By: Alesia Bani
- Several Black-owned businesses based in Philadelphia received multi-million dollar investments in 2022.
- Support organizations like 1Philadelphia, Mom Your Business, TEACHERS& and First Founders Inc. are working to make the Philadelphia innovation ecosystem more equitable.
- Accelerator programs like Philly Startup Leaders are helping Black founders shape and scale their businesses.
For the past six months, The Plug has focused on bringing you stories on Black innovation in Philadelphia and the growing tech ecosystem in the region. The founders, companies and organizations that have shaped our headlines this year are the rule, not the exception.
This is not an exhaustive round-up as countless other trailblazers are positioning the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection as an up-and-coming leader in startup growth. These organizations, businesses and programs made major moves this year:
In the two years since launching, 1Philadelphia has made a considerable mark in Philadelphia through its mission to create an equitable tech and innovation ecosystem.
In November, the organization hosted a celebratory three-day festival where over $320,000 was awarded to founders of color and organizations working to increase diversity in tech. Over 75 partner organizations have pledged to be part of the tech equity mission, including Comcast, Bank of America and social impact organization Spring Point Partners.
1Philadelphia is an extension of the youth tech education nonprofit Coded by Kids, launched in 2014 by Sylvester Mobley. The two organizations have worked in tandem to fund several other initiatives in the city, including Philly Tech Gateway, a program launched this year to provide career exposure and software development training to 11th and 12th graders in West Philadelphia; and Mentor Connect, a mentorship program for entrepreneurs powered by Ben Franklin Technology Partners and Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies.
Mom Your Business, an organization connecting female founders to resources and opportunities, has also received funding from 1Philadelphia. Founded by Tanya T Morris, the organization has hosted a number of workshops, events and pitching competitions in the city.
The Black Innovation Alliance (BIA) hosted its first event in Philadelphia in September with support from Morris, Neferteri Strickland, the founder of TEACHERS&, a network of education entrepreneurs, and Garry Johnson III, the founder of First Founders Inc., an organization supporting early-stage entrepreneurs. The event was part of an initiative between BIA and Google to award $50,000 to Black-owned businesses.
Businesses on the come up
Several Philadelphia-based Black-owned businesses have had major wins in the last year shaking up their respective industries with innovative solutions.
The largest VC funding amount for a Black maternal health platform as identified by The Plug has gone to Cayaba Care. The startup raised a $12 million Series A round in May. Founded in 2020, Cayaba Care supports prenatal care through its “maternity navigators” who travel to patients’ homes or can be contacted virtually for care or advice. Cayaba Care also has a physical center in Philadelphia.
Tiffanie Stanard has made a name for herself in the supply chain space with her SaaS startup Stimulus. She announced the close of an oversubscribed $2.5 million seed round in August. In just two years since launching, Stimulus has grown to a team of eight and its revenue has multiplied four-fold to six figures.
Another large investment in the Philly ecosystem was secured by REC Philly, which describes itself as a part creative incubator and part creative agency recently. Rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs has put in $2 million to open another hub in Miami early next year.
Grovara, a B2B marketplace that connects natural and organic brands with international retailers, has increased its number of international buyers sixfold since launching in 2020 and has raised $5.8 million in funds to date. This year, Grovara opened offices in Mexico and Dubai, made its first sale to mainland China and plans to continue its operations in Latin America and the Middle East.
SnapRefund, a digital payment platform for businesses, is addressing what Co-Founder and CEO Cody Eddings refers to as “the dearth of financial literacy” in Black and brown communities. The startup has processed over $90,000 on its platform since launching in March and recently signed a new client, Altus Campus Inc, which is using SnapRefund to send payments to content creators on its education platform.
Other standout businesses are Black and Mobile, a delivery service platform launched in 2019 that exclusively promotes Black-owned restaurants. It has expanded to Baltimore, Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York. And Tribaja, a DEI-focused tech talent recruitment platform, has facilitated over 2,000 interviews with tech companies in the U.S. thus far with plans to expand to Latin America.
Tribaja founder Shannon Morales participated in a Visible Hands accelerator program where she received a $25,000 initial investment while Black and Mobile received $10,000 from the BIA initiative to support Black business owners who have leveraged technology to scale their businesses.
Initiatives and programs moving the needle
Several Black founders including Snap Refund have gotten their start with the help of Philly Startup Leaders (PSL), an organization supporting startup entrepreneurs in Philadelphia to scale their businesses. PSL has an annual “idea-stage” accelerator for new founders looking to pursue entrepreneurship as well as an MVP-stage accelerator for early-stage startups that have run since 2014.
This year, PSL also developed two industry-specific programs — a food innovation accelerator held in collaboration with Food Collective and a blockchain accelerator held in collaboration with DeFi Philly.
To support local Black businesses, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia launched the PAGE Hurdle Fund, part of an initiative to redirect spending among hospitals and higher education institutions in the region known as anchor institutions. This year $125,000 was awarded to five local Black and brown businesses to cover third-party costs such as insurance, equipment or certification. Through the grants, the businesses collectively secured over $1.8 million in new revenue through contract opportunities with anchor institutions.
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Alesia Bani is a writer and journalist from Philadelphia and The Plug’s Innovation Reporter covering the Black tech ecosystem in Philadelphia. She previously worked for the Institutional Diversity office at her alma mater Temple University and has a background in reporting on identity, DEI and local government.