Baltimore startup The Black Brain Trust (TBBT) raised $150K in seed funding from downtown firms to fuel development of a platform designed to help firms to improve racial equity.
TBBT received $100,000 from digital services agency Fearless and $50,000 from The Harbor Bank of Maryland Community Development Corporation, a Baltimore-based community development financial institution. It’s a notable early stage capital raise in a world where less than 1% of venture capital goes to startups led by Black women.
Over the last year, TBBT CEO Angel St. Jean took part in the Accelerate Baltimore program led by ETC (Emerging Technology Centers), and earned a place on Technical.ly’s RealLIST Startups 2021. With the institutional backing of mentors including Fearless CEO Delali Dzirasa and Harbor Bank President John Lewis, St. Jean is starting to see the potential of her company realized.
“It means a lot that they are the first two investors to come in and establish terms that will allow us to grow in a way that as we’re promoting and pushing equity in the world, we can actually walk away with equity in the company,” St. Jean told Technical.ly.
TBBT has created a scoring methodology to quantify and measure equity in for-profit companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. The proprietary system is called the The Equity in Action Score, or EIA Score. The company provides businesses looking to improve equity in the workplace and industry with an industry-specific score based on more than 130 metrics, a detailed equity report, and business intelligence software that tracks key performance indicators for improvement in equity.
“Equity is at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days and many do not know where to get started nor how to make meaningful impact,” said Dzirasa, in a statement, adding that TBBT is “setting the foundation” for the score “to be as commonplace as a credit score.”
Alongside the investment, the company will relocate to Harbor Bank’s coworking space in downtown Baltimore, and Lewis is joining the company’s advisory board. For its part, Fearless supported the company with a $10K grant request through civic tech org Hack Baltimore. It also supported the company’s application to Acceerlate Baltimore, which resulted in a prior $50K investment from the Abell Foundation.
"I know this space. I know this work in a way that advisors and folks don't necessarily understand, and I stand on that."
Both Fearless and The Harbor Bank of Maryland are beta testing the EIA Score and monitoring platform. The investment speeds up TBBT’s pace to reach the general market by allowing the company to hire a product manger and implement AI into its platform. The company also plans to make a version of the business intelligence platform for diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants.
Despite expectations, St. Jean does not intend for the company to grow into a consultancy firm itself. She sees that there are no “tools of the trade” to do DEI work and is focused on creating the future where data driven solutions that help companies overcome their DEI challenges are bountiful.
“Design has been really focused on solving for equity,” said St. Jean. She recalled advice Lewis gave to her about standing firm in your mission.
“There are people who come into the room who are advisors and they tell you things you can read in books, but you are the subject matter expert in this issue,” she said. “So walk in that knowledge and understanding of what you are bringing to the table. I know this space. I know this work in a way that advisors and folks don’t necessarily understand, and I stand on that.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.