Accelerators / Entrepreneurs / Funding / POC in Tech / Startups

Power Moves: Cassie Guerin is partnering with Better Work Ventures and two Black-led orgs got Google funding

Gainvest made it into the latest Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, while Black Tech Nation Ventures scored a CapitalG investment. Plus, Seegrid has a new CEO, and Module is in a housing-focused accelerator.

Cassie Guerin. (Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us:

Cassie Guerin describes herself as a boomerang.

The Pittsburgh native has left the city before, but always ends up returning. And in her professional life, she told that she always tries to return to pursuits that make her “sing.” Throughout her career that’s happened as a yoga instructor, putting her environmental studies degree to use as a green infrastructure researcher, and founding Miror, a virtual hosting platform focused on mental health.

As a big believer in therapy, she noticed a problem when people were feeling especially isolated in 2020: There were a lot of people who needed to talk, but they didn’t necessarily know where to go to seek support. While Miror isn’t specifically a therapy app, Guerin said, it does convene people who are tackling similar issues related to cultural, social and mental health topics. The startup has participated in the local AlphaLab accelerator.

Although she said she never saw herself in the tech field, she’s enjoyed being able to use the platform to bring people together. In 2021 she met Lynsie Campbell, founder and managing director of Better Work Ventures, a startup studio that partners with “overlooked” founders to create community-driven tech companies, when Campbell attended one of the gatherings Guerin was hosting called Fempreneur for women entrepreneurs. Campbell felt the sense of community Guerin was cultivating was just what Better Work Ventures was looking for, and the two began collaborating professionally.

Now, in between her training to become a counselor herself and running her startup, Guerin — who also previously worked as director of partnerships for the Pittsburgh Innovation District — will be working with Better Work Ventures to take charge of facilitating meetups for members of the org’s Community, as well as helping to create the org’s 12-month strategic plan.

Whether it’s through yoga or tech, Guerin wants to go wherever she’ll be able to help people improve themselves and their relationships with those around them.

“I am excited to have conversations about the human [and] the personal aspects of starting and running a company,” the entrepreneur said. “It’s easy to find conversations about accounting and legal and SEO, it’s harder to find a place for honest discussion about the personal challenges around being an entrepreneur — finding balance between purpose and financial success between family and business success. … People are at the core of companies. Let’s talk about being human, not just a founder.”

Google invests in Black Tech Nation Ventures and Gainvest

Black Tech National Ventures partners (L to R) Kelauni Jasmyn, Sean Sebastian and David Motley. (Courtesy photo)

Pittsburgh’s Gainvest and Black Tech Nation Ventures, respectively an investing startup and a venture capital firm, have been tapped by Google to receive funding.

For Gainvest, the funding comes through its Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. That fund was launched in 2020 with the goal of easing the constraints on Black-led startups and closing the racial funding gap. Recipients come to the fund via nomination or participation in a previous Google program and receive $100,000 in addition to hands-on support to aid them in their growth.

For Nashid Ali, the CEO and cofounder of Gainvest, the funding presents the chance to make up for missed opportunities.

“I planned to sell Gainvest last year and part of me regretted not doing so,” Ali said in a statement. “Now, with this opportunity from Google, we have several new partnerships that will be announced before the end of the year 2022. These partnerships, along with Google’s support, will help us remove some growing pains and finally scale to the powerful, mighty Gainvest.”

Meter Feeder, the Pittsburgh startup founded by technologist Jim Gibbs, also received a $100,000 investment from Google for Startups Black Founders Fund in 2021.

Black Tech Nation Ventures is receiving an undisclosed amount from Google through a different program from parent company Alphabet. The org is one of six Black-led venture capital firms in the country to be selected for such funding as a part of $60 million that has been allocated from the CapitalG investment fund. The news comes amid Black Tech Nation’s own efforts to raise $50 million for Black and underserved startup founders.

Seegrid has a new CEO

Last week, Seegrid CEO Jim Rock announced that after eight years, he’d be stepping down from the robotics company for personal reasons. While his next career move remains to be determined, he’s not stepping away from the company entirely: As Joe Pajer, a seasoned CEO who’s run three companies in the past decade, takes the reins, Rock plans to stick around as a shareholder and member of the Seegrid board of directors.

“I have tremendous respect for, and confidence in the team, and want to thank everyone involved in growing Seegrid, including current and former employees, customers, partners, advisors and investors,” Rock wrote in a public LinkedIn post. “While I contemplate options for the next chapter of my professional life, I will continue to enthusiastically champion for Seegrid’s continued success in the burgeoning robotics and automation space.”

This leadership changeup follows the August news that Seegrid had both raised $30 million of a planned $75 million round, and laid off around 90 employees.

Module made it into a housing-focused accelerator

Module Design Inc. has a mission to address the displacement due to the rising rents in many Pittsburgh neighborhoods by building affordable, energy-efficient homes. Now, after a few years of filling vacant lots across the city with sustainable housing, the South Side-based startup is one of six startups across the country to have been chosen to participate in the 2022 Housing Lab Cohort.

The accelerator — which is hosted by The Housing Lab, a program of the California nonprofit Terner Housing Innovation Labs at UC Berkeley — was founded in 2019, and the 11 startups the cohort has supported have received an estimated $340 million in funding since. With regard to cohort participants, they can look forward to receiving $75,000 in funding and six months of technical support and coaching.

“The ventures selected for the 2022 Housing Lab Cohort address some of the root causes of our housing affordability, equity, and climate crises in the U.S.,” said Carol Galante, cofounder and CEO of The Housing Lab and founder and advisor of the Terner Center, in a statement. “Their models and solutions are diverse, innovative, and can be scaled to reach communities all over the country, not just in their metro areas of origin.”

Module earned third place and $250,000 at the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s first pitch competition in early 2022.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 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 Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Module / Black Tech Nation / Google
Series: Power Moves

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