Driving Growth – Miami’s Black Startup Community and 18 Founders Driving Its Growth in 2020
With protests raging across the country against systemic racism and police brutality, the importance of combating the inequitable conditions facing black people in America is currently under as bright a national spotlight as we’ve seen shone on it in decades. Supporting black entrepreneurship is a major part of that fight because expanded ownership is one of the primary and most effective avenues available to close the equity gap that exists in this country.
In 2015, I wrote about our community, some of its most notable members, and the growth of Miami’s startup ecosystem as a whole and specifically how it relates to the Black Startup Community. Now, five years later, the city has gone from second to first in the Kauffman Foundation’s startup activity index, and the resources dedicated to helping expand black entrepreneurship and innovation have grown even stronger through our work at CodeFever, Blacktech Week, and with organizations like Black Men Talk Tech, Venture Café, Dibia’s STEM Saturday’s, Black Girl Ventures Miami and newly formed Black Angels Miami. While we still need more concentrated efforts to support Black Founders here in South Florida, we have founders who are building leading technology that showcase the potential for our startup community.
Miami’s black startup community has seen growth over the last ten years, in comparison to some other hubs across the nation, and narrowing down the founders to feature from the community’s long list of innovative entrepreneurs was a difficult task. While the city has grown into a world leader in sectors like life sciences and EdTech, the founders in this list and Miami’s black startup community as a whole, are making waves in a wide variety of industries, from blockchain to hospitality, beauty, digital media, to quantum computing, and beyond.
18 Black Entrepreneurs and Companies to Watch in 2020 and Beyond
Miami’s black startup community has seen rapid growth over the last ten years, and narrowing down the founders to feature from the community’s long list of innovative entrepreneurs was a difficult task. While the city has grown into a world leader in sectors like life sciences and EdTech, the founders in this list and Miami’s black startup community as a whole, are making waves in a wide variety of industries, from blockchain to hospitality, to digital media, to quantum computing, and beyond.
1. Ryan Robinson – Founder of Conduit
Ryan Robinson is the first person on Earth to graduate with a degree in Quantum Engineering. While obtaining that degree at MIT, he came up with the idea that would eventually develop into his current startup – Conduit.
Conduit is the world’s first collective computing platform – a system designed to tap into the unused power of millions of cloud-connected computers around the world in order to enable faster, more efficient, more scalable, and more flexible computation of complex problems.
It enables calculations to be sped up by up to 100x, making it a game-changing platform in any discipline that requires high levels of computing power to solve complex problems. Conduit has potentially revolutionary applications in everything from the creation of cheaper drugs, to the prediction of catastrophic natural events like earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados, to financial modeling, to AI development, and more.
Learn more about Conduit
2. Rishielle Giscombe – Funder and CEO of Glamo
Rishielle Giscombe moved from Jamaica to New York in 2011, but her architectural engineering studies brought her to Fort Lauderdale, making Miami an easy choice to headquarter her new beauty app, Glamo.
Glamo combines Giscombe’s passions for beauty and tech to create an app that connects local consumers with salon services like hair and nails. One of the app’s greatest strengths is the cultural diversity of its stylists, ensuring that clients can always find the right professional to meet their personal needs within a matter of minutes. Glamo then makes those services available on-demand, wherever a client may need them.
The app initially launched across Florida and California, as well as in Atlanta, and is now undergoing a wider global launch.
Learn more about Glamo
3. John Cormier – Founder and CEO of WatchFacts
John Cormier is no newcomer to the business world. With undergrad and graduate degrees in accounting and finance from the University of Louisiana, University of Houston, and Wharton, and years of experience in executive roles in finance, investing, and asset management, Cormier brings a high business pedigree to his current venture, WatchFacts.
WatchFacts is a company that provides sales, inspection, authentication, and grading services to buyers and owners of high-end luxury watches. It was an idea born of personal experience after Cormier found that the first Rolex he’d treated himself to after college contained inauthentic parts. With the global luxury watch market worth over $7 billion, Cormier realized that buyers on the secondary market needed a trusted third-party partner that could ensure they always got the real thing. With that, WatchFacts was born, and the Miami-based company has now been providing luxury watch buyers with the peace of mind since 2010.
Learn more about WatchFacts
4. Andre Kay – Co-Founder of Kids Maker Lab
Andre Kay’s journey in entrepreneurship started when he founded Sociallybuzz in 2009, a marketing firm providing end-to-end social media services including profile management, content creation and curation, reputation management, and much more. But after the birth of his son Parker, Andrey and his wife Thuy created a startup based around their new passion – providing their children with a pathway to success in an increasingly complex and digital world.
They founded Kids Maker Lab to provide their children and kids everywhere with the tools they need to flex their creative muscles while learning the kind of advanced problem-solving skills that the 21st century demands.
Learn more about Kids Maker Lab
5. Kamilah Harris – Owner of Mother Earth Diaper Service
Kamilah Harris is a professional birth worker who has owned Mother Earth Diaper Service since 2018. Since then, she’s been providing parents in South Florida with an affordable cloth-diaper rental service that both eliminates the enormous cost of disposable diapers and the thousands of used diapers that would otherwise pile up in local landfills.
In 2019, Harris’s work at Mother Earth won an award from Miami’s Blacktech Week in partnership with AnitaB.org, an organization dedicated to helping women in tech fields.
Learn more about Mother Earth Diaper Service
6. John D. Saunders – Founder of blackwallet and Black Illustrations
John D. Saunders is a serial entrepreneur whose newest venture, blackwallet, aims to teach financial literacy to urban millennials in an effort to help them do more with their growing spending power. Saunders believes that technology combined with financial literacy can help young, black Americans moderate the impacts of discrimination to help provide a means of closing the equity gap that exists in the country.
Saunder’s first foray into the financial literacy market was Kiddie Kredit, a free chore app designed to help parents teach their children financial responsibility. His other companies include 5Four Digital, a full-service web development firm, and BlackIllustrations.com, a site providing free illustrations of black people to promote their inclusion in digital media projects.
7. and 8. Kadion and Tennyson Preston – Co-Founder and CEO of CaribShopper
Kadion Preston co-founded CaribShopper with his brother Tennyson in 2017 after recognizing the untapped opportunity represented by the underserved Caribbean diaspora in the United States. By creating a more frictionless conduit between shoppers hungry for products from their home countries, and suppliers in the Caribbean better able to meet that demand, CaribShopper provides significant benefits to both sides of the Caribbean community.
After getting CaribShopper off the ground, the Preston brothers earned one of ten coveted spots in TechStars Atlanta’s class of 2018 – a testament to both their business model and the work they’ve put in, as TechStars selects only 1% of applicants for inclusion in its accelerator program each year.
Learn more about CaribShopper
9. Ainsworth Spence – Co-Founder of FleetFare
Ainsworth Spence founded FleetFare in 2016 to connect commercially licensed drivers with local riders and business and leisure travelers. The platform facilitates easier payment processing with no requirement for new hardware, and provides a suite of software tools, including a full-featured dashboard for service providers and a mobile app to make booking easier for customers.
Spence is also the president of Atomic Clock Design, a digital media firm that leverages Spence’s strong background in UX and UI design.
Learn more about FleetFare
10. Shakeia Kegler – Founder and CEO of GovLia
After completing over four years of service with the Navy in 2016, Shakeia Kegler dove headfirst into entrepreneurship. She launched GovLia in 2017, combining her experiences in government supply, compliance, and administration roles in the Navy with the knowledge she’d gained completing a management degree at the American Military University and an entrepreneurship certificate at Broward College.
GovLia is a platform designed to improve the ability of governments to implement and manage supplier diversity programs – initiatives designed to promote the inclusion of underrepresented and minority-owned businesses in government supply chains. Her work with GovLia has earned Kegler and the company a number of accolades, including selection as a 2020 Camelback Fellow, a 2019 Evolve Entrepreneurship award, and an invitation to participate in the 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
Learn more about GovLia
11. Samella Watson – Founder of Sebiya / My-Cierge
Samella Watson developed Sebiya to meet the needs of hoteliers and vacation property owners looking to put technology to work to reduce costs, save time, and provide an elevated guest experience. Before founding Sebiya, previously known as My-Cierge, Watson had ten years of experience as a hotel manager and a degree in hospitality and tourism management from Roosevelt University. She tapped into that background to develop an all-in-one software platform meeting all the needs of modern hotels and vacation properties, from touchless check-in and entry systems, to contactless requests, task management, local guide services, and much more.
Learn more about Sebiya
12. Marlon Williams – Founder and CEO of Qubicles
Marlon Williams has almost two decades of experience in software, and he’s founded multiple firms in the medical, information management, and contact center verticals. His current venture, Qubicles, is at the forefront of practical blockchain application, offering a decentralized marketplace designed to connect contact centers with talented agents. Qubicles solves a problem for call centers by providing them the flexibility to staff up and down as their workload dictates, and provides a cryptocurrency-based incentive for agents that ensures the marketplace can retain top talent.
Learn more about Qubicles
13. Evan Leaphart – Co-Founder of Kiddie Kredit
Evan Leaphart is a serial entrepreneur in Miami’s booming EdTech industry, and the co-founder of Kiddie Kredit, a company aiming to teach the next generation the financial literacy that traditionally hasn’t been taught in schools. Kiddie Kredit is a chore tracking app that lets kids log their completed chores in exchange for a “credit score” that they can then redeem for monetary or non-monetary rewards from their parents. How they utilize their available credit will impact the future calculation of their scores and their ability to build up additional credit. By simulating the consumer credit environment, Kiddie Kredit ingrains good habits and helps prepare kids for the financial realities of adult life. Leaphart is also the co-founder of Black Men Talk Tech, and sits on the board of Miami EdTech.
Learn more about Kiddie Kredit
14. Stephanie M. Jones – Founder and President of Cultural Heritage Alliance for Tourism (CHAT)
Stephanie M. Jones founded CHAT to enable small businesses and tourist attractions in multicultural and heritage communities in Miami and across south Florida. Jones has a long history of social entrepreneurship all across the U.S., and in addition to running CHAT, she’s also founded the National Synergy Summit for Cultural and Heritage Tourism, and South Florida Black Restaurant Week – a week-long showcase of South Florida’s top black chefs and culinary entrepreneurs. In 2019, Jones was also selected for a Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative fellowship in Jamaica and delivered a keynote address on cultural heritage tourism.
Learn more about the CHAT South Florida
15. Temanté Leary – Co-Founder, President, and CEO of Class Updates
Temanté Leary is an adjunct professor at the Miami Dade College School of Business with a joint J.D. and MBA from the St. Thomas University School of Law. In 2017, he co-founded Class Updates, an EdTech startup with a proprietary mobile app design designed to streamline the communication between students, teachers, and administrators at the high-school, college, and university levels. The app uses push notifications to alert users of things like homework or project updates, class cancellations, and more. Leary is also a co-founder of Black Men Talk Tech, a collective aimed at empowering black men in the tech industry.
Learn more about Class Updates
16. Emmanuel Miot – Founder and Executive Creator at Socialaim.co
Emmanuel Miot is an entrepreneur with a passion for social causes and community development. He founded Socialaim.co in 2019 to marry those two passions. Socialaim.co enables social entrepreneurs and the communities they live and work in to enhance their symbiotic relationship, improving the success of socially-oriented ventures and bolstering community development simultaneously. The company offers events aimed at bringing business owners and their communities closer together, and business resources designed to enable and empower social entrepreneurs. Miot is also a program coordinator at ScaleUp Miami, a four-month training program small business owners and entrepreneurs offered by Miami Dade College.
Learn more about Socialaim.co
17. and 18. Jeanine Suah and Maghan Morin – Co-Founders of Thynk Global
Jeanine Suah and Maghan Morin are serial entrepreneurs with a talent for building communities and empowering entrepreneurs. Thynk Global does exactly that by providing affordable coworking and event space to entrepreneurs and people with side gigs, making office space accessible to businesses without the resources to rent expensive commercial space. The company prides itself on its environment of acceptance and inclusion, and its commitment to promoting diversity in business. In addition to Thynk Global, Suah and Morin also co-founded The Doyenne Company, a professional development platform designed to empower women in business, and founded Organiza Systems, a communications consulting firm.
Learn more about Thynk Global