Startup company Melanoid Exchange will be leveling up after winning The AfroTech Cup presented by Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) at the 2020 AfroTech World conference held from November 9-14. The hybrid eLearning platform received a $10,000 grand prize, along with an exclusive meet and greet with the SVB team and introductions to top angel investors and VCs, after successfully pitching their business in front of thousands of attendees and their fellow competitors, Words Live and Hire Henry.
Melanoid Exchange is an affordable eCommerce platform for early-stage online businesses founded by a couple, Jovante and Darsha Ham. With the motto “No business is left behind,” the founders launched the company to offer eCommerce businesses a step-by-step, collaborative virtual experience to help them launch and gain traction for their new businesses.
DeMarcus Williams, managing director of Startup Banking at SVB, kicked off the competition emphasizing his team’s dedication to global innovation. “We’re known for being the bank to the innovation economy, not just domestically, but around the world.” He dubbed the stellar finalists “the rising tech stars of tomorrow.”
Each company had limited time to present, followed by a Q&A from the judges. While they all presented strong pitches, Melanoid Exchange drove it home and emerged victoriously.
“In a world where consumers are conducting the vast majority of their shopping online, companies who aren’t providing a digital shopping experience are quickly becoming obsolete,” noted Williams. “Melanoid Exchange’s solution provides a critical toolkit for Black and Latinx founders.”
Watch The AfroTech Cup Pitch Competition here.
Jovante Ham spoke with AfroTech to talk more about their company, their experience participating in the competition, and future plans for Melanoid Exchange.
AfroTech: Tell us about your business and why you started it.
Jovante: Melanoid Exchange is a hybrid eLearning platform for early-stage eCommerce businesses to develop from launch to growth and increase traction with their earliest customers. We saw a huge problem with Black and brown companies lacking an online presence. These online businesses saw little to no success. We started Melanoid Exchange with intentions to give entrepreneurs of color a place to connect with the world. We initially created a marketplace platform for minority-owned businesses to sell their products. We quickly saw that exposure was not the correct solution and that proper education about eCommerce was. After evaluating our customers and the industry, we pivoted to an eLearning platform specific to the eCommerce industry.
With the knowledge of scaling six-figure businesses, our founders created a framework that was a step-by-step approach to starting an online business. The software was then built around our proven framework that allows businesses to learn eCommerce fundamentals and techniques specific to their learning styles, then validate their learnings by building, measuring, and iterating in real-time. The businesses are then able to build traction with their earliest customers with support from a community of eCommerce experts and like-minded entrepreneurs.
AfroTech: Why did you decide to enter the AfroTech Cup Competition?
Jovante: We decided to enter the AfroTech competition after applying for the physical competition last year and not being selected. We studied the great companies that were selected last year and determined we would be back in 2020.
AfroTech: What is the first thing you hope to accomplish now that you’ve won the competition?
Jovante: We look to crush our Q4 revenue goals. We would also like to continuously make our product better for the Black and brown business owners we serve.
AfroTech: How important are competitions like the AfroTech Cup (and the companies who sponsor them) for Black entrepreneurs?
Jovante: The AfroTech Cup and similar competitions are very important to the Black tech community. It is difficult for Black founders to market their product while bootstrapping, and competitions similar to the AfroTech Cup give those founders exposure to potential customers and investors.
AfroTech: What vision do you have for your business over the next year?
Jovante: Over the next year, we look for Melanoid Exchange to establish a footprint within the eCommerce industry. We look to revolutionize the way new online business owners learn. We also look to continue setting the foundation for the next wave of Black and brown millionaires.
Learn more about Melanoid Exchange by visiting their website here.
Silicon Valley Bank’s Access to Innovation program was launched in 2017 to transform lives by creating new opportunities for underrepresented groups across the innovation economy. Interested in more info and ways to engage?
Click here or email AccesstoInnovation@svb.com.