Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2022 Beta


BrainTrust Founders launch Founders Studio

BrainTrust is an organization seeking to fulfill the needs of Black Beauty and Wellness Founders. Founded by Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, The Studio is an innovative community-based digital platform that is also a marketing agency focused on brand development, social and experiential media, and creating brands from businesses at all stages of their journey.

“As you know as a Black Female Founder, I have survived the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and have first-hand experience being left out or not extended certain opportunities due to my race and gender. I have also found that whether I am building a brand with Halle Berry (actress), Super Dope Q (influencer), or Micha Brown (celebrity hairstylist), we are all in need of support, resources, knowledge, and capital said”, Bracken-Ferguson.

Bracken-Ferguson is an active participant in the UTC community and has participated in recent UTC-sponsored events. Using her knowledge in all aspects of the beauty and wellness sector, as well as her many years of brand building, she has dedicated herself to using her unique viewpoint inside the industry as a mentor and advisor to many Founders.

On October 19th, The Founders Studio was officially launched as an offspring of BrainTrust. A tech-led platform meant to aid the growing community in securing funding when they have too little. JPMorgan Chase and Shopify are two among many sponsors that have invested $100 million in the Founders Studio initiative to address any issues that these businesses will face in an ever-changing market.

The Founders Studio has launched with 25 beauty and wellness founders, including Tai Beauchamp of Brown Girl Jane, Kim Lewis of “CurlMix”, Lauren Napier of “Lauren Napier Beauty”, and Lucien Aymerick Eloundou of “Charbon Plus”, with the intention of launching more during the New Year.

In a press release The BrainTrust Founders studio says, “As part of this ecosystem, the tech-enabled platform will match participating Founders with supporting resources and relevant partners. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and business automation tools [that] will enable Founders to harness the value of dozens of ecosystem partners and advisors to create high-value branded product companies.

Startups Uncategorized

Tech Companies, let’s grow!

2020 saw new challenges that many of us have never faced before. Part of these new challenges offered new solutions that required innovation and outside-the-box thinking. At the forefront of this is the tech industry.

Thanks to a report done by Crunchbase. A record $137 Billion was invested into startups in the first half of 2021 alone. Sadly amongst that number, only 1.2% went into startups led by black entrepreneurs. This report was put together by Crunchbase over 1,393 contributors. The contributors are made up of Crunchbase Venture Program Partners, tech-journalists, Crunchbase’s data management team, and venture capitalists themselves. The Crunchbase researchers also added that Black entrepreneurs in the U.S raised nearly $1.8 Billion in the first half of 2021.

Within the decade tech companies have been scouting the city of Atlanta for its brightest and best. Atlanta has seen numerous startups within the last few years. Georgia also takes the cake with the highest record of funding with 8.4% of the venture funding going to founders of color. Georgia has become a hotspot for the industry with Silicon Valley and other high-profile companies now recruiting out of Atlanta.

Crunchbase’s senior data journalist provided ZDNET with some insight on this report,

“There is an increased interest and awareness around issues of racial justice in the venture world. Some positive signs are that more Black-led firms and funds have invested in Black and other underrepresented startup founders, more Black investors at traditional firms are being promoted to partner level, and a greater percentage of VC funding to Black startup founders is going into early-stage rounds, several of which have been quite large.”

Despite these disadvantages, Black startups have still been providing crazy numbers in funding. 1.2% is an increase from last year as black startups in 2020 raised approximately $1 Billion. The field for diverse and black-run tech companies is growing with expediency. The next step is getting these companies the materials to help support them.

The PISLA Beat Uncategorized

The Plug In South LA Beat: Black Execs Invest in Broadband Access

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed broadband deserts throughout America. Now, two Black executives are working to increase access in rural and urban areas by launching an infrastructure impact fund.

Black Enterprise reported that Morris Clark and Otis Ellis, both former executives at S&P 500 companies, started the new Epiphany Community Impact Fund.

“We are focusing on the full spectrum of infrastructure shortcomings that have resulted from a systemic lack of investment in underserved communities,” Clark and Ellis told the news outlet. “We are currently considering opportunities in broadband access and reliability, as well as transportation and education infrastructure.”

This edition of the Plug In South LA Beat, our curation of must-read innovation and tech news, delves into the state of high-speed internet access in America and how targeted investment could make a difference:

Black Execs Launch Infrastructure Impact Fund to Erase Broadband Deserts in Rural and Urban Areas

The PISLA Beat Uncategorized

The Plug In South LA Beat: $100 Million Fund for Founders of Color

As calls for change grow louder, we’re seeing new sources of funding open up that could help tip the scales. Today’s Plug In South LA Beat, our curation of must-read innovation and technology news, takes a closer look at SoftBank’s recent announcement.

SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure sent a letter to employees saying that the firm will create a $100 million fund that only invests in companies led by “founders and entrepreneurs of color,” Axios markets editor Dion Rabouin reported.

“The Opportunity Growth Fund is one of the first to put significant capital behind companies’ statements of empathy and outrage in response to protests over systemic racism in the U.S. typified by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans by police,” Rabouin wrote.

Find out where the fund stands, who’s involved, and why this capital matters:

SoftBank to Launch $100M Fund Backing Companies Led by People of Color

SoftBank Reveals $100M Fund To Invest In ‘Founders Of Color’


Plug In South LA to join the Spark Cohort

Plug IN South LA is excited to be chosen as a participant for the Spark: Strengthening the Inclusive Entrepreneurship Ecosystem program bringing together tech ecosystem builders from around the country. This program is sponsored and supported by the Case Foundation and Kaufman Foundations. #PlugInSouthLA

Participating organizations include:

To learn more about inclusive entrepreneurship and how it works check out The Case Foundation’s website at https://casefoundation.org/program/inclusive-entrepreneurship/


Two Latin Micro Mobility Firms merge to create “Grow Mobility”.


According to Forbes, two Latin American transportation services have merged to expand into global markets beyond Latin America.

Brazilian dockless bike and scooter service Yellow, and Mexican electric scooter startup Grin, have merged to become Grow Mobility. Grow Mobility currently operates 135,000 vehicles across six Latin countries. The combined company is looking to start operations in the US and Southern Europe in 2019, and is applying for permits to start this process.

The group expects to more than double its functions and expand its partnership with on-demand grocery delivery firm Rappi.

The current priority is to use it to explore the opportunities with their digital payment platform.

“…such as buying items at commercial partners who will then become bike and scooter stations. It may be that we need to offer the services of a fintech first without labeling ourselves as such.” Says Grow’s Brazil co-director Marcelo Loureiro.

Grow has secured funding worth $150 million in less than a month, and the group will retain the 1,100-person workforce will a move to new offices in Sao Paulo.

“As we expand, our responsibility in terms of education becomes even more key, but that’s a process where we will see increased maturity over time. Disruption always comes with a bit of noise, but changing the status quo is our mission and we are here to stay.”




How Our Lunch and Learn Series Empowers Founders


Plug-In Lunch and Learns are designed to help cultivate the next generation of founders and entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. Our meetings and workshops take place in South LA and around Los Angeles at leading VC firms, corporations, entertainment, and digital media studios . If you’d like to be a featured presenter at one our programs, please get in touch by providing the information below. We’ll review and get in touch if we think we can help.

Sign up here to present and or be featured in a future session!

Here’s what folks are saying: 

I’ve enjoyed participating in Derek Smith’s lunch and learn series via Plug in South LA.  For me, it’s a great opportunity to contribute to the growing entrepreneurial fabric of Los Angeles and to connect with emerging entrepreneurs and underrepresented founders in an open dialogue about their businesses.  I learned a lot in my first lunch and learn experience and look forward to participating again in the future.

Cody Simms, Techstars

The lunch and learn series gives entrepreneurs a chance to workshop their vision with a hand-picked group of insightful founders and venture professionals without the added pressure of a formal pitch. Its particularly helpful for minority founders because we often lack the organic networks in tech that provide opportunities for open discussion and informal feedback. In an arena where access is the prime mover, there is tremendous value in the rare opportunity to just be heard.

Jibril Jackson, Founder of HYVE

I had a wonderful time being open and vulnerable in a safe place during the Lunch & Learn Series.  I was nervous at first because It’s not always easy pitching your business to experts, but the program made it safe and conducive. Everyone with a great idea and business plan would be lucky to be apart of this opportunity!

Jeff Boodie, Founder of JobSnap

I love that the lunch and learn provides founders the opportunity to deep dive into challenges with other well established entrepreneurs and investors. The feedback and recommendations I was given was an invaluable source of information that I could not have gotten from anywhere else. Apart from my learnings I was also very empowered as a black female founder; this experience made me apart of a larger community, one that changed my lack of resources and has exceleratored my ability to build key relationships with VC’s and founders alike.


Brittney Carter, Founder of QUE-UE

As a VC I typically don’t have the time to give every founder I speak with as much in-depth, actionable feedback as I would like, but the Lunch & Learn series solves this through a dedicated working session. It creates an intimate environment where early stage investors and successful entrepreneurs can provide guidance to the founders who need it most. Many of the founders have made progress by turning their ideas into real products, but the Lunch and Learn series is designed to strategically take that business to the next level.

Austin Clements, TenOneTen Ventures




Hundreds of Start-Ups Tell Investors: Diversify, or Keep Your Money

SAN FRANCISCO — When Trevor McFedries set out last year to raise money for Brud, his robotics and artificial intelligence start-up, he found himself in many meetings with “a ton of white guy” venture capitalists.

So Mr. McFedries, who is black, and his co-founder, Sara DeCou, a Latino woman, added a condition for investors: The pair would accept money only from venture firms that had a woman or a person of color in a position to write them a check.

“It was counterintuitive for us to raise money from a bunch of white guys who want to extract all the value from the world,” said Mr. McFedries, who eventually collected several million dollars from firms that met the condition. “We’re interested in reshaping the way that tech looks.”

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© 2018 The New Your Times by PUI-WING TAM


NBA all-star Baron Davis wants to prep athletes and entertainers for the startup game

Last Saturday afternoon in his penthouse suite at the London West Hollywood, two-time NBA all-star Baron Davis was providing assists in a different kind of court.

In front of a gathering of entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, designers, musicians and members of the Los Angeles investment community and business elite, Davis was putting on a show designed to encourage, educate and inspire collaboration among the attendees.

The Business Inside the Game (BIG) Power Summit, which took place during the NBA All-Star Game weekend extravaganza in Los Angeles, saw Ice Cube and Lyft co-founder John Zimmer talk about disruption with Upfront Ventures board partner and MoviePass co-founder Hamet Watt; basketball stars Chris Paul and David Robinson and mega-producer Chris Budnick (the producer of “The Hangover” and “Old School”) shared insights on making an impact beyond sports and entertainment; and a panel of rising startup stars discussed how new technology trends are changing things for sports, entertainment and culture at large.

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