By Maija Ehlinger

ATLANTA (Nov. 13, 2023) It’s one thing for investors and organizations to say that they want to back diverse founders. It is quite another for them to actually make good on that promise and write checks.

We know those checks are often not written, since just one percent of VC funds go to Black-owned startups, a number which has fallen year-over-year despite an increased focus on diverse founders since 2020’s George Floyd Protests.

But the reality is that investors and diverse founders aren’t always in the same room. That’s a problem that the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) wanted to change with its Bridge Builders initiative.

Under the leadership of director Dr. Loretta Daniels, Bridge Builders launched in 2022 to link TAG members and partners with entrepreneurs and technologists from underrepresented groups. For Daniels, the organization is all about “advancing America and advancing Georgia” through supporting underrepresented founders.

Last week, the initiative brought together a group of investors and ecosystem builders at the offices of Morris, Manning, & Martin in Buckhead for the first Invest Connect Pitch Competition.

The six seed-stage and Series A Black founders selected to pitch were competing for $10,000 (sponsored by FP Omni Technologies) and $5,000 checks (sponsored by Splitit). So who was in the room? These were the finalists:

Presenting Companies 

“Compassionate Tech” startup Mini City: CEO and co-founder India Jha

(Previous Hypepotamus reporting here)

Mini City helps cities, clinics, shelters, homeless care providers more efficiently track and assist the unhoused population. Since launching, Mini City has worked with 100 caseworkers in 23 different locations to date.

HRTech startup DEI Directive: Attorney-turned-entrepreneur Malobi Achike 

DEI Directive is all about simplifying people decisions within a company by tracking data around diversity. This can help a business increase innovation, employee engagement, and overall profitability. Founder Malobi Achike said that since completing the DEI Directive prototype in 2021, the team has brought in $173,000 in sales.

Workforce management solution Untapped Solutions: CEO Andre Peart 

(Previous Hypepotamus reporting here)

Untapped Solutions is designed to help formerly incarcerated people find jobs. By helping social service providers, Untapped has built an AI-driven talent matching that allows for simplified job solution options. During his Invest Connect pitch, Peart said the company is forecasting $400,000 in recurring revenue next year.

Rainfall tracker app WaterWatch PRO: President Gene Norman

Former news weatherman Gene Norman has moved into the startup world to build out a hyper specific rainfall tracker. The business intelligence tool and mobile app works as an alternative to a rain gauge. The platform pulls together digital NOAA data and can help stormwater professionals and construction managers decrease operational costs.

Video and email tech startup EyeMail: CEO Lisa Jones 

If you struggle to get people to read your business emails, you might want to take EyeMail out for a spin. The Atlanta-based startup looks to improve email engagement with high quality embedded videos. As a technology agnostic platform that works all Email Services Providers (ESPs), the startup allows emails to automatically play videos across webmail, email and mobile platforms. To date, EyeMail has signed on Porsche, MLB, and other major brands as customers.

Mental health tech startup Lavni, Inc.: Co-founder and CTO Marcus King 

Mental health care is a growing, and important, topic across the US workforce. But it is still challenging for people to get the care they need. Lavni looks to help users easily connect with licensed therapists who fit their individual needs. Whether someone is looking for online therapy options, couples therapy, or teen therapy, the platform helps users connect to clinicians via chat or video call.

And the winners are….

The event wrapped up with Untapped Solutions taking home the $5,000 prize and Lavni, Inc. collecting the $10,000 check. Congrats to all the winners and those that pitched!