Full disclosure: Technical.ly is also a funding recipient of the PHL: Most Diverse Tech Hub program. That relationship is unrelated to this report.
Members of Philly’s Black entrepreneurship community had the chance to share their stories on Wednesday evening at the Philly Gets Back in the Black Tech Pitch Competition.
The pitch competition was hosted by Mom Your Business, First Founders Inc. and TEACHERS &. The City of Philadelphia Commerce Department’s Most Diverse Tech Hub (MDTH) initiative funded the event.
Entrepreneurs in the pitch competition also participated in a four-week boot camp covering topics related to business development including operations, pitching, branding and digital marketing.
Tanya Morris, founder and CEO of Mom Your Business, said she and her collaborators wanted to offer support in the areas that founders struggle with.
Mom Your Business hosted a pitch competition last year, but the companies were reviewed and a winner was chosen ahead of the event. This year, the founders pitched live and a winner was decided the night of.
“We always want to create an opportunity for founders to tell their story,” Morris said. “And you saw the impact of that and what this $50,000 is going to do for somebody like this, who we’ve personally worked with and helped her along her journey. And so it’s really about creating a space for them to be able to tell their stories.”
Morris said she hopes to host another pitch competition next year so the community can continue supporting these entrepreneurs.
The night was split into two pitch competitions.
First was the Quick Pitch Competition, which allowed founders three minutes to pitch their companies and win $10,000.
- GP2 is a platform that connects small businesses to gig workers, who the platform allows to get paid the same day.
- Shotcaller is a gaming app whose users can make sports picks and answer sports trivia for the chance to win blockchain-based assets.
- Katika is a social network for Black-owned businesses to market their events to relevant communities.
The Grand Pitch Competition gave founders eight minutes to pitch and compete for $50,000.
- Abstract Soundz is a company that designs unique overhead headphones. The company’s goal is to design custom headphones that align with the brands of musical artists.
- Philly Experiences is a company that curates Black culture-focused tours and events around Philadelphia.
- BioLattice is a tissue engineering company working on CorneaClear, a biomaterial-based solution for cornea repairs and replacements.
- Timbucktoo is a collectibles marketplace that uses AI to authenticate products and NFTs to create digital certificates for them.
- Monica Monique is a fashion design company that specializes in gowns for Black women for homecoming, prom, sweet-16 parties, weddings and related events.
- QuneUp developed software to organize information about production equipment and parts.
- Baby Bottle Brush Bib Co designs silicone baby products that are easier to clean and more sanitary than other offerings. They include a bottle brush, a brush splash guard and a pacifier clip.
Morris said organizers originally only planned to choose eight companies to pitch. But they came up with the idea for the quick pitch section because they wanted to allow more chances for founders to tell their stories.
The first competition ended up awarding all three companies prize money. Katika won the bigger prize of $10,000 while Shotcaller and GP2 won $5,000 each. Baby Bottle Brush Bib Co won $50,000 from the grand pitch competition.
Mamadou Ndiaye, founder and CEO of Timbucktoo, said that aside from the opportunity to win money, pitch competitions like this one are important for putting yourself and your company out there. He said this was an opportunity to network with people in the audience, citing someone he met after pitching who said they had potential connections for him.
Amelia Zellander, founder and CEO of BioLattice, reiterated Ndiaye’s point, saying that pitch competitions are great opportunities to network with people who have similar experiences as entrepreneurs.
Bessie Lee-Cappell, founder and CEO of Baby Bottle Brush Bib Co, said this was the biggest pitch competition she’s been part of. She said there aren’t a lot of Black and brown people in the tech industry, so events like this show how they can lean on and learn from each other.
Zellander added that every person has something to contribute to society and everyone loses if some people don’t have the opportunity to access their full potential.
Capital is important to founder the same way gas is important to a car, said Ndiaye.
“It’s no secret that Black and brown founders do not get their fair share when it comes to the capital that’s needed to grow their businesses,” Ndiaye said. “So it’s very critical that Black and brown founders have equal access to capital in order to really make their businesses successful.”
Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 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 Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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