Recently, HBCU students and alumni founders across America gathered virtually to compete for a $20,000 grand prize for the Pitch:HBCU competition hosted by multimedia platform The HBCU Advocate, and sponsored in part by Base10 Partners and Plexo Capital.
Of the 75 startup ideas submitted, from high-tech fashion brands to AI companies, only one winner was selected — At Ease Rental Corp — a startup that assists military families and other government workers with their temporary housing needs. It was founded by FAMU graduate and U.S. Marine Anthony Gantt, who submitted his company for the competition so he could take it to the next level.
The idea behind Gantt’s startup was inspired by his own experience with limited housing options as a Marine. He wanted to create a better solution for other military families and federal workers.
For Gantt, the $20,000 prize was perfect timing as he shared he needed the capital to expand his team and hire more military spouses.
“I was looking for someone that can help with PR… Now I can engage them,” said Gantt when he realized he won. “This is awesome.”
During the competition, Gantt and four other finalists were given four minutes each to pitch their company to Silicon Valley figures such as Nick Caldwell, entrepreneur, investor and VP of Engineering at Twitter; Austin Clements, a Morehouse College alumnus and Partner at Slauson & Co; and Merline Saintil, a director on the boards of Lightspeed HQ and GitLab, who held executive positions at several companies including Intuit, Yahoo, PayPal, and Adobe.
Black founders and other founders of color all experience the same lack of access to capital and resources that prevent their companies from flourishing. Hence why competitions like Pitch:HBCU are needed to help level the playing field and improve society.
“As our nation continues to reckon with the injustices of the past and present, one of the most important ways we can create sustained change is by helping to build a more inclusive and equitable economy,” said Angela Jones, founder of The HBCU Advocate, in a statement. “HBCUs have been doing this for generations through education. It’s time to increase the focus on another key pathway to economic empowerment, entrepreneurship.”
According to a press release, the HBCU Advocate launched Pitch:HBCU as part of the HBCU Futures Conference — a two-day virtual summit that gathers HBCU administration, faculty, students, and alumni nationwide to reimagine the future for HBCUs.
“The HBCU startup community has never been more vibrant,” Jones continued. “With this competition, we were able to celebrate the accomplishments of so many founders, and ultimately support some truly awesome ‘HBCU-bred’ startups. As an HBCU graduate myself, I wanted Pitch:HBCU to highlight all of the amazing talent that is being fostered at HBCUs across the country.”
Startups like Gantt’s are prime examples of how Black founders continue to create concepts that generally improve the state of this country.
For more information about Gantt’s startup, click here.