(Photo by Garry Johnson III)
Some may think Houston rapper Chamillionaire’s announcement that he’s celebrating Black History Month by investing $10,000 in a Black-founded business (and accepting micro-pitches via his own startup, social video app Convoz) defies expectations.
The perception that Blackness and tech startups are incongruous is one of the reasons Garry Johnson III, founder of First Founders, has devoted himself to raising up Black entrepreneurs in Delaware.
And it’s a reason he has respect for Chamillionaire.
“He’s experienced the struggles of fundraising-while-Black, and knows that his community deserves so much better,” Johnson told Technical.ly. “He’s putting his money where his mouth is, inspiring others to invest back into their own culture — not as a charity case, but as a strategic investment where he’ll be expecting high returns, as any smart investor should. He recognizes that Black entrepreneurs are creating products and companies that are changing the world, and just because they’re Black and don’t look like Zuckerberg doesn’t mean they can’t become the next great startup founders.”
In in the announcement he posted on Instagram, Chamillionaire offered some troubling statistics.
“Out of all the [startup] money being raised out there, companies with Black founders make up just one percent of the total, and Black women founders make up just .2%,” he said. “We gotta do better.”
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I will be investing $10,000 in a black founder’s company. Send your submission in the @convoz app and the winner will be announced March 1st. (App is for IOS but shouldn’t be too hard to find someone with an IPhone). Tag and share this with someone you think needs to hear this. #blackexcellence #blackhistorymonth #wegotthepower #investing #venturecapital #angelinvestor
Johnson learned that the rapper — best known for the 2005 hit “Ridin’” — had transitioned to a career in venture capital and startup investment at the AfroTech conference in 2017.
“Chamillionaire was one of the featured speakers,” he said. “He had a captive audience due to his strong knowledge and insights gained from investing in high-growth tech startups. He also talked about his difficulties of raising money as a Black entrepreneur, and how he’d walk into rooms where venture capitalists — who did not look like him — would treat him differently due to the way he’d come into meetings.”
His commitment to the community, Johnson said, was made clear: “A huge line formed as he approached the end of his talk. He spent the next couple of hours talking to every single person in line, answering all of their questions, giving advice, and motivating them to keep going. He stood with them the entire time.
“When he says he’s going to provide feedback to every single person who applies to his new challenge, I absolutely believe him. I’ve seen him do it before,” Johnson said.
Markevis Gideon, founder of NerdIT NOW in Stanton, appreciates the impression Chamillionaire is making with his social media-driven competition. “It plants the idea that starting a business is cool, and with only 15 seconds will pull a lot of creativity out of many individuals,” he said. “This can, in turn, start a chain reaction of Black entrepreneurs pitching business concepts to different venture capitalists.”
“I will absolutely be applying,” said Johnson. “And if you’re a Black entrepreneur, you should too.”
To apply, you’ll need to download the Convoz app. (Be aware that Convoz is only currently available for iOS, so if you use Android, you’ll have to get an iPhone user to help you out.) On the app, go to Chamillionaire’s profile and send him a 15 second video pitch — you can send a maximum of two pitches — during the month of February. He will post his favorite pitches to his Instagram page, and pick a winner on March 1.-30-
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