The entrepreneurial spirit that founded Black Wall Street in Greenwood a century ago is now fueling a project to boost minority-owned tech startups in Tulsa.
ACT Tulsa, an accelerator that cultivates minority-led startups, recently introduced its inaugural cohort, 17 black and brown founders from nine tech startups. The startup founders received coaching, programming, and a non-dilutive investment of $70,000. They turned that into $4 million in raised investments and an array of booming tech companies.
“All of us at Build in Tulsa are so proud of these founders,” said Ashli Sims, Build in Tulsa’s General Manager. “They already had the raw materials, the talent, the courage and the motivation. ACT House really poured into them and honed their skills, boosted their confidence and raised their aspirations. This is how we honor the legacy of Black Wall Street, elevating black entrepreneurs and providing them with the skills, networks and capital they need to do great things.
ACT Tulsa is a joint venture between i2E, a private nonprofit that receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, and Tulsa-based ACT House, which helps innovators achieve their dreams by “leveraging innovation with cross-cultural collaboration.
The program is part of Build in Tulsa, a network of programs that includes two accelerators, ACT Tulsa and another called Lightship. The goal of the program is to catalyze multigenerational black wealth in Tulsa.
Businesses represent the use of technology for a wide variety of industries and services:
• Bite Way is a meal prep company that offers healthy, affordable meals, complete with nutritional advice. The startup increased its customer waiting list from 12 to 530 during the program.
• Boddle Learning is an educational platform that uses 3D games and adaptive learning technology to deliver personalized math experiences for K-6 students. Boddle Learning has grown from approximately 350,000 students to 1.1 million students.
• Bodify uses artificial intelligence to help online shoppers find the best brands and fit for their body, which now has a waiting list of 800 customers.
• BootUp is a platform to help tech companies close their talent and diversity gaps with a database of over 20,000 boot camp and vocational school graduates. BootUp helped 254 candidates land their first tech job.
• Bounceless is an e-commerce site offering patented sports bras for larger women to get the support they need during physical activity. Accelerator participation helped Bounceless brand itself and increase conversions by 128%.
• Cadenzo is a marketplace that allows artists and venues to communicate with each other to book live events. Cadenza booked 20 shows in the first three months and tripled its waiting list to 250 artists and 50 venues.
• Comme Homme is a brand for American men who are bald or suffer from hair loss. As Homme tripled its capital, launched a digital video series of more than 50 episodes, and obtained more than 300 pre-orders during the program.
• Fansub provides creators with information about their fans and ways to monetize and engage fans. Fansub doubled its users and was downloaded over 2000 times during the accelerator program.
• Fresh Fabrics is a mobile laundry service that uses a digital scheduling system. The startup tripled its customer base and expanded to two cities while participating in the program.
Build in Tulsa will provide office space for five of the startups, so they can continue to grow in Tulsa.
A new cohort of eight companies is starting the ACT Tulsa program this month, chosen from more than 180 applicants.
“Watching these nine companies grow over the past six months has been nothing short of amazing,” said Dominick Ard’is, CEO of ACT House. “From raising $4 million to founders building their emotional intelligence and teams as business leaders, these companies are showing the world that Latinx and Black founders can return capital! Be part of the community of Tulsa and the Build in Tulsa Network helped us get the startups we wanted into our accelerator and we couldn’t be more grateful.