10 Black Founders And Investors Who Have Had Exits

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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The number of Black-owned businesses has increased since the end of the Great Recession. Black-owned businesses now represent 3.3 percent of the total number of firms younger than 2 years old.

That’s up from 2 percent in 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Census Bureau data.

We’re focusing here on older companies whose Black founders and investors who have had exits. That’s the point at which an investor (usually a venture capitalist) sells a stake in a firm or a business owner sells his or firm to realize gains (or losses). An exit may be planned at the time of the investment decision and may also be included in a firm’s overall business plan, according to Business Dictionary.

10 Black founders and investors who have had exits

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Riana Lynn runs a tech startup in Chicago called FoodTrace. Photo: RianaLynn.com

Riana Lynn

Riana Lynn is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for technology and food whose food and technology firm, Revive, was acquired by A Better Life Holdings, LLC run by CNBC’s Marcus Lemonis of “The Profit.” Riana continued her development work for the hit show after her comany was acquired. She is also the founder and CEO of FoodTrace, a company that builds software and apps that link local farms and food distributors with large wholesale food buyers.

Thousands of food businesses across the U.S. have been impacted by her products, according to FightForHope.com.

Lynn also founded food company Journey Foods. She is a venture capitalist with investment firm Cleveland Avenue and has served as a Google Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Medium reported. She was named on Crain’s list, 20 in their 20s, and Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30.

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Nas, right, and David Horn participate in the “Nas Live from the Kennedy Center : Classical Hip-Hop” panel during the PBS Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, Jan. 16, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Nas

Hip-hop artist, entrepreneur and tech investor Nas, 44, was an early investor in PillPack, an online pharmacy that Amazon recently bought for $1 billion. Nas’ venture capital fund, QueensBridge Venture Partners, participated in a 2014 Series B investment round that raised $8.8 million for PillPack, which streamlines the prescription drug delivery process for people who need multiple daily medications. Prior to the sale to Amazon, PillPack raised more than $117 million in outside funding.

Nas’ QueensBridge Venture Partners also invested $4.5 million in home security tech startup Ring in a July 2014 Series A round. Amazon bought Ring in February 2018 for $1.1 billion, Forbes reported. The Ring-Amazon sale earned Nas a reported $40 million, according to Forbes.

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Sian Morson is the CEO of Kollective Mobile. Photo: http://samoymorson.com/

Sian Morson

Sian Morson founded Cast Beauty, an award-winning, data-driven beauty recommendation platform for women of color that was acquired by an undisclosed buyer in 2017. When it launched, Cast Beauty won L’Oreal’s Women in Digital award. Morson didn’t start out interested in tech. She studied film at New York University “but she took a left at Hollywood and landed in Silicon Valley,” Oxygen reported.

Morson is the CEO of Kollective Mobile, developing apps for startups, entrepreneurs and agencies. She’s the author of two design books, a limited partner with Backstage Capital and an Entrepreneur in Residence with CrossCulture Ventures.

“I’d gotten used to being ‘the only’ in the room. The only woman; the only queer; the only Black; the only Black Woman. I can no longer accept this. Every room I enter, I will make space for those who follow. I carry their struggles, their dreams and their goals with me. The weight is never too heavy. My crown was bought and paid for. I will leave any room I enter changed.” — Sian Morson

Paul Q. Judge. Photo: AngeList

Paul Judge

Paul Q.  Judge helped build and sell two information security startups, CipherTrust and Purewire, in the process helping to bolster Atlanta’s reputation in the sector, Hypepotamus reported.

Judge started working at CipherTrust as a 22-year-old with the title “junior developer”, helping grow the company from three employees to 300. The company was sold in 2006 to Secure Computing, a publically traded company, for $300 million. Judge became the CTO there and the company grew to 1,200 people.

He founded Purewire in 2007, which was acquired by Barracuda Networks in 2009. He is the co-founder and executive chairman of Pindrop, a company that sells phone anti-fraud and authentication services, founded in 2011. Most recently he co-founded Luma, a wireless networking company.

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President Barack Obama poses for a photo with Jewel Burks, right, and Jason Crain, while hosting top innovators and startup founders from across the country for the first White House Demo Day, Aug. 4, 2015, in the State Dinning Room of the White House in Washington. Partpic allows customers to take a picture of a part they want to replace and automatically receive product name, specifications, and supplier information. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Jewel Burks

Jewel Burks co-founded Partpic, an Atlanta-based startup that streamlined the purchase of parts for maintenance and repair using computer vision technology. Partpic allowed customers to photograph the a part they wanted to relace and automatically receive product name, specs, and supplier information. Partpic raised $2 million-plus in seed funding from investors including AOL co-founder, Steve Case, and Comcast Ventures, and integrated its software into mobile apps/websites of large parts distributors and retailers. Acquired by Amazon in 2016, the technology now powers visual search for replacement parts in the Amazon Mobile Shopping app.

Partpic went through Georgia Tech‘s technology startup incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC).

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Juanita Lott, founder of Bridgestream Software. Photo: Epicor

Juanita Lott

Juanita Lott is the founder of Bridgestream Software, a company founded in 2000 that was bought in 2007 by Oracle for more than $30 million. Now an investor, board member and advisor to tech companies, Lott has been on the executive team of Sybase, and was executive vice president of Epicor Software. She has served on the boards of Springboard Enterprises, advisory board of Unitive Software and Talent Sonar and ViveCoach, according to Medium.

Oracle was one of Bridgstream’s largest clients, and Bridgestream was the first tech company with a black woman founder to be acquired, according to a Medium report.

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Richelieu Dennis arrives at the 11th Annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards Luncheon, March 1, 2018 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Richelieu Dennis

Richelieu Dennis, founder of hair- and skin-care products maker Sundial Brands, sold his SheaMoisture brand to Unilever in November 2017 for an undisclosed amount. Based in London and Rotterdam, Netherlands, Unilever is a Europe’s seventh most valuable company.

As part of the agreement, Unilever and Sundial created the New Voices Fund to empower women of color entrepreneurs. Forbes described it as “the coolest deal term ever”. The initial investment was $50 million and the goal is to scale the fund to $100 million by attracting investments from other interested parties.

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Cheryl Contee, right, moderates while Speaker Nancy Pelosi answers questions as during the Netroots Nation convention at the Rio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, July 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Louie Traub)

Cheryl Contee

Cheryl Contee is the co-founder of Attentive.ly, a tool that helps show businesses or nonprofits what their email marketing list is saying on social media, so they can send them targeted messages. Attentive.ly was acquired by Blackbaud, a software supplier for nonprofits, in 2016, making it the first tech startup ever with a black female founder on board to be acquired by a NASDAQ-traded company. Fast Company named Contee on its 2010 list of Most Influential Women in Tech. Her current company, Fission Strategy, also helped write the source code, and in turn received equity, for CrowdTangle, which was acquired by Facebook in 2016. Contee serves on the boards of Netroots Nation, Citizen Engagement Lab & Digital Undivided, according to a Medium post.

Here’s what Contee said about her role as a Black leader in tech:

I’m always going to stand out, and I’m always going to — at least for now, until we successfully bring more diversity to the tech space, I’m going to stand out at a networking thing or at a tech conference. I embrace being a black leader in tech. I love what I do. I hope that people look at me and see me and say, ‘Well, if Cheryl can do it, I can do it too.’ You don’t have to look a certain way, or be a certain way. You can just be you and be smart and be willing to work hard and be creative and resourceful and innovative. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from in technology, to a certain extent. That’s one of the things I like about what I do.” — Cheryl Contee, interview, The Fixx.

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Oprah Winfrey arrives at Selma And The Legends That Paved The Way Gala on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Goleta, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Oprah Winfrey

The Oprah Winfrey Network, formed in 2008, was a 50-50 venture between Oprah and David Zaslav’s Discovery Communications until late 2017. In December 2017, the queen of talk shows said she was selling almost half of her stake to Discovery. Discovery owns 74.5 percent of OWN after Oprah sold her 24.5 percent stake.

The price tag: $70 million. Oprah’s real-time net worth is $3 billion, according to Forbes.

Oprah’s company, Harpo Inc., will retain a “significant minority interest” in OWN, and she will continue as CEO of OWN, working exclusively in the basic cable space through 2025, New York Post, reported.

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Michael Seibel. Photo: Business Insider

Michael Seibel

Michael Seibel is partner and CEO of the Silicon Valley-based seed accelerator, Y Combinator, which ranks consistently as the top U.S. accelerator.

Previously, he co-founded Justin.tv and served as its CEO. In 2014 Justin.tv became Twitch Interactive and under the leadership of Emmett Shear and Kevin Lin, sold to Amazon for $970 million.

Seibel also co-founded Socialcam, which participated in Y Combinator in 2012, raising angel financing from a group of investors. Socialcam sold to Autodesk Inc. for $60 million.

Seibel talked during a video interview about the No. 1 thing he looks for in a startup pitch, according to Startup Grind:

“Your ability to clearly say what you do makes you stand out against literally 50 percent of people,” Seibel said. “It’s this cliche that’s totally correct. If you can’t explain to your mom what you do in two sentences then you probably need to rethink those two sentences.”

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Zim Ugochukwu

Zim Ugochukwu

The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Zim Ugochukwu founded Travel Noire in 2013 — a travel and discovery platform for Black millennials. Blavity, a media company focused on Black millennials, acquired Travel Noir for an undisclosed amount in 2017.

Four Black-owned travel companies told Vice News that they’ve seen an increase in business or in their services since Donald Trump’s election victory. In the last year, African American travelers were more likely to travel abroad than the average person, according to a survey conducted by MMGY Global, Vice reported in February.

“Trump may have given the black travel industry an accidental boost,” Vice reported:

While 15 percent of all trips taken by Americans were international last year, 19 percent of trips taken by African Americans were international, according to MMGY’s survey. And 40 percent of black travelers who went on international vacations intended to take another, compared to only 29 percent of American international travelers as a whole.

 


About Dana Sanchez

Dana Sanchez was born in South Africa and is a U.S. citizen. After working in advertising, she went back to school and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida. As a business writer, she won regional and national writing awards. As editor of a daily newspaper, she coordinated staff writers, freelancers and photographers in the fast-paced environment of daily news. Dana was an editor at Moguldom Media Group for four years, helping to build and manage a team of staff and freelance writers. She works now on Moguldom.com for Nubai Ventures. A long-distance hiker and cyclist, she writes about the business of technology.