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Black entrepreneurs pitch startups to investors at Google for Startups Black Founders Exchange event

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Friday marked the seventh annual Google for Startups Black Founders Exchange event at American Underground in Durham.

Nationwide, Black entrepreneurs typically receive disproportionately less funding for startups.

With a microphone, PowerPoint presentations, and big ideas, Black entrepreneurs presented their startup companies to a room of investors.

With businesses focused on healthcare, groceries and financial literacy, the 10 teams spent the morning practicing their pitches.

Rohan Brown founded Barley Inc. in 2019, helping alcohol brands collect data and build loyalty.

“I’m hoping to just get some exposure, get our name out there,” Brown said.

Brown traveled to Durham from Miami for the event. He said networking has been his favorite part of the program.

“Just being in a community that understands what you’re going through I think is definitely the number one thing,” Brown said.

April Johnson is a co-founder and CEO of Happied, a business that takes on team engagement and event planning tasks for companies.

Johnson said knowing your story and keeping your passion is vital.

“Surround yourself with community like the Google for startups Black Founders Exchange, because that’s where you grow, that’s where you learn how to make things happen,” Johnson said.

Funding for Black-owned startups in the U.S. is disproportionately low.

According to Crunchbase data, 1.2% of venture dollars invested go to businesses with one Black founder, but 13% of the U.S. population is Black or African American.

Garry Lyon is the Director of Programs at American Underground, organizing the exchange event.

“Black founders typically don’t get the resources they need when they’re starting out,” Lyon said. “So we’re like, ‘How can we level the playing field and like really build a community?’”

Friday’s pitch event is the culmination of a week of workshops and mentoring.

The startups have the opportunity to learn from past program participants.

“We want to make sure they have a network that they can immerse themselves in when they leave Durham,” Lyon said.

The winning business in Friday’s pitch competition was Ziscuit, a grocery search engine.

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