Three Google-funded, Black tech executives and entrepreneurs joined Black business advocates and news publishers to discuss their ventures, the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and investment during a recent online symposium.
The roundtable was hosted by California Black Media and moderated by the non-profit’s executive director Regina Brown Wilson.
One of the featured speakers was Salena Pryor, president of the Black Small Business Association.
Pryor said she created the organization to help Black business owners get funding during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. She saw that many Black-owned companies were missing out on funding and government support, which inspired her idea to create the organization when she was laid off during the shutdown.
According to Pryor, Black businesses are struggling during Covid. She said about 41% of African American-owned businesses nationally have closed during the pandemic.
“What do we need to do to get these Black businesses back?” she said.
In her work with Black entrepreneurs, she often stresses that it’s important to keep accurate records and pay taxes. That becomes more important when applying for business loans.
“We’re trying to help folks become legitimate and get those funds,” she said. “You have to have your paperwork in order.”
Reyna Davis, government policy and public affairs at Google, was another featured speaker at the symposium.
She talked about Google’s Black Founders Fund, which was created to bring more equity to the venture funding world. One of the frequent complaints from Black tech entrepreneurs is trouble getting funding. According to a FastCompany article, “Black startup entrepreneurs only received 1.2% of the $147 billion invested in American startups during the first half of 2021.”
Davis said that in 2020 Google provided $100,000 grants to 76 startups. After that, Google decided to up the funding to $5 million.
“Selected founders receive up to $100,000 in capital along with Google Cloud credits, Google.org Ads grants, and hands-on support to help their startup grow,” according to Google.
The meeting featured CEOs of three companies that received funding from Google through the company’s Black Founders Fund.
One of them, AfriBlocks, is a Pasadena company that connects Africa-based IT workers with companies looking to procure their services in the U.S. The company works with IT specialists in seven African countries.
Many African nations have rapidly urbanizing societies, and the young people are tech-savvy and online. There is a largely untapped pool of tech workers.
“I wasn’t aware of how much talent there was in Africa,” said Roger Roman, co-founder of AfriBlocks. “There’s a lot of talent on the continent.”
Another recipient is Nedl, a social audio digital platform that allows people to host live group conversations or their own talk shows online.
Ayinde Alakoye, CEO of Nedl, said the company plans to roll out a new service that will allow people to monetize their words in the early part of next year.
Alakoye said Nedl was the only Black company that participated in another Google mentoring program for entrepreneurs: the company’s Startups Accelerator for Voice AI initiative.
A third company receiving funding from Google was The CLLCTIVE, a company that connects creators with new projects.
According to Kelsey Davis, co-founder of The CLLCTIVE, the company “is the fastest and easiest way to make a portfolio online.” The company also connects creative people with brands who want to utilize their services, she said.
Wilson congratulated the entrepreneurs and thanked them for participating in the discussion.
“You guys are the innovators, the unicorns,” she said. “The work you are doing and the moves you are making as young Black people is so important, so groundbreaking, so inspiring.”
Visit the Google Black Founders Fund website to learn more about the program and other recipients.