9 Black Angel Investors Helping To Reverse Inequality In Tech

Written by Dana Sanchez
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The lack of capital being routed to black business owners is pushing a growing number of privately wealthy people to fund inequality via their own pocketbooks.

Adaora Udoji, founder, The Boshia Group. Photo: adaoraudoji.com

 

Adaora Udoji, founder, The Boshia Group

A dual U.S.-Ireland citizen, Adaora Udoji spent her childhood in Boston, Ann Arbor and Bauchi, Nigeria. After earning a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Michigan and a law degree at U.C.L.A School of Law, Udoji lived in the U.K., Central Asia, East Africa, Middle East, Persian Gulf and Western Europe. She worked as a broadcast journalist, including co-hosting and anchoring at CNN, ABC News, public radio, and other networks, reporting on stories from around the world. She came to entrepreneurship after being selected a Pipeline Fund Fellow, focusing on angel investing. She is associated with a number of startups including America Meet World; Cisse, Ltd; Hubster TV; and Mogul. She is especially interested in startups at the nexus of new media and technology, such as Single Palm Tree Productions.

As founder of The Boshia Group, Udoji directed a network of content strategist and video production professionals specializing in corporate strategy, editorial and video content and operations. Clients included global law firms and media/tech companies.

Her startup, outLoud, inc, is a digital and technology public speaking platform focused on cultivating the potential and persuasiveness of other people’s stories, from students to CEOs. She helps them tell their stories out loud in pitches, speeches, presentations and other forms of public speaking.

Rodney Sampson, founder, Opportunity Up. Photo: rodneysampson.com

 

Rodney Sampson

Rodney Sampson is a veteran technology entrepreneur with four startups and two exits to his name. He’s also an angel investor, venture partner, and author of four books.

Sampson is passionate about reducing the racial wealth gap in the U.S. by advancing the cause of innovation, entrepreneurship and investment as a way of life for all.

To this end, he co-founded Kingonomics in 2013 and turned it into the country’s leading advocacy and learning platform for innovative capital formation and wealth creation for black people.

Also in 2013, Sampson launched Opportunity Hub, an entrepreneurial center and pre-accelerator dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion in the innovation, entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem. In 2015, Opportunity Hub merged with TechSquare Labs, a Google for Entrepreneurs Technology Hub founded by Paul Judge and Allen Nance, to open a tech incubator and seed fund. Opportunity Hub and TechSquare Labs portfolio companies have raised more than $250 million in venture capital and created 500-plus high growth jobs.

Sampson also launched CodeStart, Atlanta TechHire with the City of Atlanta, and Tech Opportunity Fund — a $100 million coding scholarship fund seeded with $40 million of in-kind scholarships from The Iron Yard, the country’s largest coding school. These initiatives are designed to increase the number of software developers and technical co-founders from underrepresented communities.

Sampson is trying to expand this work in cities across the U.S. Recently he partnered with Tennessee Titans NFL linebacker Derrick Morgan to start Opportunity Ecosystem, which plans to develop inclusive startup tech ecosystems in 100 cities across the U.S. in an effort to increase diversity in innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment, according to Black Enterprise.

Morgan’s new effort, Huddle Ventures, is the parent company of Opportunity Ecosystem. The official launch of the ecosystem-building platform was planned for March 10–12, 2017, at SXSW.

Opportunity Ecosystem wants to create a network of angel investors, black-owned banks, professional athletes, and regional business associations to invest in and grow minority-owned, early-stage tech companies. Ultimately Sampson and Morgan hope to create a scalable model for economic development that can be replicated in low- and middle-income communities across the country. A long-term goal is to buy real estate to establish a co-working space for an accelerator and coding program.

Lorine Pendleton, U.S. director of business development, Dentons. Photo:LinkedIn

 

Lorine Pendleton

Previously an entertainment attorney, Lorine Pendleton shifted to business development working at startups. Now she’s the U.S. director of business development for Dentons, the world’s largest law firm.

For the past three years, Pendleton has been an active angel investor, inspired after learning that less than 1 percent of all angel and venture capital funding goes to African Americans.

“I wanted to help change this by providing capital and working with diverse and women entrepreneurs to level the playing field,” Pendleton said in a Huffington Post interview in October. “Fortunately, I discovered a great training program called Pipeline Angels which trains women to become angel investors so that more women are funded.”

Named one of the 50 Most Connected Women in America by Marie Claire, Pendleton has been a guest judge on BET/Centric TV’s “Queen Boss” pitch show for black women.

An angel investor and startup advisor to women and diverse-led companies, Pendleton’s portfolio companies include Cisse, Traklight, Hire an Esquire, Portfolia Fund and Tastemakers Africa.

The best part of being an investor is “learning about really great companies and meeting passionate entrepreneurs who are pursuing their dreams by creating and growing businesses,” she told Huffington Post. The worst part? “I see so many great companies but only can invest in a few per year. I want to change that by launching a fund which I’m currently working on.”

Eghosa Omoigui, managing partner, EchoVC Partners. Photo: echovc.com

 

Eghosa Omoigui

Eghosa Omoigui is the founder and managing general partner of EchoVC Partners, a seed and early-stage venture capital firm. Although based in Silicon Valley, EchoVC has invested millions of dollars in promising innovative African ventures including Hotels.ng; Printivo, an online printing services provider; and S&T Media, a digital ad services provider.

Omoigui focuses on mobile and consumer internet investments. He has worked as corporate/VC/bankruptcy attorney, start-up executive, and entrepreneur.

Before EchVC, Eghosa worked for tech giant Intel for about 10 years, responsible for sourcing investment opportunities in various companies including AdMob, Jaiku, Powerset, Facebook, LinkedIn, Teracent and Pandora.

He was chief of staff to the president of Intel Capital (the largest global tech corporate venture capital firm), and, before that, helped oversee an $18 billion cash platform.

In addition to African investments, he’s led investments in the U.S. and India including GraphScience (acquired), Stipple (acquired), Frid.ge (acquired), Retailigence, Betaworks, Sense Networks (acquired), Voxify (acquired), SmartZip, Yatra, BuzzInTown (acquired), Vriti, Cerebra & MediaSpike.

“Generally we look for entrepreneurs that share similar characteristics to entrepreneurs we have seen grow successful companies in the U.S. and other markets,” Omoigui said in a Vanguard report. “They tend to share a similar DNA. We look for intellectually curious entrepreneurs who are committed to the problem (but not necessarily the solution) they are solving, innovative and creative in their approach and humble enough to understand there is always more to learn; especially when starting a new company in a difficult environment like Nigeria. We believe that these entrepreneurs exhibit conviction that outpaces their humility and humility that outpaces their execution. But all these elements are exhibited 24/7.”

Erik Moore, founder, Base Ventures

 

Erik Moore

Moore discovered an affinity for tech angel investing while at home in the Oakland area. He was one of the first to invest in his next-door-neighbor, Tony Hsieh, who had an online shoe and clothing shop, Zappos.com.

That’s the Zappos that Amazon later bought for $1.2 billion.

For the next 12 years, Moore worked as a Merrill Lynch bond trader and continued angel investing, ultimately realizing “he could do more to change the world and spur innovation by investing in young entrepreneurs full-time,” according to his LinkedIn page.

The Zappos investment netted Moore a 50x return, according to an Event Brite report. He was also an angel investor in Socialcam, co-founded by Michael Seibel, CEO of Y Combinator’s YC accellerator program.

Moore’s Zappos investment eventually provided seed money for his venture capital fund, Base Ventures, founded in 2012. Other successful angel investments include Mayvenn (Series A – Andreessen Horowitz), Olly (Series A – Obvious Ventures) and Luma (Series A – Accel Partners and Amazon).

In a March, 2014  Ozy interview, Moore said he finds the under-representation of blacks in white-collar industries to be “just an old, tired, boring conversation”:

Moore’s impatience with this topic, and his pragmatic response, is partly borne of his experiences in other industries where African-Americans have faced similar struggles. “(The conversation) has to happen because it’s unfortunately still an issue,” he concedes. “(But) it was the same when I was in investment banking,” he said, recalling that people were often worrying about “how few blacks there were in sales and trading, in M&A … how few blacks there were at Dartmouth.”

One piece of advice he delivers is sobering: If you think the tech industry is racist, and you let that hold you back, then you don’t deserve to rise within it.

Moore talked about how he operates and gave some advice in a 2013 USA Today report.

When he travels for business, meeting with budding entrepreneurs or potential investors, he says, “I’m the one getting something out of it. I will go to the ends of the Earth to make it convenient for you.”

When you’re making a quick connection on the road, it’s easy to be forgotten, Moore said in the USA Today interview:

Stand out from the crowd. Come up with other ideas to make sure you’re memorable. It’s a good idea to send a follow-up e-mail with an interesting tidbit from your conversation noted in the subject line. Sometimes, he’ll even include his photograph.

“It goes back to making life convenient,” he said.

Paul Judge. Photo: pjudge.com

 

Paul Judge

“Let’s build something from nothing.”

That’s the first thing you see when you visit Paul Judge’s website.

Judge is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and co-founder of TechSquare Labs, an Atlanta incubator, seed fund, and corporate innovation space. He is CEO and founder of Luma, a home Wi-Fi company and serves as executive chairman of Pindrop, a pioneer in voice fraud prevention and authentication, which he co-founded in 2011.

Among his many companies, Judge co-founded Purewire, a web security company, serving as chief technology officer until its acquisition by Barracuda Networks in 2009. He worked as chief research officer at Barracuda through its IPO in 2013. He also served as chief technology officer on the founding team of CipherTrust, an email security firm acquired by Secure Computing in 2006. He also worked briefly with IBM and NASA.

Techsquare Labs, a 25,000-square-foot co-working space for entrepreneurs near Georgia Tech’s campus, was founded in 2014. So far, the 15 businesses TechSquare Labs has funded have created more than 500 jobs in Georgia, Atlanta Business Chronicle reported in May. In 2017, Techsquare Labs plans to support 10 more ventures.

Daymond John, founder, FUBU; CEO, Shark Branding. Photo: thesharkgroup.com

 

Daymond John

Daymond John is best known as one of the angel investors on ABC TV’s reality show, “Shark Tank,” where sharks invest their own money in unknown startups while millions watch. It’s a line of work that requires a big tolerance for failure.

John got his entrepreneurial start at age 20 selling handmade hats on a street corner in Queens, New York. His urban clothing company FUBU — For Us, By Us —  grew out of that endeavor. Started in 1992, FUBU is now valued at $6 billion.

John’s latest business is a 25,000-square-foot co-working space in Midtown Manhattan called Blueprint and Co. There, high-profile executives and entrepreneurs — seasoned professionals rather than startups — can rent space and meet for networking, mentorship, venture capital funding, and general support, John said in an interview with Inc:

John wants to create a space where entrepreneurs are able to discuss what keeps them up at night, from finding a market niche to developing a minimum viable product to apprehension over the Trump administration’s various proposals. John specifically described his concern over Trump’s calls to bring manufacturing back to the states–and what he sees as an inevitable price increase for American consumers.

John says he’s nervous about passing on a higher cost to his customers, “in the event that we all have to start manufacturing in America.” He warns that “we think that making (products) in America is going to be great, when I may end up having to hurt a lot of people by charging them 40 percent more.”

FUBU started with a hat — a tie-top John had seen in rap video, News.com.au reported. John sewed around 90 knock-off hats with his next-door neighbor, and began selling them on the street for $10 each. He recalls making $800 in a single day.

Hats progressed to jerseys, sweatshirts, jeans, shoes and T-shirts and he and his friends began sewing the FUBU logo onto everything. They got a break when rapper LL Cool J, who had grown up on John’s street in Queens, posed for a photo wearing a FUBU shirt. By 1998, John was worth $250 million.

John often talks openly about his failures, personally and professionally — something that he believes is essential to long-term success.

“If you’re not making enough mistakes, you’re not making enough moves,” he said. “So it’s the process. For most entrepreneurs, the key to what they do is they act, they learn and they repeat.”
So, what’s the secret to success that he tells all budding entrepreneurs who seek out his advice?
“Firstly, do something that you are absolutely obsessed with and would do for free.
“Secondly, you have to do your homework and you have to research it because there’s nothing you can create that’s new in this world, it’s just going to be a new form of delivery.
“Every big thing has started off with a movement. Mark Zuckerburg started off with one friend, now he has 1.5 billion of them. I started off with one hat.”

Troy Carter. Photos: Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao/Fast Company

 

Troy Carter

Most online bios of Troy Carter start like this one on LinkedIn:

Troy Carter is the founder, chairman and CEO of Atom Factory, an entertainment management company defining popular culture globally. (He’s) a digital and social entrepreneur…

You have to read deeper to see Carter’s links to angel investing. To understand Carter’s journey, you have to read Medvis Jackson’s description of Carter as “The Master of Failing fast” in a report at Kulchah.com

In February 2017, Carter was named runner-up Angel Investor of the Year at Silicon Valley’s 10th Annual Crunchies Awards. He was nominated for the award as part of an open nomination process.

There were 11 awards up for grabs including VC of the Year, Best Technology, Founder of the Year and Best Startup, Telecrunch reported.

It was Carter’s traumatic experiences and failures that molded him into a solid entertainment and investment titan, according to Kulchah.

Born in West Philadelphia, Carter had a rough childhood. His mother died when he was 7 and his father was imprisoned for 12 years on murder charges. As a teen, Troy took to hip hop.

In his junior year, his rap group was signed to WilJam Records. He dropped out of high school to concentrate on his career, only for the group to be dropped by WilJam.

After meeting Sean Combs of Bad Boy records, Carter tried his hand at music and concert promotions, working with Notorious B.I.G and Will Smith before interning for Combs. Fired from that internship, he entered one of the “darkest times” of his life until he met rapper Eve Jeffers. Carter managed Jeffers, culminating in her booking her famed TV show on UPN.

Subsequent management jobs followed with Nelly and Floety, and a corporate partnership with Jay Erving — son of basketball player Julius “Doctor J” Erving — later acquired by Sanctuary Music. When the Sanctuary deal fell apart, Carter’s mortgage was foreclosed and his car repossessed.

Then he was introduced to an unknown-at-the-time artist named Lady Gaga. They made innovative use of Twitter and Youtube to garner viral sharing of her music. Social media and small gigs helped put Gaga on the big stage.

Through his failures as a manager, Carter was forced to reinvent himself and his approach to the industry. He used social media for the purpose of management and publicity — something unknown and untried at the time — to set the stage for a new paradigm.

Energized by his ongoing success with Gaga, Carter founded Coalition Media Group, and in 2010, added a management division named the Atom Factory.

In 2011, he co-founded The Backplane which helps celebrities and brands engage fans, build community, and develop brand loyalty.

Since 2013, Troy Carter has been increasingly active in the startup tech sphere, creating A \ IDEA, a product development and branding firm, and AF Square, an angel fund and technology consultancy with investments in over 35 tech startups including Uber, Spotify and Dropbox.

Mike Ross. Photo: LinkedIn

 

Mike Ross

As the owner of a construction program management firm, Mike Ross has overseen more than $500 million in contracts awarded to minority, women, and other disadvantaged contractors.

His Atlanta firm, MHR International, specializes in integrating information technology with inclusion of minority and women business enterprise, program management and construction management.

A nationally recognized expert in community revitalization and equal business opportunity practices, Ross speaks at events such as Atlanta’s Creating Opportunity Conference 2016.

As an angel investor, Ross has distributed $10,000 to $30,000 in seed capital to minority-owned companies including PartPic, Techturized, and Luma. He worked his way into investing in the tech space through research and vetting potential deals with other local black entrepreneur-investors like Rodney Sampson and Paul Judge of TechSqaure Labs, according to a report in Fast CoExist:

“Until (angel investing) in the African-American community reaches a critical mass, people will be apprehensive until they see something become successful. But we owe it to our communities, the founders, and the future generation to make this a priority,” Ross said.

 

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