3 Black Startup Founders Share Their Top Tips for Acquiring Venture Capital

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In 2021, black business founders raised $4.2 billion in venture capital. That’s 281% more than they received in 2020 – but just 1.3% of the total pie, meaning there’s still a long way to go to close the funding gap for businesses led by blacks.

In October, Good HousekeepingHearst’s Tiffany Blackstone hosted a panel on venture capital as part of Hearst’s annual Celebrate Black Style Summit, a three-day streaming event highlighting influential black voices in fashion, beauty, business and culture. entertainment. For her chat, Tiffany sat down with three black startup founders to talk about their journeys to securing funding for their businesses and the lessons they learned along the way. The panelists were:

  • Dr. Tye Caldwell, co-founder and CEO of ShearShare
  • Morgan Hewett, co-founder and CEO of OptionsMD
  • Carmelle Cadet, Founder and CEO of EMTECH

Read a highlighted excerpt from the panel below, where Tiffany and the panelists discuss connecting with investors during the first pitch of ideas. Scroll down to watch the full discussion.


Tiffany Blackstone: You referred to pattern matching where [investors] invest in people who look like them and whom they recognize and identify with. We know that investor groups are not like us. How else do you combine them? Is there a way you’ve found to jump over that hurdle and say, “Okay, where else can we identify?”

Tye Caldwell: Well, I think it’s just about being authentic. I think what really shocked us was when [my wife and I] were at our first investor meeting in Silicon Valley, the investor said when we walked in, “Oh, I thought you were going to be two white guys who were 6 feet tall.” That’s when we had to realize – because of our idea. They thought that because we had this idea, it was someone from our white counterpart.

And we understood that it was going to be a “no”, [so then] What are we doing? Are we going out? Are we saying something crazy? Are we being disrespectful? But at the end of the day, we were business people…we’re long in the tooth. We not only knew how to behave as founders, but we knew how to bounce back from that, and I think once we ended that conversation word got around that little community that ShearShare was here -down. We come from industry. We represented what we build, and I think that’s what helped us.

TB: Morgan and Carmella, tell us a bit about your experiences. You were both already in the tech industries and in financial services… Was it easier for you? Did you know what to expect when raising capital for your businesses? Did this help you?

Morgan Hewitt: Well, I think Tye understood that investors need to find something they can relate to. When we started our business, it was actually very difficult for my co-employee and I to share our origin story because it was deeply personal. I wouldn’t want to cry telling this story but I learned that I had to wear my heart on my sleeve because all of our early initial investors invested in it because my family member’s story was the story of their sister, the story of their cousin or the story of their best friend. There are so many people in this country who, unfortunately, are affected by mental illness, by suicide, by things like that. That’s what got the first group of investors to take the leap…those early checks are the hardest, and then once you have good people behind you, it’s great. For us, Hearst opened a lot of doors once Hearst supported us.

Carmel Cadet: So I had the experience of working in business for a few years as an investor in “big business”. But it’s very different to be the founder and a startup in the market. Part of it is, of course, learning how an investor thinks, and I think VC in general is different than a loan from the bank or an angel investment, even friends and family. It’s very different. If you are lucky enough to have a family member to invest or have enough funds to do so, sometimes they just assume they are giving you money and you are going to lose it. They just trust you and they love you. [But venture capitalists] expect you to deliver… and that’s the name of the game.

It took me a while to understand this new world. I was lucky enough to start the business. It was a one-woman show at first, and I convinced my husband to also take half of our 401K and said, “Trust me, honey. I’ll find a way for us to fill the gap.” gap here.” And finally, I did this… I was lucky enough to find an acceleration program and [our] first investor, who was a black investor at 500 and got us into the accelerator… It opened my eyes to the power of networks. For me, going through experience, as soon as someone says “yes”, they can open new doors. And taking advantage of that and understanding the rules of the game is important. There are a lot of ideas, and I realize that VCs get so much that in order for you to stand out and for you to ask for the time to explain what the idea is, you need to have something compelling that’s going to answer in certain boxes.

Watch the full discussion below:

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