African American Women Leading in Tech
Jasmine Stammes, Former User Experience Researcher
In honor of Black Heritage Month, we've listed African American women founders leading the way in tech innovation. From rethinking energy to debt forgiveness platforms, these women are crossing boundaries in every field.
“Close your eyes and name three people who have impacted the tech industry.”
In all likelihood, that list might be overwhelmingly white and male.
And you are not alone. Numerous lists online yielded the same results. In recent years, many articles have chronicled the dearth of diversity in tech. Studies have shown the ways in which venture capital firms have systematically underestimated and undervalued innovation coming particularly from women of color. In 2016 only 88 tech startups were led by African American women, in 2018 this number had climbed to a little over 200. Between 2009 and 2017, African American women raised $289MM in venture/angel funding. For perspective, this only represents .0006% of the $424.7B in total tech venture funding raised in that same time frame. In 2018, only 34 African American women had ever raised more than a million in venture funding.
When it comes to innovation, it is not unusual for financial value to be the biggest predictor of what is considered innovative. In fact, a now largely controversial list posted by Forbes of America’s most innovative leaders in the fall of 2019 featured 99 men and one woman. Ironically, what was considered innovative was, in fact, very traditional in its presentation. The criteria used for the list was “media reputation for innovation,” social connections, a track record for value creation, and investor expectations for value creation.
The majority of African American women-led startups raise $42,000 from largely informal networks. Criteria weighted on the side of ‘track record for value creation’ and ‘investor expectations for value creation’ devalues the immense contributions of African American women leading the charge on thoughtful and necessary tech. Had Forbes used criteria for innovation that recognized emergent leadership, novel problem-solving, or original thinking outside the circles of already well-known and well-established entrepreneurs we might have learned something new. Instead, we're basically reminded that "it takes money to make money."
Meanwhile, African American women are the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the United States. Their contributions to tech, amongst other fields, are cementing the importance of African American women in the innovation space. And they are doing this within and outside traditional tech frameworks. By becoming familiar with these entrepreneurs and their work, we can elevate their reputation and broaden our collective recognition of innovative leaders.
In honor of Black Heritage Month, we have compiled a list of African American women founders leading the way in tech innovation from Alabama to the Bay Area. From rethinking energy to debt forgiveness platforms these women are crossing boundaries in every field.
Cultivating New Leaders
Kathryn Finney founder of Digitalundivided
Kathryn A. Finney is an American author, researcher, investor, entrepreneur, innovator and businesswoman. She is the founder and CEO of digitalundivided, a social enterprise that leads high potential Black and Latinx women founders through the startup pipeline from idea to exit.
Laura Weidman Co-founder Code2040
Laura Weidman Powers is the co-founder and executive director of Code2040, a nonprofit that creates access, awareness, and opportunities for minority engineering talent to ensure their leadership in the innovation economy.
Angelica Ross founder of TransTech Social Enterprises
Angelica Ross is an American businesswoman, actress, and transgender rights advocate. After becoming a self-taught computer coder, she went on to become the founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, a firm that helps employ transgender people in the tech industry.
Christina Souffrant Ntim co-founder of Global Startup Ecosystem
Christina Souffrant Ntim is the co-founder of award-winning digital accelerator platform – Global Startup Ecosystem which graduates over 1000+ companies across 90+ countries a year.
Media and Entertainment
Bryanda Law founder of Quirktastic
Bryanda Law is the founder of Quirktastic, a modern media-tech company on a mission to grow the largest and most authentically engaged community of fandom-loving people of color.
Morgan Debaun founder of Blavity Inc.
Morgan DeBaun is an African American entrepreneur. She is the Founder and CEO of Blavity Inc., a portfolio of brands and websites created by and for black millennials
Cheryl Contee co-founder of Do Big Things
Cheryl Contee is the award-winning CEO and co-founder of Do Big Things, a digital agency that creates new narratives and tech for a new era focused on causes and campaigns.
Farah Allen founder of The Labz
Farah Allen is the CEO and founder of The Labz, a collaborative workspace that provides automated tracking, rights management, protection—using Blockchain technology—of your music files during and after you create them.
Mara Lidey co-founder of Shine
Marah Lidey is the co-founder & co-CEO of Shine. Shine aims to reinvent health and wellness for millennials through messaging technology.
Alicia Thomas co-founder of Dibs
Alicia Thomas is the founder and CEO of Dibs, a B2B digital platform that gives studios quick and easy access to real-time pricing for fitness classes.
Erica Plybeah Hemphill founder of MedHaul
Erica Plybeah Hemphill is the founder of MedHaul. MedHaul offers cloud-based solutions that ease the burdens of managing patient transportation.
Star Cunningham founder of 4D Healthware
Star Cunningham is the founder and CEO of 4D Healthware. 4D Healthware is patient engagement software that makes personalized medicine possible through connected data.
Kimberly Wilson founder of HUED
Kimberly Wilson is the founder of HUED. HUED is a healthcare technology startup that helps patients find and book appointments with Black and Latinx healthcare providers.
Viola Llewellyn co-founder of Ovamba Solutions
Viola Llewellyn is the co-founder and the president of Ovamba Solutions, a US-based fintech company that provides micro, small, and medium enterprises in Africa and the Middle East with microfinance through a mobile platform.
NanaEfua Baidoo Afoh-Manin, Briana DeCuir and Joanne Moreau founders of Shared Harvest Fund
NanaEfua, Briana and Joanne are the founders of Shared Harvest Fund. Shared Harvest Fund provides real opportunities for talented people to volunteer away their student loans.
Sheena Allen founder of CapWay
Sheena Allen is best known as the founder and CEO of fintech company and mobile bank CapWay.
Helen Adeosun co-founder of CareAcademy
Helen Adeosun is the co-founder, president and CEO of CareAcademy, a start-up dedicated to professionalizing caregiving through online classes. CareAcademy brings professional development to caregivers at all levels.
Alexandra Bernadotte founder of Beyond 12
Alex Bernadotte is the founder and chief executive officer of Beyond 12, a nonprofit that integrates personalized coaching with intelligent technology to increase the number of traditionally underserved students who earn a college degree.
Shani Dowell founder of Possip
Shani Dowell is the founder of Possip, a platform that simplifies feedback between parents, schools and districts. Learn more at possipit.com.
Kaya Thomas of We Read Too
Kaya Thomas is an American computer scientist, app developer and writer. She is the creator of We Read Too, an iOS app that helps readers discover books for and by people of color.
Kimberly Gray founder of Uvii
Kimberly Gray is the founder of Uvii. Uvii helps students to communicate and collaborate on mobile with video, audio, and text
Nicole Neal co-founder of ProcureK12 by Noodle Markets
Nicole Neal is the co-founder and CEO of ProcureK12 by Noodle Markets. ProcureK12 makes purchasing for education simple. They combine a competitive school supply marketplace with quote request tools and bid management.
Regina Gwyn founder of TresseNoire
Regina Gwynn is the co-founder & CEO of TresseNoire, the leading on-location beauty booking app designed for women of color in New York City and Philadelphia.
Camille Hearst co-founder of Kit.
Camille Hearst is the CEO and co-founder of Kit. Kit lets experts create shoppable collections of products so their followers can buy and the experts can make some revenue from what they share.
Esosa Ighodaro co-founder of CoSign Inc.
Esosa Ighodaro is the co-founder of CoSign Inc., which was founded in 2013. CoSign is a mobile application that transfers social media content into commerce giving cash for endorsing and cosigning products and merchandise like clothing, home goods, technology and more.
Jessica Matthews founder of Uncharted Power
Jessica O. Matthews is a Nigerian-American inventor, CEO and venture capitalist. She is the co-founder of Uncharted Power, which made Soccket, a soccer ball that can be used as a power generator.
Etosha Cave co-founder of Opus 12
Etosha R. Cave is an American mechanical engineer based in Berkeley, California. She is the Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Opus 12, a startup that recycles carbon dioxide.
Kellee James founder of Mercaris, Inc.
Kellee James is the founder and CEO of Mercaris, Inc., a growing, minority-led start-up that makes efficient trading of organic and non-GMO commodities possible via market data service exchanges and trading platforms.
Lisa Skeete Tatum founder of Landit
Lisa Skeete Tatum is the founder and CEO of Landit, a technology platform created to increase the success and engagement of women in the workplace, and to enable companies to attract, develop, and retain high-potential, diverse talent.
Netta Jenkins and Jacinta Mathis founders of Dipper
Netta Jenkins and Jacinta Mathis are founders of Dipper, a platform that acts as a safe digital space for individuals of color in the workplace.
Sherisse Hawkins founder of Pagedip
Sherisse Hawkins is the visionary and founder of Pagedip. Pagedip is a cloud-based software solution that allows you to bring depth to digital documents, enabling people to read (text), watch (video) and do (interact) all in the same place without ever having to leave the page.
Thkisha DeDe Sanogo founder of MyTAASK
Thkisha DeDe Sanogo is the founder of MyTAASK. MyTAASK is a personal planning platform dedicated to getting stuff done in real-time.
Jean Brownhill founder of Sweeten
Jean Brownhill is the founder and CEO of Sweeten, an award-winning service that helps homeowners and business owners find and manage the best vetted general contractors for major renovation projects.
Reham Fagiri co-founder of AptDeco
Reham Fagiri is the co-founder of AptDeco. AptDeco is an online marketplace for buying and selling quality preowned furniture with pick up and delivery built into the service.
Stephanie Cummings founder of Please Assist Me
Stephanie Cummings is the founder and CEO of Please Assist me. Please Assist Me is an apartment task service in Nashville, TN. The organization empowers working professionals by allowing them to outsource their weekly chores to their own personal team.
Kristina Jones co-founder of Court Buddy
Kristina Jones is the co-founder of Court Buddy, a service that matches clients with lawyers.
Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone founders of Courtroom5
Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone are the founders of Courtroom5. Courtroom5 helps you represent yourself in court with tools, training, and community designed for pro se litigants.
Zuley Clarke founder of Business Gift Registry
Zuley Clarke is the founder of Business Gift Registry, a crowdfunding platform that lets friends and family support an entrepreneur through gift-giving just like they would support a couple for a wedding.