and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.
Founder and managing director of Base Ventures, a seed-stage VC firm in Berkeley, California with the idea to fund disruptive ideas and champion nontraditional thinkers.
Taj Ahmad Eldridge
General partner of Include Ventures, a fund of funds for fund managers who need to be included in the venture industry.
Co-founder and CEO of the Atlanta-based Fearless Fund, which invests exclusively in early-stage businesses run by women of color.
Founder and managing partner at Backstage Capital, a seed investment fund that backs overachieving, underrepresented startup founders. Founded by Hamilton in 2015, the firm is based in Los Angeles and dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women and/or LGBTQ+. With an active portfolio of nearly 150 investments, Backstage capital has recently invested in Shop Latinx and Currents.fm.
Founding managing partner of MaC Ventures, a seed-stage VC firm in Los Angeles that invests in visionary founders and their tech companies.
Founding managing partner at Plexo Capital, a San Francisco-based institutional investment firm he incubated and spun out from GV (Google Ventures). Founded in 2018, Plexo Capital invests in emerging seed-stage VCs led by diverse teams—like CodeSee and 54gene. Prior to Plexo Capital, Toney was a partner on the investing team at GV where he focused on marketplaces, mobile and consumer products. Before that, he held positions at Comcast Ventures, Zynga, Nike and eBay.
About PitchBook’s Black founders and investors to watch list
For the people included in this list, we considered:
Whether their company can be categorized within one of the 10 broad industry vertical or emerging space buckets included in this list and tracked by PitchBook (additional verticals and spaces will be added in the future)
Their visibility in digital spaces, including but not limited to topics related to entrepreneurship, investing, the experience of Black founders or investors and/or advocacy for underrepresented groups
Suggest an addition
To suggest a Black founder or investor for a future update to this list—currently slated for 2023—please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The links in this list
Many links included in this article will take you to a PitchBook profile preview. Our profile previews provide a cursory sense of the types of robust data PitchBook customers can access with their subscription to the platform—from funding details and active investments to investors with a stated preference in minority- and women-owned businesses.
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