Two Philly tech entrepreneurs are part of a group of 76 recent recipients of the $5 million Black Founders Fund for entrepreneurs within the Google for Startups program.
Stimulus, Inc. founder and CEO Tiffanie Stanard and Switchboard Live cofounder and CEO Rudy Ellis will each receive a $50,000 grant, and through the Black Founders Exchange program will continue to have access to Google’s tech resources, people and best business practices. The Exchange is based in Durham, North Carolina, and provides hands-on mentorship and support with industry experts and investors.
The Google grant is well timed with Stimulus’ flagship product launch, the Stimulus Relationship Intelligence Platform, for the reimagined company mission of allowing people to make better vendor purchasing decisions. Standard founded Stimulus in 2016, but pivoted to the data analytics partnership platform in early 2019.
After a year of building out the rethought company, and adding some team members (the startup is currently at eight employees), Stanard told Technical.ly they had to pause some of their funding plans because of the pandemic. As challenging as that was, she said, it allowed her team the time to get a lot of back-end work done and to get comfortable with the engineering team, who were mostly hired in February.
“2020, as hard as it is, the topic of supply chain this year became very mainstream. We had the opportunity of reaping the benefits, and people reaching out to us,” Stanard said. “Our value proposition was already established, but the value proposition was really emphasized in 2020 when people needed to change vendors quickly, find different means and avenues.”
Along with Google’s grant, Stimulus is working on closing an early round with participation from Gabriel Investments, Campus Apartments’ David Adelman and Ben Franklin Technology Partners Board Member Osagie Imasogie.
Standard also said one upside to 2020 is that the company name — Stimulus — has yielded impressive SEO results as Congress released its CARES Act relief package: The company’s social media and website traffic (getstimulus.io) has never been better, she said. And the name isn’t a total coincidence, as she received a stimulus check when she was laid off in the 2008 recession.
“I always kept that name in the back of my head thinking I should use it for something in the future, and I waited until I found a fit,” she said. “It actually is a little 360 now, who knew?”
Stanard said she’s learned many startup-building lessons in her 15 years as an entrepreneur, but Stimulus’ big takeaway is that it’s OK to pivot when you learn something else might be best for the company. It’s an ongoing process of learning what and who is best to make your company a success, she said, heralding her team, which she called “the absolute right people to work with throughout the pandemic.”
“It definitely feels like we started over when we pivoted, but it’s been amazing and exciting, and we pray to get to this point, and now we’re here,” Stanard said of the launch.
As for Switchboard, which allows content producers to push their live steam simultaneously across various social channels, the Google funds will be used to hire an experienced digital marketing manager, the company said in a statement.
“Being a Google for Startups company, specifically the Black Founders Exchange program has exposed me to a network of intangible resources as well as a community of fellow CEO’s that not only look like me, but support me,” Ellis said. “It is a testament that Google and their partners like [Durham incubator] American Underground and [startup development program] Goodie Nation are doing the work to aid in the success of Black & Brown founders.”
When you #FundBlackFounders, incredible things happen. That’s why we are thrilled to share that we’ve been selected as a @GoogleStartups Black Founders Fund recipient. Read on for more about the important work happening in our Black #founder community:
— Switchboard Live (@switchboardlive) October 6, 2020