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.
For years, venture capitalists have faced mounting pressure to diversify their portfolio companies and investment teams with Black people, other people of color and women. In 2020, the conversation reemerged as protests took place across the globe in response to police killings of several Black Americans. Forced to reckon with its own staggering lack of diversity, players across VC vowed to work toward reducing racial disparities and inequalities in the industry.
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 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.
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.
Black founders in healthtech
These luminaries are part of the fastest-growing vertical within healthcare—health technology AKA healthtech. Startups in in this space can span both enterprise and retail, the former of which PitchBook analysts predict will receive a record level of VC investment in 2022. For more on these topics, download your copy of the Q3 2021 Emerging Tech Research: Retail Healthcare report or the Q3 2021 Emerging Tech Research: Enterprise Healthtech report.
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.
Black founders in foodtech
From insect-based foods and fermented fungi alt-proteins to soil science and food waste diversion, the founders highlighted in this section are developing products and services that impact what we cultivate, harvest, buy and eat. For additional insights on topics related to foodtech, check out PitchBook’s Q3 2021 Emerging Tech Research: Foodtech report covering emerging opportunities in foodtech and select company highlights.
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