Amid SXSW Cancellations, Opportunity Hub Pivots Festival Programming to Digital for HBCU Students

If we’ve learned anything from the cancellation of SXSW’s 35th annual music and technology festival last week, it’s that the future of large gatherings and business networking via conference over these next few months will be uncertain at best. Even more shocking was SXSW’s announcement this week that it would not be refunding any money spent on badges or sponsorship, causing an uproar among those who are out several thousands of dollars.

Black Founders Embrace Technology to Help Fill the Mental Health Care Gap

In a striking amount of time, COVID-19 has reduced New York City from the city that never sleeps to “the epicenter” of the coronavirus outbreak in America. When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo requested emergency aid, he didn’t just ask for funding and supplies — he also enlisted help from the mental health community.

Black Investors Hold Steady With Investing During COVID-19

Maintaining cash flow is vital yet tricky for startups working to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the New York Times, more than 50 startups have cut or furloughed an estimated 6,000 employees. Raising capital with a looming recession will prove to be a challenge, as evidenced by the last recession when overall U.S. venture funding dropped by 50% from Q1 in 2008 to Q1 2009.

Black Tech Conferences Offer a Lifeline in a Predominantly White Industry

We took a look at more than 15 annual Black tech conferences to understand if and how these niche conferences are shaping inclusive cultures within the tech industry. The atmosphere is reminiscent of a Black college homecoming. Graphic tees splattered with affirmations like “Black Billionaire in the Making” are in abundance, music thumps throughout the venue, and attendees shuffling between expo halls and panel discussions keep time on Apple watches.

25 Black Women Executives with Successful Exits & 25 Who May Be Next

The ascension to CEO is often fraught with turbulence, roadblocks, and opacity. For women and people of color, the already treacherous climb is steep. For executives with intersectional identities—being both Black and female—the path is not only less traveled: It’s grueling.

India.Arie Backs Meditation Streaming Device Company Core as Equity Partner

Twenty years ago, singer-songwriter India.Arie Simpson dropped the melodic tune ‘Brown Skin’ for her debut album Acoustic Soul. Known simply as India.Arie, her song topped Billboard charts and ignited an era of music that felt like a love song for Black women and Black people in the name of self care and self love.

The Plug’s Data-Driven News Examining Trends in Black Innovation now Available on The Bloomberg Terminal

Atlanta, GA—April 12, 2021—Black tech news and insights platform The Plug announced today its deep reporting and examination of the Black innovation economy is now available on the Bloomberg Terminal. The move is among the first Black business news publications available on the Bloomberg Terminal reaching its global network of business, government and economic decision-makers.

We Partnered up with Fast Company To Take a Look at Tech Company Commitments One Year Later

I’d stayed up 36 full hours scraping data across my Twitter timeline as protests erupted across the country following the murder of George Floyd last year. This wasn’t the first time the world had witnessed a Black man being murdered by a police officer, and unfortunately, it would prove to not be the last. But something strange happened when I opened the app on my phone and began seeing an outpouring of rage and support from tech CEOs (mostly white and male) as they denounced police brutality and proclaimed that Black lives do indeed matter.

Substantive or Spectacle? Black Entrepreneurs and Investors Weigh in on the Value of Pitch Competitions for Black Founders

Stand. Deliver. Take home a bag. Since ABC’s Shark Tank premiered in 2009, the proliferation of similarly-fashioned pitch competitions have made their way across the world’s university campuses, nonprofit business initiatives, and tech company public relations stunts, turning business-building into a form of edutainment.

How Protective Tech Company Windpact Made a Product Pivot That Paid Off

We spoke with Shawn Springs, a participant in Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab and CEO of Windpact. Founded in 2011, Windpact is a material data and technology company utilizing machine learning to minimize impact-related concussive head trauma across various industries including sports, automotive and the military.

As the Pandemic Rages On, Austin’s Tech Ecosystem Leaders Chart a Path Forward

Over the past several decades, Austin has made a name for itself among the country’s top tech hubs. Major companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook have offices or headquarters in the city, Dell was founded there in 1984, and tech talent has flocked to “Silicon Hills” because of its high paying jobs and affordability. The startup scene there has boomed as well.

PropTech Platform Sweeten Sees Growth where Katerra Failed

Funding disparities to Black women founders are impacting successful venture exits just look at the case of Sweeten and Katerra. Any company that’s raised hundreds of millions, I can tell you they have been given the luxury of making more mistakes than I have, Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO of Sweeten, a proptech company that matches vetted general contractors to construction projects, told The Plug.

For The Country’s Top Accelerators, New Inclusion Strategies Are On The Horizon

Google for Startups had already launched an accelerator specifically for Black founders when racial uprisings occurred throughout the country in June following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breanna Taylor, but Jewel Burks Solomon, head of Google for Startups, said the company wanted to do more.

Better Late than Never? Black Founders Look Skeptically at VC Firms Launching New Funds In Their Honor

It took a mere days for SoftBank to put together $100 million for Black founders following protests and demands for scrutiny from the Black tech community asking about how investors and the tech industry would support Black people within their companies and firms following a week of protests in response to the death of George Floyd.

Miami Black Tech Communities Gain Ground With Knight Foundation’s $1 Million Commitment

The last decade has marked a new feat for growth in Miami’s local startup scene. The imagery of beaches and strip clubs might dominate Rick Ross lyrics about the region, but tech is shaping up to be the new frontier. Last week the Knight Foundation, headquartered in the southeastern city, announced its $1 million grant infusion into eight distinct organizations supporting entrepreneurship, funding, and development throughout the local tech community.

The Tech Ecosystem Weighs In On Increasing Representation In Management Roles

Black workers are overrepresented in low-wage entry-level jobs and underrepresented in senior leadership and executive roles. In the U.S. private sector, Black workers make up 12 percent of the entry-level workforce and just 7 percent of the managerial workforce, according to McKinsey & Company.

3 Black Startups on Why They Failed

Barry Givens built a robot that was the life of the party. The Atlanta-based entrepreneur launched the artificially intelligent bartender Monsieur in 2013 at Techcrunch Disrupt Battlefield following a successful Kickstarter campaign which helped to bring the product to life.

Black Founders Report That SaaS Tool Purchases Rarely Matches Racial Equity Principles [SURVEY]

In an attempt to demonstrate solidarity with Black Americans facing the grief and gruesome outcomes of COVID-19 health disparities, rising protests against racial injustice and the killing of several Black people, as well as the devastating 41 percent loss of Black businesses, the media released a flurry of articles and listicles directing consumers to Black consumer brand products. 

Data: 80% Of VC-Backed Black Women Founders Are In These Industries

A new data analysis by The Plug found that eight out of ten Black women with venture backing are funded for software, enterprise tech, health tech, and other technically-focused ventures, while two in 10 are backed for retail, beauty, clothing, or social network companies.

The Rise of Community-First Neobanks and Fintechs

Software is indeed eating the world and every industry will have its own unique aftertaste. Just like E-commerce has fundamentally changed the face of retail for small and large brick and mortar stores, financial technologies (“fintech”) have matured to do the same for large financial institutions, Jamie Dimon head of America’s largest bank, JP Morgan, acknowledged as much in his recent shareholder letter.

Can New Patent Policies Reduce Barriers for Black Innovators?

Chante Knox didn’t set out to invent anything when she came up with a design for an absorbent menstrual cup she’d created after experimenting with medical supplies and personal care products. She was solving a personal challenge to find a solution that worked, and realized what she’d created could be shared with the 50% of the world’s population who will spend upwards of $50 billion globally on hygiene products by 2023.

Fintechs Bridging Underbanked Americans to Financial Service

A new wave of fintech platforms are bending the curve to make financial services available to Black and women-owned businesses by lowering costs and barriers to access. Black and Latinx communities are unequivocally overrepresented in the 63 million unbanked or underbanked Americans.

Black Indie Game Developers Gain A Stake In The Multi-billion Dollar Industry

Last summer, after nine years of testing prototypes, Khalil Abdullah and his brother Ahmed released Swimsanity!, the first multiplayer game created by the brothers. The game was made available on several game console platforms, including Nintendo Switch, PS4 and XBox One. Since the game was released, the company has over 900,000 downloads in sales from a self-funded budget.

PropTech Platform Sweeten Sees Growth where Katerra Failed

Funding disparities to Black women founders are impacting successful venture exits just look at the case of Sweeten and Katerra. Any company that’s raised hundreds of millions, I can tell you they have been given the luxury of making more mistakes than I have, Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO of Sweeten, a proptech company that matches vetted general contractors to construction projects, told The Plug.

Black-Owned and Operated Coworking Spaces Face an Uncertain Future as Many Shut Down Across the Country

Coworking spaces have been a mainstay over the last decade as many of us have transitioned from typical office jobs to more collaborative and flexible environments as consultants, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small startup teams. Now, Black coworking spaces across the country are facing a slow shutter as the pandemic continues to swing the business world into uncertainty.

From Epidemiologist To Investor: How Kathryn Finney’s Hobby Led Her to Empower Black and Women Entrepreneurs

Kathryn Finney’s Genius Guild has raised over $5 million, investing $75,000-$250,00 into startups with at least 50 percent Black ownership. In 2014, Finney became one of the first Black women to have a profitable startup exit. “We rethink how capital flows to Black communities and beyond at the Greenhouse Fund,” Finney told The Plug

A Starting Point for Investors Looking to Diversify Their Portfolios

In January, The Plug released a report analyzing 100 high-growth, Black-led technology companies. The Black Tech Effect report is a launchpad for investors who are not just looking for diverse founders but are looking for good investment opportunities. Although the report focuses on founders with venture backing, a common thread that unites them is the

What’s Rarer Than a Unicorn Company? A Black-Led Unicorn.

Unicorn companies, privately-held startups with a valuation of $1 billion or more, are celebrated for their rarity and unique status, and the systematic funding challenges Black founders face make these companies even more notable. In Black Tech Effect 2023, The Plug’s latest report analyzing 100 high-growth, Black-led technology companies, we highlighted three companies that have

Black Fintech Founders are Carving More Equitable Spaces in the Creator Economy

Black founders are bringing financial tech enablement to the forefront of the growing system sitting at the intersection of economics, social value, creativity and intellectual capital. The creative economy contributes about six percent to the global gross domestic product, with an estimated 200 million people globally making money by taking part in it. Three fintech

Using Tech Upskilling and Access to Employment as a Framework to Reduce Recidivism 

KEY INSIGHTS: Lack of job training and high rates of unemployment for formerly incarcerated people contribute to the high rate of recidivism in the U.S. Justice Through Code and The Last Mile provide free web development curriculums and support returned citizens with finding employment, and startups Uptrust and ConConnect provide reentry support for formerly incarcerated

Greenwood Receives $45MM Investment Led by Pendulum, Launches Membership Program for The Gathering Spot and More

KEY INSIGHTS: Greenwood’s valuation is now $325 million after the company closed a “Series A2” round. The latest funding comes just months after the company acquired The Gathering Spot and Valence. Greenwood is also launching a monthly membership program that gives customers access to all the companies in its portfolio. Greenwood, a fintech company geared

Mentorship Program in Philly Is Working to Make The Entrepreneurial Journey Less Lonely 

KEY INSIGHTS Mentor Connect is a mentorship program for entrepreneurs in Philadelphia powered by Ben Franklin Technology Partners and Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies.  The program has over 200 mentees and 130 mentors in its network. Stimulus founder Tiffanie Stanard joined the program in 2020 and received support from mentors on leadership development, scaling

Virtual Cardiac Rehab Startup Moving Analytics Raises $20MM Series A

KEY INSIGHTS: More than half of the Series A raise — $12 million — came from Black investors. The new $20 million infusion will go towards expanding efforts to get the rehab program reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid and partnering with HBCUs to help diversify the cardiac rehab workforce. It will also support expanding the

Silicon Valley VCs are chasing Africas startups but white founders are getting the funds

This could be the golden age of African tech startups. African tech startups are on a money spree, buying rivals or being bought themselves. Behind this rosy-looking boom of Africa’s startup scene lies a deeply uncomfortable reality. The majority of funders who are receiving VC cash are white founders who are coming from the West: California, London, Tokyo and other major cities, to set up a base in Africa.

A Debt-Free Morehouse Education: President David Thomas Explains His Vision for the Future

President Thomas sat down with The Plug for an in-depth interview on the current state of the school and its future ambitions. Morehouse has embarked on a $500 million capital campaign that aims to make the school need-blind. The Atlanta-based HBCU also has specific criteria for partnering with corporations: they must engage Morehouse in a way that creates capacity.

Inside How Two Tech Giants Are Tapping HBCUs for Talent

In early 2021, Microsoft announced it was growing its presence in Atlanta, leading to 1,500 new jobs. Google is set to take over 500,000 square feet in midtown Atlanta. Both companies have invested millions in scholarships and recruiting efforts in the city’s HBCUs.