Black entrepreneurs pitch startups to investors at Google for Startups Black Founders Exchange event


Friday marked the seventh annual Google for Startups Black Founders Exchange event at American Underground in Durham.

Nationally, black entrepreneurs generally receive disproportionately less funding for startups.

With a microphone, PowerPoint presentations and big ideas, black entrepreneurs pitched their startups to a room of investors.

With businesses focused on healthcare, groceries and financial literacy, the 10 teams spent the morning practicing their pitches.

Rohan Brown founded Barley Inc. in 2019, helping alcohol brands collect data and build loyalty.

“I just hope to get some exposure, get our name out there,” Brown said.

Brown traveled to Durham from Miami for the event. He said networking was his favorite part of the program.

“Just being in a community that understands what you’re going through is definitely the number one thing,” Brown said.

April Johnson is co-founder and CEO of Happied, a company that takes care of team engagement and event planning tasks for businesses.

Johnson said knowing your story and keeping your passion alive is vital.

“Surround yourself with a community like Google for Black Founders Exchange startups, because that’s where you grow, that’s where you learn how to make things happen,” Johnson said.

Funding for black-owned startups in the United States is disproportionately low.

According to data from Crunchbase, 1.2% of venture capital dollars invested go to companies with a black founder, but 13% of the US population is black or African American.

Garry Lyon is the director of programs for American Underground, organizer of the exchange event.

“Black founders usually don’t get the resources they need when they’re starting out,” Lyon said. “So we’re like, ‘How can we level the playing field and really build community?'”

Friday’s pitch event is the culmination of a week of workshops and mentoring.

Startups have the opportunity to learn from former program participants.

“We want to make sure they have a network they can immerse themselves in when they leave Durham,” Lyon said.

The winning company in Friday’s pitch competition was Ziscuit, a grocery search engine.


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