Black Founders Give Black Founders Advice About Fundraising

In 2016, 253 venture capital funds raised $41.6 billion, a 10-year high, and invested it into promising startups. There is so much money floating around to help founders realize their dreams, yet less than 1% of venture funding goes to black founders. So how can black founders learn to appeal to venture capitalists and secure the bag for their tech businesses?

This is where Founder Gym comes in. Only seven months old, Founder Gym was created to help solve the funding gap and ensure more venture capital gets deployed to underrepresented founders, including black founders. Via an intense five-week virtual bootcamp, selected founders are given the structure, accountability and connections needed to advance their entrepreneurial endeavors. In its first two cohorts, Founder Gym graduated 70 founders, 50% of whom are black.

We recently asked our black founders what advice they could give to other black founders who aspire to raise capital for their business. Here is what they said:

“Be conscious of the struggles you will face, but move as if there were none. You cannot use the struggles as an excuse, and cannot let them paralyze you in fear. Remember, there are more people that want you to win than you realize.”

        –  Delores Brown, Founder of Agbara Life.

Find your allies. Sometimes they will be other people of color, sometimes they will be powerful white people who believe in you and are willing to help you ‘catch the cab,’ so to speak.”

        –  Derrick N. Ashong, Founder and CEO of Amp.It

Creating real momentum is your #1 collateral in investor conversations. When your story is based on real, proven momentum it leans every investor conversation in your favor. Momentum and results rule the day – no matter who sits across the table.”

        –  Al Nolan, Founder and CEO of Notearise

Don’t limit your fundraise amount for fear of not being funded.  Determine your operating cost plus savings (breathing room) for the next 18 months. This is the amount you ask for . . . no less.”

      –   Makazi Ife Mtingwa, Founder and CTO of Funderlust

Find other black founders who have been where you are trying to go. They have insights that can prevent you from stumbling on the same roadblocks and challenges.”

       –   Jasmine Shells, Co-Founder and CEO of Five to Nine

“Embrace your differences and know that your view is different than many others. Share your view and show that this is a potential business opportunity.  Be comfortable in your skin and know that you’re great even when being in a room full of the majority.”

        –   Darren Harris, CEO of PannTV

“You will have to work twice as hard. But there are a slew of resources and people who want to see you succeed and that will make themselves available to you. Find your support network.”

        –  Quincy Ewell, Co-Founder of PannTV

Treat being different as an advantage. Most founders have a hard time standing out and for better or worse, if you are in this game, you will. You will also have the unique opportunity to be a role model for those looking to follow in your footsteps, so make the most out of your opportunity to influence and inspire others.”

        –  Tegan Spinner, Founder and CEO of Lokalist

“Ask for help and engage in the community. You don’t know what you don’t know! By asking questions and being around others in the industry you’ll start to notice your blind spots and improve your business.”

        –  Chanel Melton, Founder of Rose Gold Drop Ship

“Stop believing what is said about being black in tech and create your own narrative. Know that you are not alone in this journey and also don’t ignore your health. There’s no point of becoming a successful founder if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor.”

        –  Michael Purnell, CEO of, Sievent

“Go for it! All the tools exist to put an idea out there and test the waters. The market does not care about the color of your skin, but they do care about how you can improve or add something new to their lives.”

       –  Tammy Bowser, Founder of, Rodexly

Seek out mentorship from someone that is in your industry. Also, don’t just build a ‘team;’ put people around you that believe in your dream as much as you do.”

       –  Eric Warner, Founder and CEO of, Style Trail

Be like Beyoncé. She has a discipline that is unmatched and her work ethic is applicable in any industry. The miracles happen when you show up and show out every single day.”

        –  Faye Hayes of Playloops

“Focus on building a real business and not chasing funding. Funding isn’t promised to anyone, and especially not us. Don’t bet your company on it.”

        –  Damien Peters, Chief Product Officer of, Wealth Nior

“There’s always a ton of excuses and reasons that could stop you from starting on your idea but don’t let fear or a lack of resources stop you from getting started. Dr King said, ‘You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step,’ and this is something I try to live by.”

       – Darian Edwards, Stack of, Start Stacking

“Don’t let the people around you dull your ambition. Instead, expect the criticism and use it to improve your pitch.”

       – Tashoma Vilini, Co-Founder and CEO of Nitrate

“Stay strong and stay focused. It’s easy as a black entrepreneur to lose focus or to feel less than. In order to succeed you need to believe in yourself, dig deep and grind until you get what you’re seeking.”

      –  Jelica Baker, Founder and CEO of, Saddle Shoppe

“We’re often taught to go to school, get a job, have a family, etc. If you want to go on a route that your parents, family and friends haven’t been on, you need to surround yourself with people who are just as daring as you and understanding of the entrepreneurial process. You’ll need that support system.”

     –  Netta Dobbins, Co-Founder and CEO of, Mim Connect

“Learn as you grow! Make adjustments but never compromise your integrity for money or a bad partner.”

      –  Kyle Frazier, Co-Founder and COO of, Hue for Every Man

Don’t ever let anyone put you in a box. There are no limits to your success and no boundaries to your magic.”

      –  Ryan Boyd, Founder & CEO of, Shelf Space

Validate your ideas and test your assumptions of the market rapidly and often. Customer discovery is an ongoing process and may involve talking to strangers more often than you’d like.”

      –  Kishau Rogers, Founder and CEO of, Time Study

“Understand that it will be lonely. Find a tribe of other entrepreneurs early and this will help you get through the days you feel like giving up. This will also give you early access to potential testers and customers.”

     –  Lennie J. Carter, Founder and CEO of, My Tru Circle

Build a great network, ensure you find balance, be yourself and authentic to who you are and enjoy the process. You write your own story.”

      –  Paris Petgrave, CEO of, We Love Work

“Get really clear on your ‘why,’ The glamorous media-rich stories of tech founders, great talent and the promise of wealth when successful will not last long. Having a strong ‘why’ will keep you all in when there is no money, no team and no support. Surround yourself with people who support you for you, not just for what you are doing. Be open, be teachable and find ways to have fun.”

    –  Kimberly Y. Moore, Co-Founder and CEO of, Go Together

Often times, the best advice an underrepresented founder can receive is the advice of someone who has the same or a similar identity and set of lived experiences. They understand the nuances of your circumstance and can empathize with you in a way others may not be able to. Building community and gaining access to the collective wisdom of a network is incredibly important and empowering. This is also especially true when it comes to fundraising. It requires a community. A community to educate the founder on what to do, a community to introduce the founder to the right people, and a community to inspire the founder to persevere past all the obstacles they will surely face. With that type of community, more underrepresented founders can win! 

Learn how you can join the Founder Gym community by visiting their website, and if you have questions, email hello@foundergym.com