The Plug is proud to release our latest data set focused on Black women in tech, Tech Woman Tuesday’s. Tech Woman Tuesday’s is a celebration of Black women-led tech businesses. Our first set includes five entrepreneurs ranging from venture funds, AI focused businesses, to beauty, to Saas companies. For more on what businesses are featured, please check out our first data set available here. If you know of a business that should be considered for inclusion in this database please email interim managing editor, King Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kathryn Finney – former CEO, digitalundivided, 2012-2020
Current CEO and Managing partner, Genius Guild
Founder, The Doonie Fund
Host, Build The Damn Thing Podcast
Kathryn Finney is an entrepreneur, investor, author, CEO, and managing partner of Genius Guild. In April 2020, Finney started The Doonie Fund to provide micro-investments to help black women entrepreneurs continue to build their businesses in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and uprisings during the summer of 2020, Finney launched the Genius Guild. Launched in June 2020, the business creation platform uses the venture studio model (Lab, Venture Fund, & Community) to invest in Black entrepreneurs building scalable businesses that serve black communities. Genius Guild has invested in startups such as Health in Her Hue and The Labz. Before launching Genius Guild, Finney helped launch and was CEO of digitalundivided.
The digitalundivided is a social startup whose mission is to “use innovation to create system change by catalyzing economic growth for Black and Latinx communities through women entrepreneurs.” During her time with the digitalundivided, Finney helped launch the BIG innovation center in Atlanta and released her groundbreaking research called ProjectDiane in 2016. Named for Civil Rights icon Diane Nash, ProjectDiane explored the state of Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs. The report was updated in 2018 and again in 2021. Appointed by the Obama Administration in 2017, she joined the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). Finney is also known for her financial lifestyle blog, The Budget Fashionista.
Though it started as a hobby in 2004, The Budget Fashionista turned into a media company that propelled Finney to many firsts. She was the first blogger to receive a major book deal (How to be a Budget Fashionista), appear on The Today Show as a regular fashion contributor, and be credentialed at New York Fashion Week. Finney sold the company after becoming Editor-at-Large for Blogher and founding digitalundivided.
Finney’s research and solutions have not only helped to change the narratives about Black women in tech but also in entrepreneurship. She hosts the Build the Damn Thing podcast, which follows her journey to build her $10 million investment fund and business platform that invests in innovations that fight racism. Her second book, Build the Damn Thing: How to Start a Successful Business If You’re Not a Rich White Guy, will be released in June 2022. Finney became the first Black woman business author at Portfolio/Penguin Books upon the book’s publication.
TresseNoire and Black Women Talk Tech
Regina Gwynn is the co-founder & CEO of TresseNoire, a beauty tech platform that empowers women of color to celebrate their hair with a personalized beauty routine. Since its launch in 2014, TresseNoire has been featured in Black Enterprise, Martha Stewart Weddings, Madame Noire, Essence and ABC News. In addition, Gwynn was named to the 100 Most Powerful Women by Entrepreneur Magazine and Top Ten Women in Tech by Essence Magazine.
In 2017, Gwynn also co-created Black Women Talk Tech, the largest membership organization of Black women tech entrepreneurs and the only conference designed for that community. Its mission is to identify, support and encourage Black women to build the next billion-dollar business. Black Women Talk Tech hosts an annual Roadmap to Billions conference that connects women founders with investors and other tech founders. In addition, Black Women Talk Tech announced in January 2022 that they had acquired Black Female Founders, a Minneapolis-based community organization and pre-accelerator.
In 2019, Black Women Talk Tech spun off to launch Black Men Talk Tech. That same year, Gwynn and her co-founders, Lauren Washington (Fundr) and Esosa Ighodaro-Johnson (Nexstar) also launched the Talk Tech Association, a collective of Black women founders, tech professionals and investors with 3,000 members and chapters in multiple cities.
The Kellogg School of Management grad started her career in the Product Development Executive Training program at Macy’s Inc. and successfully launched several exclusive brands. Gwynn also worked as a management consultant for Monitor/Deloitte with clients in the beauty, media, and healthcare industries. In addition, she’s on the Cabinet for Black Entrepreneurship for the City of New York, a VC-in-Residence with Pipeline Angels.
Lauren Washington is truly a serial entrepreneur. The former special education teacher turned marketing coordinator co-founded four successful companies between 2014 and 2019. Her most recent venture is Fundr, a platform that automates and removes bias from seed investing utilizing portfolios from AI-vetted startups. Launched in 2019, Fundr used its own software to raise $1 million in capital for the company. As CEO, Washington has guided Fundr to grow with the help of partnerships like Plaid and Loon Creek.
Before Fundr, Washington co-founded Black Women Talk Tech, the largest conference for black women tech founders. Founded in 2017, the organization grew exponentially and spun off to create Black Men Talk Tech in 2019. In January, the company announced it had acquired Black Female Founders, a Minneapolis-based community organization and pre-accelerator.
Washington and her co-founders, Regina Gwynn (TresseNoire) and Esosa Ighodaro (Nexstar) launched the Talk Tech Association in 2019. Talk Tech Association is a collective of Black women founders, tech professionals, and investors with chapters in multiple cities and 3,000 members.
Washington’s entrepreneurial journey began in 2014 with co-founding of KeepUp, a social media management platform. That same year, the app won the 43North global business plan competition.
Washington also won the Advanced Imaging Society’s Distinguished Leadership Award. In addition, her work within each company has been featured in The New York Times, Elle, Inc and Black Enterprise. She is a graduate of the Kellogg School of Management, sits on the SXSW Pitch Advisory Board and is an advisor for New Profit, Rising Tide Ventures, and Don’t Get Mad Get Paid.
Esosa Ighodaro-Johnson is currently a program lead with RAVN. Prior to RAVN Ighodaro-Johnson co-created Black Women Talk Tech. Launched in 2017, Black Women Talk Tech is the largest membership organization of Black women tech entrepreneurs and the only conference designed for that community. Its mission is to identify, support, and encourage Black women to build the next billion-dollar business. Black Women Talk Tech hosts an annual Roadmap to Billions conference that connects women founders with investors and other tech founders. In addition, Black Women Talk Tech announced in January 2022 that it had acquired Black Female Founders, a Minneapolis-based community organization and pre-accelerator.
In 2019, Black Women Talk Tech eventually spun off to launch Black Men Talk Tech. That same year, Ighodaro-Johnson and her co-founders, Lauren Washington (Fundr) and Regina Gwynn (TresseNoire) also launched the Talk Tech Association, a collective of Black women founders, tech professionals, and investors with 3,000 members and chapters in multiple cities. Ighodaro-Johnson is also the co-founder of two influencer marketing startups. She helped launch CoSign Inc. in 2014 and Nexstar in 2019.
Ighodaro-Johnson is a graduate of the Fox School of Business at Temple University. Her successful startups and work with Black Women Talk Tech led her to be named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2019 and one of the 50 Inspirational Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017. She has also been featured in ELLE, Forbes, NBC, The Huffington Post, and USA Today.
Janice Omadeke is the founder of The Mentor Method, a SaaS platform that helps companies keep and develop their diverse talent using mentorship based on a patent-pending algorithm. Last year, Omadeke raised $1 million in venture capital for The Mentor Method, a feat she accomplished with backing from investors such as Tim Draper’s Draper Associates, Elsewhere Partners founder Chris Pacitti and Backstage Capital, founded by Arlan Hamilton.
The Mentor Method, launched in 2016, has grown significantly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and following the murder of George Floyd as companies push for more inclusion and develop mentoring programs to help attract diverse candidates. Under Omadeke’s leadership, the company saw a 785% revenue growth in 2020. Deloitte, the U.S. Department of Education and and Lincoln Financial Group are among the company’s notable clients.
In 2019, Omadeke co-founded the Austin Mosaic Awards to recognize companies with robust diversity and inclusion initiatives in Austin. She is a MassChallenge Texas Gold winner and was named Best Small Company CEO for Austin’s Best CEO Awards in 2021. She is also a board member for The Austin Forum on Technology & Society and Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership North Texas, HOBY Texas North.