Rutgers University hosted the first "Gathering of Angels" economic summit on Nov. 15 & 16 that brought together minority entrepreneurs and minority angel and venture capital investors to address job growth and wealth creation in urban America.
A turning point in history took place at Rutgers Business School on Nov. 15 & 16 when more than 120 business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors came together for "A Gathering of Angels: The Role of Angel Capital in High Growth Entrepreneurship and Building 21st Century Urban Innovation Ecosystems." The program was designed by The America21 Project in partnership with The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (CUEED).
Job growth and wealth creation were the main topics of discussion.
No one blamed President Obama for the economic conditions of Black and urban America and there were no calls for congressional legislation.
The goals for the "Gathering" were to bring together two components of the job growth ecosystem (entrepreneurs and investors) and demonstrate the level of quality investment opportunity currently overlooked in urban sectors of the nation among minorities. Additionally, the "Gathering" sought to attract investment capital from among minority high net worth individuals, a group conspicuously absent from the risk capital space that is responsible for nearly all net new job growth in the nation since 1980.
"More than 100 years ago, we asked the right questions and developed the right narrative and strategies to progress in the industrial economy. In the 21st century, we have not," said Johnathan Holifield - an attorney, former NFL player and a fellow co-founder of The America21 Project.
"Rethinking our economic narrative and evolving our prosperity strategies to reflect today's opportunities is our principal challenge."
The America21 Project produced an entrepreneur pitch session at the "Gathering of Angels," with 13 minority founders pitching to a panel of judges and an audience of business leaders and investors. The deal flow was so compelling that eight of the entrepreneurs were immediately approached by investors and are currently in serious funding negotiations today. Of those eight, four founders are females.
On the heels of the airing of CNN's controversial documentary, "Black in America: New Promised Land, Silicon Valley" several entrepreneurs featured in the film engaged the energetic audience at the "Gathering of Angels" and discussed the challenges and opportunities facing minority entrepreneurs today in seeking investment to develop high-tech, high-growth companies.
In CNN's documentary, Techcrunch founder Michael Arrington stated to host Soledad O'Brien that he did not know any Black CEOs or entrepreneurs. The "Gathering of Angels" at Rutgers University offered a showcase of talent that attracted interest from Silicon Valley, nearly 3,000 miles away. Several presenting founders are in current talks with interested investors in Silicon Valley.
Here's a list of the presenting companies:
Sumazi: Sumaya Kazi is the founder of a multi-platform service that discovers, recommends and makes intelligent connections by introducing its users to the people they don't know, but should.
House of Mikko: Kai Freeman is the co-founder of an online social community that makes intelligent beauty product recommendations for women of color.
trendchirp: Terry Briggs is the co-founder of an online and mobile platform that connects its members with fashion brands and retailers who offer time-sensitive deals relevant to each individual user and their social circles.
Mindblown Labs: Jason Young is the founder and CEO of an educational technology company that uses gaming principles to teach teens to make responsible decisions about life and money.
Kahnoodle: Zuhaira S. Washington is founder and CEO of a company that uses mobile game technology to inspire and reward committed couples to build and maintain intimacy.
Dreem Digital: Andres Montgomery is a former Microsoft principal and current CEO of a software company focused on building apps for the classroom.
Green Nano Finish: Muralee Balaguru is founder and CEO of a company specializing in LEED-certified nano-coatings used in the building industry that are 100% gaffiti-proof and emit no harmful environmental gases.
Team Fenom: Antonia Newman is co-founder of a company that has built a platform for women's sports news and social engagement that is destined to become the most recognizable brand in women's sports.
Nexercise: Benjamin Young is co-founder and CEO of a platform that motivates users to exercise, promotes social engagement and uses game dynamics to reward users while sharing information about their exercise progress and rewards with others within their social circles.
Just Like Me, Inc: Yaba Baker is the founder of a brand company that produces media products (books, video, films) about Princess Briana, a lead fictional female character of color whose adventures have already captured the imagination of audiences across racial demographics.
Soul Genesis: Isaac Ewell is co-founder and Director of Development of a media lifestyle technology company that builds mobile apps, social networks and experiences designed to connect culturally diverse people with causes, communities and companies that are both cool and conscious.
Wealth Empowerment Network: Jason Frazer is founder and CEO of a media company that produces broadcast quality video vignettes containing reports that teaches news media target audiences about wealth creation and maintenance.
About The America21 Project: http://blackinnovation.org
The America21 Project (formerly The Black Innovation and Competitiveness Initiative) is an open, collaborative and innovative multi-faceted platform that fosters solutions-based approaches to 21st century community economic development.
Supported by three essential pillars of innovation:
STEM Education and Workforce Development
Access to Capital and Capital Formation
The America21 Project (A21) strategy seeks to leverage existing assets within Black and urban American communities to create new opportunities and ensure competitiveness in the global Innovation Economy.
A21 facilitates a new economic narrative to inspire the free exchange of innovative ideas among community, business, government and education leaders, students and entrepreneurs, with a goal of achieving exponentially greater economic growth and prosperity throughout Black and urban America.