20 Innovators Shaping Atlanta's Black Startup Community

01/23/2017 09:30 pm ET
Goodie Nation

Atlanta is one of the country's top cities for black entrepreneurs. In fact, according to a recent Survey of Business Owners (SBO), distributed by the U.S. Census Bureau, the State of Georgia ranked second (behind New York) for having the most black-owned companies in the United States. Most notably known as the black professional mecca, the rise and fall of the infamous freaknik and the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Atlanta is also home to the third largest base of Fortune 500 companies in the Southeast. The Atlanta metro area and Georgia as a whole has seen a large increase in the number of black-owned businesses, and more importantly the largest number of sustainable black businesses with figures that are three times higher than the national average for all races!

The Atlanta metro region is a hotspot for black startup founders, with many of the major assets in place for a very vibrant startup ecosystem especially as it relates to opportunities for Black startup founders. In fact, a number of our featured startups in this article are actually designed to help fellow entrepreneurs scale, illustrating the uniquely minority startup-friendly nature of Atlanta. In 2016 and 2017 Mayor Kasim Reed announced new partnerships and Innovation funds, which include supporting the expansion of DigitalUndivided from New York to Atlanta with the BIG a Co-Working Space and accelerator for Black and Latina Women to TechSquare and Morehouse’s Angel Investment Accreditation Program.

Let’s look at some of the Innovators Shaping Atlanta’s vibrant Startup Community

Clarence Bethea of Upsie Prior to starting Upsie, Atlanta native Clarence Bethea played an integral role in the sports training startup 43Hoops, and the trucking startup Gravelick. In 2014 after a nightmarish experience involving his laptop warranty, Bethea realized that “the warranty industry was overcomplicated, unfair and overpriced.” So the Atlanta native founded Upsie, a startup that created a new mobile technology to “transform the warranty industry by bringing education, simplicity and power back to the consumer.” Learn more about Upsie here

Joey Womack of Goodie Nation and Amplify 4 Good

Alabama native and Florida A&M University graduate Joey Womack established Amplify 4 Good in 2014 to help non-profits to rapidly solve problems in underserved communities through innovation. But Womack quickly discovered that “a lot of the non-profits that we served didn't really need technology to solve their problems as they were more marketing-related.” So Amplify 4 Good evolved to offer comprehensive “hack-a-thons,” innovation labs and brainstorming sessions, combined with leadership training for non-profits.

Today, Goodie Nation produces a social impact tech hybrid incubator + accelerator program for youth and adults combining design-thinking labs, creative jam sessions, and hackathons using skills-based volunteers. Learn more about Goodie Nation by visiting www.GoodieNation.com and get the scoop on Amplify 4 Good by visiting www.Amplify4Good.com.

Barry Givens Founder of Monsieur

The former design and manufacturing engineer for John Deer, this Georgia Tech grad launched Monsieur after waiting over 2 hours for a drink at a local college bar. Monsieur is a robotic bartender using artificial intelligence to mix up popular cocktails in a matter of seconds. With three patents pending, Monsieur has secured $3.27 million in funding. Monsieur is currently in use in nearly two dozen locations. According to the company website, you can find Monsieur at Regal Cinemas, at Marriott Hotels and even at the Kentucky Derby! Givens is also the author of the book “Plan B Sucks: Work on your dreams, not your Boss’s” Learn more about this intelligent robotic bartender by visiting www.Monsieur.co.

Dr. Paul Judge of TechSquare

Dr. Judge is the Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Pindrop Security, provider of phone anti-fraud and authentication solutions, founded in 2011. He is also a co-founder of Monsieur, the robotic bartender and TechSquare in conjunction with Allen Nance. Described as an “innovation hub created for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs,” TechSquare recently joined forces with Opportunity Hub to form a partnership that's designed to promote the growth of black-owned businesses in the technology sector.

Dr. Judge describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur,” inventor and scholar with an impressive resume, as he has served as the VP of Barracuda Networks, as the Chairman of Pindrop Security and as the CTO for Secure Computing with CipherTrust. He has also invested in numerous successful startup ventures, including Bluebox, StarMobile, and Emailage. To learn more about TechSquare, visit www.TechSquare.co and Pindrop Security.

Tiffany Bussey, Director, Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center

As the founding director, Tiffany heads Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center which recently launched in partnership with Opportunity Hub the first Certificate in Investing In Startups & Early Stage Companies in the US at an HBCU. The program aims to help align startup founders with early stage funding, allowing them to get over one of the biggest obstacles to innovation-the friends and family round, by training and supporting high net worth individuals to become accredited investors. Learn more about MCEC Here

Ryan Wilson of The Gathering Spot

Atlanta native, attorney and Georgetown University graduate Ryan Wilson launched a one-of-a-kind startup venture, catering to those who are seeking a welcoming, productive and enjoyable venue where creatives, professionals and entrepreneurs can join together to work, collaborate and unwind.

With his partner, Wilson managed to secure a sum of $3 million in startup capital that was used to open The Gathering Spot. This private, members-only club was developed as an alternative to coffee shops, country clubs and restaurants – all venues that failed to provide the space and atmosphere required to work, create and gather.

Jarryd McCree of SmartUp and Eboticon

Jarryd McCree, the co-founder and CTO of SmartUp and Eboticon-an avid mountain climber, marathon runner and all-around adventure-seeker, wasn't satisfied to take the normal career path in IT and software development. So he established not one but two Atlanta startups. SmartUp is a unique platform, designed to make legal services more accessible and affordable for his fellow entrepreneurs. In addition to the legal technology platform, McCree also established Emoticon a mobile app that “allows underserved minorities to express themselves via text and social media.” Learn more about Eboticon at www.Eboticons.com or stop by www.SmartUpLegal.com to explore McCree's ventures.

Rodney Sampson of Opportunity Hub and SXSW HBCU

Founded by CEO Rodney Sampson in 2013, Opportunity Hub (OHUB) builds diverse & inclusive end-to-end entrepreneurial centers and startups ecosystems from the ground up. OHUB entrepreneurial centers include 10,000 – 25,000 square feet of coworking, incubator and event space.

In October 2015, Opportunity Hub merged with TechSquare Labs, a 25,000 sq ft incubator, coworking and corporate innovation space anchored by a $25 million venture fund founded by Dr. Paul Judge and Allen Nance. In 2016 Rodney Sampson and his team formed the SXSW HBCU partnership with South by South West to bring over 500 HBCU students to Austin for the Annual event to better connect them to opportunities in the global startup ecosystem. Sampson has also received numerous awards, including the 2015 Access to Capital Award, from the Commerce Development's Minority Business Development Agency. To learn more visit www.OpportunityHub.co.

Chanel Martin and Candace Mitchell of Myavana

Chemical engineer Chanel Martin and computer scientist Candace Mitchell joined forces in 2013 to form Atlanta based startup, Mayavana, in an effort to transform and demystify the hair care experience for women of color.

Mayavana is a web-based mobile platform, combined with an interactive social platform where women can interact and engage as they strive to move away from harsh chemicals and synthetic hair products, while moving toward a healthier, more natural hair care regime. Learn more at www.Myavana.com.

Erica Stanley - Women Who Code Atlanta Erica Stanley is a software engineer for SalesLoft, and advocate for women in technology as the Founder and Director of Women who Code and and a board member with 100 Girls of Code. The mission of 100 Girls of Code is to achieve gender parity in STEM fields by introducing more young women to code and computer engineering at a young age. Erica organizes monthly tech talks, workshops, hack nights and networking events for female members of the Atlanta tech community and develops new strategies and curriculums to expose girls to technology.

Tyler Scriven - Managing Director, TechStars Atlanta Tyler is an entrepreneur and early-stage technology investor and advisor. He currently serves as the Co-Managing Director of Techstars Atlanta. Prior to moving to Atlanta, Scriven was a member of the senior leadership team at Palantir Technologies in Silicon Valley, where he served as Chief of Staff and Head of Operations.While working with Palantir, Scriven was broadly engaged in scaling the operations of the business from 100 to nearly 2,000 employees.

James Coleman - COO at FlashPoint James is the Chief Operating Officer of Flashpoint at Georgia Tech and the Founder of MakerStash. Flashpoint is an "accelerator" that helps entrepreneurs build better startups, faster serving as a resource for the teams in the accelerator. Coleman's latest startup MakerStash connects individuals to 3D printing information, materials, and other maker gear.

Jewel Burks - Co-Founder PartPic- Burks is Co-founder and CEO of Partpic, a technology startup designed to streamline the purchase of maintenance and repair parts. Partpic was awarded “Best Enterprise Disruptor” at the 2014 TechCrunch Disrupt Conference, and recently featured on Alexis Ohanian’s “Small Empires”. In addition to leading Partpic, Jewel also serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Google. She works to help underserved business owners attract and engage customers using Google’s business tools. Jewel was recently named “One to Watch in Tech” by Essence Magazine. Jewel is a native of Nashville TN, and graduate of Howard University. In her spare time, Jewel volunteers with organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlanta and serves as a member of the Board of Directors at Amplify 4 Good.

Anthony Gee - Core Venture Studio Anthony Gee is a founder of Core Venture Studio. The Core is a technology venture studio founded by experienced tech executives and entrepreneurs. The Core is a "start-up studio" that brings tech-focused companies to life through internal development, investment and acquisition. Previously, Anthony was a founder of Carthage Capital Group, a boutique private investment firm with offices in New York and Atlanta, focused on the supply chain needs of global corporations and government entities with a particular emphasis on emerging markets.

Marcellus Haynes - Technologists of Color Haynes is a senior developer at EY and the founder of Technologist of Color, an Atlanta based organization focused on establishing a community to support and assist in the progression of African Americans in information technology.

Michael Street - Black Men Code Michael is the SVP for Technology & Innovation at Aligned Development Strategies, Inc. ADSI specializes in IT Governance, Program & Project Management, Grants Management, Cyber Security, Section 508 Compliance, Web and Mobile Applications Development. He is also the Founder and Director of Black Men Code, a nonprofit that serves the unique educational needs of Black men in Atlanta, GA. Black Men Code hosts a number of events in order to serve its clients. "Go, Code!" is an #HourOfCode event open to the public partnered with the Computer Science Department at Morehouse College aimed at providing requisite skills in problem solving via coding. "FutureMAKERS" is a robotics course developed for High School students that again teach problem solving through experiential learning via the #GoPiGo robotics platform.

Tamisha McQuilkin -General Assembly Tamisha McQuilkin currently serves as the Audience Development Producer at General Assembly, facilitating workshops and events with industry professionals and organizations in the Atlanta area. Prior to, she was an entrepreneur in the e-commerce industry for 4 years and the co-founded of a non-profit organization, Women With a Vision Foundation, which supports women who have been victims of domestic violence and substance abuse in 2009.

Jasmine Cato - Points of Light Civic Accelerator - Jasmine is the Senior Program Coordinator, Civic Incubator/ Civic Accelerator at Points of Light. The Points of Light Civic Accelerator "CivicX" is the first national accelerator program and investment fund in the country focused on "civic ventures" -- for-profit and nonprofit early stage ventures that include people as part of the solution to critical social problems. The 10-week, boot camp-style program convenes 10-15 teams in person and online with the goal of equipping each venture to seek investments and scale their social innovation. Jasmine previously worked in Diversity development for Fox and as a trainer for the Posse Foundation.

Chidi Afulezi - Akoma a bona-fide sci-fi fan, Chidi founded aKoma with Zain Verjee. Aroma is a content publishing and storytelling platform to make Africa come alive. Find out more about Akoma here

Want to learn more about cool techies and innovators of color, shaping local communities and the world? Check out www.BlacktechWeek.com for the upcoming Blacktech Weekend. A full weekend dedicated to raising funding for startup founders of color. P.S Like this article? Hit the share button

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