Eleven ventures from across the country will participate in the Black Founders Exchange, an immersive program for founders of color kicking off this month in Durham, NC. The program, launched in 2016 by Google for Startups and American Underground, a Durham, NC-based startup hub, is designed to help participants overcome barriers commonly faced by founders of color, such as racial bias in fundraising and operating in “entrepreneurial deserts.”
The startups include Courtroom 5, a Durham company that helps individuals handle legal issues such as foreclosures and debt cases; Vuga, a Toronto company bringing low cost internet to Africa; New York-based Hued, which connects patients of color with medical professionals of color; and Freeman Capital, a wealth management planning and financial education provider based in Charlotte, NC.
Founders of color often lack access to relevant information, business connections, and a community of other Black founders who have navigated similar experiences, Tarryn Henry, America Underground’s startup programs manager told ImpactAlpha. The program offers specific content to address those obstacles, along with peer networking and connections.
“Economic opportunity increases when there is a diverse and inclusive startup ecosystem,” said Molly Demarest, general manager of American Underground, which is one of 11 Google for Startup Tech Hubs in North America. More than half of the companies in its network are led by women and/or people of color. Demarest’s goal is for at least half of the startups receive funding within nine months of the program’s concluding Demo Day. Since 2016, 19 companies that have participated in the Black Founders Exchange have gone on to raise more than $10.8 million in funding.