Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2022 Beta

Startups The PISLA Beat

“Venture Capital may not be the only cure to your financial ailments.”

For any founder sources of capital are hard enough to come by as it is. Venture Capital is the most common and resourceful means of getting it. But what about the founders who dry up the well looking for the precious piece of gold that will lead them to bountiful success. There must be other means of reaching the holy grail of capital goals.

In an article done by TechCrunch Clearco co-founder and president Michele Romanow, and Pipe co-founder and co-CEO Harry Hurst. In the article, they sit down to discuss the various methods that firms can acquire funding and which would be the greatest channel for entrepreneurs.

However, Romanow and Hurst offered up that capital does not have to be “mutually exclusive.”

“I believe the largest companies in our portfolio are utilizing a variety of capital sources,” Romanow added. “I would advise you to conduct a study on what form of financing is appropriate for the stage of your business and the purpose for which it is being used. And I believe you’ll find that if you do that, you’ll end up being much less diluted at the end of the day. And you’ll find additional leverage over time, allowing you to scale much more quickly.”

According to Mathew, the majority of businesses are not a good fit for venture capital. “Venture investment is costly, and it comes with particular expectations depending on who you raise money from,” he said.

Romanow pointed out that whether a founder should seek venture capital or other forms of funding is primarily determined by their intended use of the funds. For example, if a firm needed money to buy inventory and advertising, venture financing would not be the ideal option. “It doesn’t make sense to give up significant equity at this level of the game to undertake something that’s a recurring and scalable expense with a fixed return,” Romanow said.

He explained that just because an investor rejects you once does not mean you should write them off permanently. Accel, according to Mathew, strives to be completely transparent with its feedback. “In fact, some of our best investments have come from saying to the creator, ‘No, not right now, but maybe later when you prove x, y, and z,’ and then revisiting,” he explained.
Misconceptions abound when it comes to venture capital and other alternative financing methods. One of the most common misconceptions about what Romanow’s organization does, according to her, is that it is the same as debt. “They possess your business if you don’t pay back your loan holders,” she warned. “So there’s a lot of risks there, and it’s late in the game.”

Original article done by TechCrunch: https://techcrunch.com/2021/10/03/why-and-when-startups-should-look-to-diverse-sources-of-capital/

Startups The PISLA Beat

“Female Founders On The Rise. “

COVID-19 set the precedent for the future in terms of Venture Capital fundraising. But even though funding increased that does not mean that there was an increase in the diversity of those who are receiving it. As it pertains to gender though, the divide is getting slimmer and slimmer.

In research done by PitchBook, in the first three quarters of 2021, female-founded companies raised $40.4 billion in 2,661 agreements, nearly twice the $23.7 billion raised in 2019 and more than ten times the $3.6 billion raised in 2011. It’s a hollow victory though as companies run by women are valued lower than their male counterparts. Despite rising, venture capital totals in general, women-founded startups in the United States saw their deal count fall by 2% and total dollars invested in their businesses dip by 3% in 2020.

Female-founded businesses raised fewer dollars from fewer rounds as the venture capital pool grew wider. According to PitchBook, female founders closed 150 to 200 deals per quarter in 2019, valuing $700 million to $950 million. So the dealings are increasing. Female-founded businesses are racking up significant exit numbers, and their performance is improving quicker than the general market.

The exit value of female-founded firms based in the United States has reached $58.8 billion, up 144 percent from 2020, according to the PitchBook-NVCA report. Exit totals in the bigger domestic venture market have increased by a relatively modest 102 percent during the same time period. The number of exits documented also supports those excellent dollar results: So far this year, 223 domestic female-founded firms have exited, a 12 percent increase over last year.

The numbers are increasing and money is being exchanged in the right hands. But all in all, is it at an acceptable pace?

This story was originally covered by Tech Crunch

Female founders are making a buzzing, venture-backed comeback

Founder Highlight The PISLA Beat

“Founder Highlight: Ade Adesanya”

Ade Adesanya. A name that now ripples through the tech community. Co-Founder of Moving Analytics. Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. Adesanya came to America for college to study electrical engineering at the University of Houston. He then earned a master’s degree in engineering management and a diploma in finance from the University of Southern California. and quickly become enamored with Silicon Valley. Before launching Moving Analytics, Ade assisted researchers at the University of Southern California to commercialize their research into startup ventures.

Now his own venture, Moving Analytics is a virtual cardio rehab app that tracks the progress and recovery rates of victims of cardiac-based episodes. Speaking to Forbes Adesanya says, “Nigeria, where I am from and the rest of the world does zero cardiac rehabs”. This app is easy to access for recovering victims everywhere. In a study done by the CDC, heart disease is the number one leading cause of death for women, men, and people of color in the United States. This can be traced to poor dietary practices, exercise, and genetic predisposition. Most of the listed reasons can be solved with Moving Analytics.

Not only is this app a literally life-saver, but a financial one too. Ade found though that 30-40% of medical costs may be avoided if healthcare providers could persuade individuals to live better lifestyles. It would also reduce the 40-50 percent of persons who have another heart attack within a year of the first. Adesanya has now been listed by Forbes as a top 30 under 30 in healthcare by Forbes magazine. Adesanya has also been in UTC’s “Powerhuddles Lunch and Lesson”. More recently Adesanya has been listed in Pitchboook’s “Black Founders and Investors to Watch” list.

The PISLA Beat

“So it’s time to go back into the office.”

2020 was an insane year for most to say the least. Life as we knew it was changing into a new unsettling climate that we still are recovering from. Businesses and other Organizations moved their operations from crowded tight office spaces to the reclusive corner spaces of their homes. It hasn’t been easy for anyone in business. The shutdown was unfortunately a sink or swim affair. But now that there is some semblance to a normal reality (or as much as it could be); leaders are now pondering the question, “Should we go back to the office?”

The overblown image on screens or 5- minute water breaks. There are several pros and cons to making such a change. One of the pros is the energy that you and your workers will produce interacting with each other and building a community of camaraderie. A negative aspect of moving back is the risk you run with COVID-19 not being eradicated and the constant looming fear of the safety of your workers. Have safety protocols in place so that if/when you go back into the office your staff will feel at ease and protected. You could go with a hybrid model where you have essential workers to your business come into the office and others stay at home. This is the model that institutes of higher learning are using which reduces the risk of liability if anything goes wrong.

A side benefit of this is that you can gradually and patiently start bringing people back into the workspace a few at a time. Most importantly keep the option to return just that, an option. Giving people the option to choose what is best for them will not only make them happier with whatever decision they make, but it will also create trust as you have given the initiative to your employees.

The PISLA Beat

“Making the industry of Video Games more inclusive”.

Video Games have been an integral part of the American pop culture landscape. It’s like Baseball and Apple Pie. It has now turned into a monetary endeavor sought after by large entertainment companies, vendors, etc. The Video Game industry has now crossed the $180 Billion mark as of 2020. Earning more than the film industry and North American Sports combined. This is due to sponsorship, e-sports, and streamers. But like Social Media Influencers there is an obvious lack of diversity in this ever-growing community. In research done by The International Developers Association only 2% of Game Developers are black. A number that will surely put fear in the hearts of any aspiring Game Developer. But now Black Creators in the industry are looking to change that.

On the development end of things; we have Chandana “Eka” Ekanayake. Ekanayake is a part of a movement meant to make the gaming community more inclusive. Ekanayake took initiative and started his own studio, Outerloop with his partner in 2017. Outerloop specializes in virtual reality experiences. Starting his own studio Ekanayake was working at Uber Entertainment. While there he saw the drive investors had for VR. So Ekanayake made the leap and pitched his ideas and released his first game, “Falcon Age” in 2019. During Ekanayake’s tenure, he never would emphasize his cultural history, “I was always worried about losing my job.”

But it’s not just about the development. Streaming games is a whole sub-industry within the gaming industry. But the similarities that the two share are a love of games and a heinous lack of inclusion. A wall that will be knocked down. 3BlackDot, the studio behind the acclaimed “Queen and Slim” is producing a new series called, “Gaming While Black”. A digital series designed to show representation in the gaming industry. CEO of 3BlackDot, Reginald Cash said, if you ask a fan who the top gaming creators were, they would maybe say Ninja or PewDiePie. Or if you asked them who some of the top game designers, engineers, or even characters were, there likely wouldn’t be much diversity on that list. Clearly, there is something missing, from just a representation standpoint, if half the adult population on earth says, ‘I’m a gamer,’ and you can’t think of any diversity, that’s a pretty massive problem”.

It’s apparent that the gaming community in the past has not been too welcoming towards creators of color, but with these creators of color. That will soon be a thing of the past.

Founder Highlight The PISLA Beat

Steps To Being A Successful Black Founder.

We as African-Americans come from very different backgrounds both culturally and economically. As a result, we often have a variety of worldviews. We frequently encounter a variety of large-scale challenges and handle them using a variety of approaches. Pattern matching is the term you are looking for. You’re probably not used to hearing about market prospects you don’t understand if you don’t meet many Black founders.

In the wake of COVID-19 getting your business back together may seem like a hardship, one that you may or may not be able to overcome. For generations, those founders who didn’t even have to put up with the cruelty of COVID-19 still had a difficult time having to navigate the hardship that is being a founder of a new startup. Looking to the future I have taken it upon myself to come up with ways to overcome the challenges that might await new generations of founders.

Believe it or not
If you believe in a Black founding team’s abilities but you don’t understand the unique market opportunity they’re presenting, recognize that you should go and learn about that market and verify whether or not you’re missing out on returns for investors. Recognize that even when our companies focus on a more common market opportunity, we will still likely have different solutions. The reality is, most of the large competitors don’t have any people of color in leadership or on their product teams. There is a reason they don’t see the opportunities we see, and they won’t until we’ve made it relevant.

It’s all about the money
Black founders typically do not have access to the same caliber of VCs that most companies do. So more often than not we have to innovate how we receive our funds. Crowdfunding is one of the most innovative ways you can do this. It’s even gaining traction as the Issac Hayes III founded company, Fanbase has proven.

Speak the language.

Speak the vehicular! We each have our own set of cultural norms. “Blacks and whites read verbal and non-verbal cues differently, resulting in frequent errors in communication,” says Thomas Kochman, author of Black and White Styles in Conflict. The founder, however, bears the entire responsibility for identifying and bridging these communication gaps. Say what you mean and mean what you say. More often than not that will take you where you want to be.

Following these examples right here there should be nothing that you can’t achieve making your life as a fonder easier to navigate while avoiding all the Indiana Jones-inspired pitfalls.

This story was originally covered by the Harvard Business Review.

Remember to subscribe to Urban Tech Connect Newsletter and get access to information, education, and people who can help accelerate your journey.

The PISLA Beat

Get your life in order. Digital Life Insurance company, Ladder raises $100 Million.

In a new round of funding, the company, Ladder, the digital life insurance company, accomplished a significant step in their company. Raising 100 Million Dollars for those aged 20 to 60, Ladder offers life insurance term coverage ranging from $100,000 to $8 million. Users can enroll using smartphones and can customize their coverage as their circumstances change. Depending on what they need, they can increase their coverage using the Ladder app.

For instance, if they have another child and require more life insurance, they can choose that option. If they pay off a mortgage or that child grows up, they can lower their life insurance and premiums. The company expects to provide $30 billion in coverage by the end of 2021. Along with that, the revenue has increased by more than 4x times since 2020. Ladder intends to use the new Thomvest Ventures and OMERS Growth Equity co-led capital to extend its engineering team, expand its codebase, and improve its digital interface with clients. It will also be focused on expansion and partnering with new companies.

Ladder’s clientele is younger, with an average age of 37, and the majority of them are first-time life insurance buyers. Nearly two-thirds of its customers use their phones to submit their life insurance applications. The organization has had rapid growth in the last year. CEO Jamie Hale believes that part of that is due to a shift in mindset during the pandemic, “It made them really think about their people. These people are important to me, I want to make sure these people are taken care of.”

Ladder is an excellent application for those looking towards the future and making safe and sound decisions—it has never been easier.

Remember to subscribe to Urban Tech Connect Newsletter and get access to information, education, and people who can help accelerate your journey.

The PISLA Beat

“It’s time for The Black Bitcoin Billionaire Group to get Kraken”.

If you were to tell people in 2015 that bitcoin would be where it is today they would probably laugh you out of the room. Now those same people are shaking their pockets for loss change in the wake of COVID-19. It seems as if everybody and their mother bought into the bitcoin hysteria of 2020 surcharging its value.
 Digital currency is official the commodity of the future. Now in October of 2021. The Bitcoin Exchange, Kraken has pledged $150,000 or for those familiar with Bitcoin, 4.5 BTC.  This comes in the form of a grant to the Black Bitcoin Billionaire, an organization centered on diversification and un-wavering inclusivity in the Bitcoin space. 

“In 2020, approximately 13% of black households in the U.S. were unbanked. This is a massive failing of our legacy financial system, for which there is no public alternative of last resort,” Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken said. Following up on that Powell is also quoted as saying, Being unbanked is costly and it disproportionately affects our poor and minority communities. Bitcoin offers a reprieve to the estimated 1.7 billion unbanked adults in the world – a new financial system by the people, for the people. The only barrier now is education”.  

The Black Bitcoin Billionaire will be able to use the gift however they see fit. One of the things that the money will be used for is to start a succession of Tech Demo Days.  These Demo Days would be aimed to provide pitch experience to Black startup companies in the country.  The first of these demo days will take place on October 20, 2021. 
This is a great opportunity for exposure and awareness in a field that is predominantly owned by white males. In a report done by Cheddar.com, 74% of Bitcoin owners are male and 71% of them are White males. Having the ability to change the narrative and diversifying those numbers is no easy task, but we certainly are moving in the right direction. 

The PISLA Beat

Ruined to Recovered: Tulsa the new black mecca?

It was only recently that the Tulsa race massacre was put into the public consciousness. The magnanimous cruelty and uninhibited savagery finally brought into daylight. In 1921 a mob of white terrorists brutalized, beat, and destroyed the neighborhood famously penned by educator and leader, Booker T.Washington as “The Black Wall Street” in 1913. This capital of black entrepreneurship and business had been turned to rubble in a matter of a few hours. 176 people were killed and numerous amounts of the un-tapped potential lost.

Fast forward more than 100 years later and the town is going through a resurgence like no other. Numerous amounts of black businesses and tech leaders have gotten together and have decided to dedicate themselves to the revival of this once beacon to the black economy. This renaissance includes billionaire, George Kaiser and John Rogers who is the founder of Arial Investments which is America’s largest Black-owned asset management firm.

This new venture is called, “Build in Tulsa”. Launched in 2020 the initiative is meant to be a direct line for black businesses to thrive and prosper in this new tech lead world. Tulsa is also engaged in the development of young professionals as well. “The Tulsa Remote Program” offers remote opportunities and if applicable $10,000 in grants if you need to relocate.

There have been 209 black businesses that have benefited from the resurgence in the Tulsa community. This is a long time coming for the town once plagued by nothing but pain and suffering.

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Pill Club is Revolutionizing Women’s Health with $41.9 Million in Funding

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 19 million women living in the United States are in need of publicly funded contraception and live in contraceptive deserts. Of the 19 million, about 1.3 million of these women live in a county without a single health center offering the full range of contraceptive methods- making it even more difficult to gain access to the birth control they need.

To assuage this, The Pill Club was launched in 2016. This online resource offers a prescribing service, medication fulfillment, and free delivery of birth control care packages, according to their website. Today, the company announced that they have raised $41.9 million in Series B funding.

“The idea of creating more choice and flexibility across healthcare is long overdue,” CEO of the Pill Club and former Uber exec, Liz Meyerdirk told TechCrunch.

For our regular curation of must-read tech and innovation articles, the Plug In South LA Beat, we take a look at how The Pill Club plans to use this funding to make women’s healthcare accessible to all:

The Pill Club takes on primary care with $41.9M in fresh funding

Photo Credit: The Pill Club