Google’s Black Founders Fund boosts prospects for startups

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There’s still time to have a go with the Google for Startups’ offer that is inviting Black-led tech startups to apply for this year’s Black Founders Fund, worth a total of $4 million (approximately £3.3 million) across Europe and Africa, in an effort to help tackle the stark inequality in venture capital (VC) funding. 

This continued support for Black-led startups comes at a crucial time for the startup community. UK tech investment dropped 22 percent in 2022 as investors responded to a backdrop of rising interest rates and inflation. 

As overall investment falls, continued support for Black Founders is even more crucial, particularly given that prior to the launch of the Black Founders Fund in 2021, only 0.25 percent of VC funding went to Black-led startups.

The Black Founders Fund aims to address the imbalance in VC funding by providing equity-free funding, mentorship, and support to innovative Black-led tech startups across Europe and Africa who are harnessing technology to pioneer solutions to the world’s challenges – from the everyday to the epic. 

Startups have until the 26th March to apply for the fund and successful firms will receive up to $150,000 in non-dilutive cash awards, up to $100,000 in cloud credits in their first year, ad support, 1:1 mentoring by industry experts, and invaluable connections within Google’s network. 

Now in its third year, the Black Founders Fund has invested $3.95 million in 46 UK-based startups across a range of sectors including finance, fashion, healthcare, energy, education and fitness. Some startups from previous cohorts include:

· SOJO – a sustainable fashion tech startup centralising & modernising the clothing repair and tailoring industry. SOJO’’s founder Josephine Philips, created SOJO while at university after learning of the environmental impact of the fast fashion industry. She recently secured $2.4m in pre-seed funding at the age of 24.

· MOONHUB – a Virtual Reality training platform. Since taking part in the Black Founders Fund programme MOONHUB’s revenue has grown by 90 percent,  their team has quadrupled in size and two of their locally employed interns have secured permanent roles at the business. 

· Bloomful – delivers a digitally-enabled care pathway for better gynaecological health. Prior to building Bloomful, Dupe Burgess worked as both a medical doctor and management consultant where she turned data into insights to help healthcare companies.

· Compare Ethics: A sustainable product intelligence and compliance platform enabling companies to manage, verify, and confidently communicate responsible product claims at scale.

Across Europe, Google for Startups has worked with 70 Black-led startups over the past two years. These businesses have gone on to raise an additional $105 million in follow-on funding, increase their headcount by 36 percent and generate $3.5m monthly recurring revenue across the cohort. 

Matt Brittin, president of Google in Europe, the Middle East and Africa said: “I am delighted that the Black Founders Fund is back for a third year. Today less than a percent of venture capital funding globally goes to Black-led startups – showing why programs like this are so important.

“Black founders bring amazing ideas and build brilliant businesses – but are currently being denied the opportunities afforded to their White peers. I’m excited to see what innovative solutions the startups of the 2023 cohort will bring.”

Mariama Boumanjal, Google for Startups Black Founders Fund manager for Europe and Africa said: “The UK has long been a hub for incredible innovation, but research shows that Black-led startups have been disproportionately locked out of access to capital.

“Supporting Black-led startups is more important now than ever: enabling more brilliant Black founders could help to create more jobs, investment and innovation, helping the UK to achieve its ambition of becoming a tech and science superpower.

“That’s why we’re opening the fund for a third year to ensure underrepresented founders continue to get the investment and broader support needed to make their startups a success.”

Josephine Philips, CEO of sustainable fashion tech startup SOJO, selected for the 2022 fund, comments: “Being selected for the Black Founders Fund was a real turning point in the evolution of the business. The bespoke wrap-around support that we’ve received from Google for Startups has been incredible.

“They’ve connected us to a wide range of experts on key subjects for early stage startups such as from recruitment to legal advice, and the programme’s partnership with JCDecaux has helped to make our ambitions reality.

“It’s going to be so incredible to see SOJO’s first out-of-home advertising campaign later this year and it’s even more motivating to know that this is only the beginning. Last year, we raised $2.4 million in a pre-seed funding round and we’re confident that the Fund’s support will be key to us achieving even greater business growth in 2023.”

Dami Hastrup, CEO of MOONHUB, a virtual reality training platform, also from the 2022 cohort, adds: “Being part of the Black Founders Fund has been such an invaluable experience.

“The equity-free funding we’ve received has helped us to grow our team and employ young people from the local area that are passionate about our product and will play a pivotal role in the growth of our business throughout our company’s formative years.

“While the funding has been key, the support, mentorship and the community this programme creates has given us the guidance needed to take our startup to the next level.”

The Black Founders Fund is one of the ways that Google is working to help support historically underrepresented groups. In addition to contributing to economic opportunities with this fund and YouTube’s Black Voices Fund, the Black-owned feature on Search and Maps helps people to find and support Black-owned local businesses.

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