Hi all, Julie here. No news today, we'll get back to that on Wednesday. Instead, I want to take today, Martin Luther King Jr Day, to highlight a few incredible black founders in our fintech community.
In a recent post, Georgetown law professor Chris Brummer points out the changes that still need to be made. For instance, The Harvard Business Review has reported that fewer than 2% of tech executives are black, and only 5.3% of tech professionals. "With fintech accounting for perhaps 10 to 15% of tech employment overall, the gross numbers of full time, African American fintech executives and professionals could be in the hundreds, not thousands," he writes.
That's why I'm so excited to highlight a few of these individuals. They've pushed boundaries, worked hard through adversity, and have continued to believe in themselves and their mission.
I asked friends and collegues for nominations, as well as a little blurb highlighting why they wanted me to include these individuals. I loved reading all of the responses, and I hope you do too.
Joe Bayen, Grow Credit
Joe is an entrepreneur who impresses on three fronts. First, he developed a truly innovative and consumer-friendly approach to helping people improve their credit score in a way that is accessible, affordable, and 100% non-predatory. Second, he has the ultimate grit that entrepreneurship requires, overcoming many hurdles and doubt to reach this early success with Grow. Third, he has maintained his humility, friendliness, and sense of gratitude through the whole experience. -Nominated and written by Matthew Goldman.
Tanya Van Court, Goalsetter
Tanya built the company in response to wanting to help teach her own children how to build healthier financial habits. Goalsetter is an all-in-one financial super app that helps parents teach their children, teenagers, and young adults that money has real value. Goalsetter’s product set and user experience allow parents to effortlessly teach their children the fundamentals of how to save, invest, and build wealth by teaching the importance of understanding where their money goes. I also admire how deeply Tanya understands her consumer. Along with being a parent herself, she previously worked as the SVP of Digital Products, Parenting & Preschool for Nickelodeon and SVP of Marketing at Discovery Education. -Nominated and written by Mario Ruiz.
Eli Polanco, Nivelo
Eli has a much deeper background in financial services than most founders in the fintech space. In her decade at JPMorgan, she led strategy for their blockchain banking group, exploring how emerging technologies could improve financial services infrastructure. With her company Nivelo, she secured impressive early partnerships to rebuild ACH infrastructure from the ground up, which is a credit to her leadership and nuanced understanding of US payments architecture. -Nominated and written by Nik Milanović.
Sheridan Clayborne, Lendtable
Sheridan is a force of nature. Not to mention, Lendtable is doing as much to tactically deal with wealth inequality as any startup I have seen. It’s making sure that everyone with a 401k is able to take full benefit of their employers' matching. About 25% of people do not, usually because they cannot cover the cost of living expenses while also investing. Meaning those that need it most do not have access. -Nominated and written by Will Quist.
Nelly Chatue-Diop, Ejara
Nelly is as smart as they come. Not only that, but she builds with empathy, integrity, and inclusion. Her positivity is totally infectious. Helping Nelly and her team has been the pride of my career. I’m so proud of all she’s accomplished and will be her and Ejara’s devoted cheerleader until the not so bitter end. By allowing users in Africa to access various investment offers: fractional shares, commodities (gold, silver..), cryptocurrency and more, Ejara is putting financial growth and health back into the hands of middle class Africans. -Nominated and written by Cokie Hasiotis.
Chapman Snowden, In-Stealth
Chapman’s the homie. Not only is he incredibly bright, but I think him and I get along so well because we’re so similar. Chapman started out in education, both as a founder and an operator at Google. My first job when I was 16 was as an SAT tutor, and I was the PM on financial literacy at Acorns. As a fintech founder, he’s been a great Slack community member with his immense knowledge around the mortgage and home buying space. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him and his new company! -Nominated and written by Ian Kar.
Ryan Williams, Cadre
Something I've always admired and appreciated about Ryan is his ability to network. Like, truly meeting people, staying in touch with them even when you don't need anything from them, and just genuinely enjoying fostering relationships. He's also a die-hard entrepreneur. Even while working corporate jobs, you can tell he desperately wanted to get back to running a business of his own like Cadre. And throughout the ups and downs, Ryan works harder than anyone I know. -Nominated and written by yours truly.
Songe LaRon, Squire
Squire is a vertical SaaS solution that focuses exclusively on servicing the barbershop industry. With Covid hitting this segment hard in 2020, Dave and Songe have been laser-focused on how to help them cope. For instance, they've been making it easier to book, launching new features like a digital waiting room, and waiving fees. While they may take a hit on fees in the short-term, there is a real opportunity to get deeper integrations, including booth rentals, payouts, and helping their customers source supplies. -Nominated and written by Dan Kahn.
Christian-Robert Joseph, Grain
Managing the risk of cash-flow based underwriting down is hard. I'm incredibly impressed by how Christian and the team at Grain have figured out how to manage that risk and use it to achieve some really impressive growth. -Nominated and written by Chapman Snowden.
Craig Lewis, Gig Wage
GigWage is focused on compliance and payment solutions for contractors. Craig, the co-founder and CEO, recognized from his time working at ADP and an identity startup that contractor (1099) payments were fundamentally different than the employee (W2) space that startups like Gusto were attacking. That meant these required a different business model, including options for instant debit cash out, flexibility around speed of ACH transactions, and automated tools/APIs for tax filing and reporting. With a growing number of people entering the contract or gig economy space, there's a lot of room for Craig and his business to really take off. -Nominated and written by Dan Kahn.
Donald Hawkins, First Boulevard
Don recently founded First Boulevard, a mobile banking focused on the black community and empowering them. He's one of the most impressive hustlers and give-first entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. Not to mention, he’s done some amazing things for Kansas City’s tech scene, like launching the KC Collective, an organization meant to build up the city's entrepreneurs. -Nominated and written by Tim Yu.
A few honorable mentions:
- Wole Coaxum at MoCaFi, a digital banking platform that would target target the more than 50 million unbanked and underbanked people in the U.S.
- Greenwood, a mobile banking platform with a slew of black founders that specifically targets Black and Latino people and businesses.
- Travis Holoway at SoLo Funds, a mobile lending exchange that connects lenders and borrowers for the purpose of providing more affordable access to loans under $1,000.
- David Dindi at Atomic, an API that lets companies embed investment accounts into their services.
I wish I could list every amazing black founder out there, not to mention all of the amazing black executives that deserve a whole newsletter to themselves as well. Thanks to all of you for always inspiring! Excited to follow along on your journeys and highlight them in future issues of Fintech Today. In the meantime, I'll see you guys again on Wednesday!