Four Atlanta startups chosen for Google for Startups’ fifth annual Black Founders Exchange – The Atlanta Voice


In collaboration with Google for Startups, AU hosts Black Founders Exchange, a week-long immersion program in for Black founders in the startup community. (Photo: Google for Startups)

Google for Startups and American Underground announced today that the annual Google for Startups Black Founders Exchange will be held virtually this year. Scheduled for October 7–29, the program will feature alumni founders and focus on pressing issues identified in a recent survey among Black founders.

Nationally, 32 founders were selected to be a part of this year’s cohort, including four startups based in Atlanta:

  • ScrapSports: The most comprehensive sports scrapbooking platform.
  • Optimal Solar: Customized energy solutions for utility and commercial clients.
  • Film Connx: The job marketplace for film that connects studios to vetted local crew.
  • Knac: SAAS workforce innovation platform reinventing the job application and using training to refresh the candidate experience.

“Over the last four years, the Black Founders Exchange program has seen the alumni achieve inspiring growth and success,” Jewel Burks Solomon, Head of Google for Startups US, said. “Going into our 5th year, we knew that doubling down on our support for this group would give us the opportunity to bring the very best of Google’s people and resources to further advance these companies and demonstrate our firm commitment to the Black founder community. American Underground shares this same mission, and we’re proud to partner with them on our 5th annual Black Founders Exchange program.​”

A collaboration between Google for Startups and the American Underground (AU) startup hub, Black Founders Exchange (BFE) is an immersion program based in Durham, North Carolina for Black founders in the startup community. The program provides hands-on mentorship and support from industry experts and investors across the country.

As of 2020, the 32 companies that have completed the program have collectively raised more than $23 million. The roster of 2020’s participating companies is here.

 To ensure programming directly addresses the needs of participants, American Underground and Google for Startups conducted a survey to gauge the most pressing issues faced by Black founders. The impact of the COVID-19 figured prominently into survey responses — as did the ongoing obstacles of systemic inequities:

  • COVID-19 Impact: Black founders anticipate a 50 percent shortfall in revenue compared to initial 2020 forecasts as a result of the pandemic. However, 2020 adjusted revenue is still expected to grow 1,000 percent year-over-year. The Black Founders Exchange will address changing revenue expectations and strategies for growth.
  • Investment Obstacle: While BFE alumni have successfully raised over $20 million in funding, 75 percent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement: Investors in my field translate their purported interest in diversity into real efforts to find and support Black-led startups.” During this year’s program, BFE alumni will help founders master fundraising techniques and manage conversations with potential investors.
  • Business Mentoring: As Erica Plybeah from MedHaul explained, Black founders suffer from “lack of access to the appropriate knowledge at the right time. Many times, Black founders can’t progress because they simply don’t know the things they need to do. However, this knowledge is being regularly shared among founders in Silicon Valley and their networks beyond.” The Black Founders Exchange will address key business practices and knowledge, such as hiring a pricing consultant, how to immediately find low-cost and high-quality tech talent, and how to develop sales compensation packages.
  • Growth in Hiring: Respondents report an aggregate increase in hiring — from 61 full-time and 13 part-time staffers before attending BFE to 98 full-time and 34 part-time staffers this year — a 78 percent increase in jobs created. BFE programming will focus on how to build and maintain company culture as founders scale their business.

Respondents have founded companies ranging from financial technology to clean technology to consumer products in cities across the country, including Charlotte, Washington D.C., Austin, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Since 2016, Black Founders Exchange has welcomed founders from across North America. As part of the 5th anniversary, Google has provided invaluable resources — from leadership trainings and investor advisors, to office hours with top technical and business experts, like Allan Thygesen, Google’s President of Americas, and Jewel Burks Solomon, Head of Google for Startups US and co-founder of Partpic. 

Additional speakers at this year’s Black Founders Exchange will include Tony Wilkins (Google for Startups’ Investor in Residence), and Sarah Morgan, a longtime HR executive and Chief Excellence Officer of Triangle-based BuzzARooney LLC. See list of confirmed speakers here.

For more information about this year’s Black Founders Exchange, visit americanunderground.com/black-founders-exchange/.

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