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Three African American Tech Disruptors


We all know about the lack of diversity in the tech industry, but you may not be aware of some of the innovative black-owned businesses that are forging their own paths despite the obstacles. In part one our two part series, BCT Partners highlights three up-and- coming-companies that have developed new solutions for some old problems. Part two will explore how Atlanta may be on the verge of becoming the new Silicon Valley for African Americans.

InnclusiveRohan Gilkes started his company because of a bad experience with AirBNB. If you think that overt racism doesn’t happen much anymore, think again. Rohan tried to book a cabin in Idaho only to be denied a reservation after the cabin showed as available. He then tried to book another date and the same thing happened. Then he had a white friend try and his reservation was immediately accepted. So, Rohan decided to do something about it. He started a company with a mission to make sure that no one else ever faces this type of discrimination when booking a vacation rental or looking for a place to live. Rohan Gilkes is a serial entrepreneur and was also the founder of Lawn Tribe, Back Pack, Wet Shave Club, Maids in Black, and Launch27. He has been featured in the Washington Post, Mixergy, The Startup Foundation, and other business media, and he is also a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council.

EnrichHER was started by Roshawnna Novellus. With a Ph.D in Systems Engineering and a minor in Finance as well as a Master of Science degree in Information Technology, Novellus has an educational pedigree that would be intimidating to most of Silicon Valley. She has been named as one of the Top 25 Disruptors and Innovators in Tech, a Halcyon Fellow for Social Impact as well as one of the 27 Black Founders and Investors to watch in 2019 by PItchBook. She started her technology platform as a way to help women founders get the capital they needed in an affordable and non-dilutive way. EnrichHer is democratizing access to capital by providing members with the ability to take their ideas and connect directly with funders who can help them grow. And it allows funders to participate whether they have $100 or $100,000 to invest. In addition, her company supports its' members with invitations to private networking opportunities, business development resources, and access to coaching.

CapWaySheena Allen was raised in rural Mississippi in an area where many residents were lacking in financial literacy and the ability to build a solid financial footing. Allen decided to change that with her company while still a student at the University of Southern Mississippi.

CapWay is focused on helping Millennials and Gen Z to become financially stable through access to mobile banking and educational content. Allen wants to create an “untraditional” financial ecosystem that doesn’t rely on exorbitant fees and unintelligible legalese and helps those people that are left out by most financial companies – the unbanked, the under-banked and the working poor. “Lower-income people, immigrants, and young people without credit histories are some of the nearly 32.6 million American households the FDIC considers "unbanked" or "underbanked," living without adequate access to traditional financial services.” Allen was recently named to the Inc. 30 under 30 list and she is just getting started. Undaunted by building a business within the complexity of the financial ecosystem, Allen says: "We can be profitable, have a social impact, and have a great company.”

So while all of these founders are African-American, the real commonality among them is their desire to change society through technology so that it becomes more inclusive and equitable. And, they represent only three of the many black Americans that are disrupting the tech industry as we know it, with many of them located in Atlanta. These entrepreneurs found that Silicon Valley wasn’t the best place for them to be taken seriously, find capital, and build their business. So, they created their own hotbed of innovation in Atlanta where access to graduates from top schools like Georgia Tech, Morehouse and Spelman is just one of the reasons why the city has attracted some of the best minds in tech. BCT Partner’s next blog will explore some of the other factors as to why ‘Hotlanta” may soon be known as ‘Techlanta’.

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