Newark Venture Partners’ Vaughn Crowe on Celebrating Black History Month: Honoring Today’s Trailblazing Black Founders

Newark Venture Partners–from the start–has championed black founders. In this blog post which first appeared on NVP’s website, NVP managing partner Vaughn Crowe talks about five of NVP’s portfolio companies and their founders.

As we commemorate Black history and achievements throughout February, it’s essential to acknowledge the monumental contributions of Black entrepreneurs who are reshaping the landscape of innovation and entrepreneurship. At nvp, our commitment to diversity and community isn’t just a moral stance but a strategic advantage that fuels our mission to invest in bold founders building the next generation of enterprise software.

As a Black venture capital professional, I take particular pride in nvp’s’ approach to investing and supporting diverse founders. When Black ideas remain unfunded and unrealized, it not only signifies unmet needs within the Black community but also represents an untapped opportunity for investors and founders alike. Did you know that 50% of nvp’s investment team comprises professionals from underrepresented groups within the venture industry?  Or that approximately 60% of our portfolio companies have an ethnically diverse or female founder?  We firmly believe that diverse perspectives foster better decisions and stronger investments. That’s how we do business, and ultimately, it’s how we will achieve success. 

While many of nvp’s portfolio companies continue to achieve remarkable milestones, this month, I am particularly thrilled to spotlight 5 of our Black-led, Black-owned businesses  – and their stellar founders – who are making history in real-time.

Financial Inclusion: Wole Coaxum – MoCaFi

Wole Coaxum stands as a beacon of change in the realm of financial inclusion, spearheading the transformative efforts of MoCaFi. With a keen focus on empowering marginalized and underbanked communities, Coaxum’s leadership led MoCaFi to secure an impressive $23 million Series B funding round in 2023. Additionally, MoCaFi’s recently announced collaboration with New York City on a groundbreaking $53 million pilot program underscores their commitment to tangible solutions that address systemic barriers to financial access. Through innovative initiatives and strategic partnerships, Coaxum and MoCaFi are changing the game,  ensuring all individuals have the tools and resources needed to thrive economically.

Revolutionizing Healthcare: Kwasi Kyei – Handspring Health

As co-founder and CEO of Handspring Health, Kwasi Kyei is helping to modernize the world of patient care. Handspring Health’s platform leverages advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence to provide personalized treatment plans and predictive insights, empowering healthcare providers to deliver more effective and efficient behavioral healthcare. With Handspring Health, Kyei continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in healthcare, driving transformative change and improving patient outcomes.

Handspring was recently named as one of the 2024 New York Digital Health 100 for the second year in a row, and they announced a new partnership with Independence Blue Cross to streamline access to top-tier care, ensuring individuals receive the highest quality of service promptly and efficiently.

Empowering Dreams: Chisa Egbelu and Kayla Jackson – PeduL

Chisa Egbelu and Kayla Jackson, the visionary minds behind PeduL, are blazing a path toward educational equity and opportunity. Their approach to expanding access to coveted careers with long-term potential for students of color earned them a coveted spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Education in 2023. PeduL recently won the 2023-24 Devils Buy Black Program presented by Prudential Financial, which means that the PeduL logo will adorn the helmets of the NJ Devils during select games this season amplifying their impact and reach.  (Go Devils!)  Egbelu, Jackson, and PeduL are not just transforming lives; they are reshaping the narrative around education and early employment, ensuring every student has a pathway to opportunity.

Transforming Time Intelligence and Workforce Management: Kishau Rogers – Time Study

As the founder and CEO of Time Study, Kishau Rogers has revolutionized workforce management through her cutting-edge software solution for collecting and understanding time data. Time Study’s platform seamlessly integrates data analytics and machine learning to optimize operational efficiency and productivity for businesses across various sectors. Rogers’ dedication to empowering organizations with actionable insights has earned her recognition as a trailblazer in the realm of workforce optimization – and as a leader in her own hometown Lynchburg, Virginia, where she recently was presented with the Key to the City. Through her leadership, Time Study continues to push the boundaries of technology, driving transformative change in how businesses approach time tracking and resource allocation.

Storytelling and the Future of the Soundscape: Anthony Frasier –  ABF Creative 

Anthony Frasier, the entrepreneurial force behind ABF Creative, brings a unique blend of talent and vision to the forefront of media and storytelling. Hailing from Newark, Frasier’s commitment to uplifting underrepresented voices has been an important driver of success. ABF Creative recently made news with a study that looked at how children consume, respond to, and benefit from various forms of audio content.  They also just launched a new project, “Mini Pods,” which replaced the traditional school bell with 60-second mini-podcasts in over 100 New York City public schools.  Their long-term collaboration with industry giant (and nvp LP) Audible, underscores ABF Creative’s emergence as a powerhouse in multimedia production.

Anthony’s distinction as nvp’s first-ever “entrepreneur in residence” speaks volumes about his innovative prowess and leadership in the startup ecosystem. His journey exemplifies how one can combine passion with purpose, and we are exceedingly proud to have him in our nvp family. 

As we commemorate Black History Month, let us not only honor the past but also celebrate the present and future. The remarkable stories above and many others in our portfolio exemplify the power of diversity in driving innovation and reshaping the world of B2B software. 

My excitement around Black innovation is rooted in nvp’s founders – but it extends to black communities worldwide. I recently had the privilege of traveling to Rwanda, where I witnessed a people’s ingenuity and hard work.  I visited with people making something out of nothing (literally), which is the spirit of my profession as a venture capitalist: to seed founders with a bit of capital such that he or she can turn a kernel into a crop.  Black History Month is not just about 28 (or 29) days to celebrate the many contributions of Black Americans but is a time to reflect on Black people from across the world.  We must continue acknowledging the contributions and growing reasons to invest in black-led funds and black founders of all backgrounds.  We are a people who are born creators, builders, and innovators – and investing in our likely success simply makes good business “cents”.

At nvp, we pride ourselves on fostering an inclusive ecosystem where underrepresented voices are not only heard but compensated, valued, and deemed worthy of investment. We are proud to allocate carried interest from funds ii and iii to Boys and Girls Club of Newark and Braven, respectively. Both of these critical organizations are providing new pathways to success for talented and enterprising individuals within predominantly Black communities. Our goal is to generate returns such that each organization’s carried interest is worth approximately $1M.  This commitment underscores our belief in brilliance and opportunities across our ecosystem. Together, let’s celebrate our community’s potential, talent, and excellence, knowing that countless more stories are waiting to be told and opportunities waiting to be realized.

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