);

 

 

FIT, FUNCTION AND FASHION WHEN YOU ARE NOT OFF-THE-RACK

 

AK Ikwuakor, or “Coach AK” as he prefers, is a man of many talents. He’s been both a collegiate and Olympic athlete. Motivational speaker. Educator and Social impact entrepreneur. And even dabbled in some standup. In this podcast episode, however, Dan spoke with him as Co-Founder and CEO of ELETE Styles – a startup on a mission to create professional attire with fit, function, and fashion for the athlete build.

ELETE takes the broadest view of the value it adds. From athletes to first responders to returning war vets who need adaptive apparel. Men, women, casual, formal…and everything in between. 

AK’s life journey has included Olympic trials, world travel, and even a stint of being homeless. How does all this connect with an eCommerce startup?

Listen in and find out!

OUR SPONSOR FOR THIS EPISODE: Black Men Talk Tech

 

The future of the fashion industry…what represents 100% you”
~Coack AK

Coach AK and Dan talked about AK’s journey and ELETE, as well as:

  • life as a triplet
  • giving two weeks’ notice to start a non-profit
  • the risks of a cold drink abroad
  • working with manufacturers in China and Thailand
  • analogy of life as a 400M race

 

“We had to come up with a large amount of money, in a short amount of time ” ~ Coach AK

 

Notable ELETE Interview Highlights.

  • (04:14) How ELETE works to bring consumers custom attire 
  • (09:00) How AK’s love of his mom’s homecooking led to ELETE’s origin story
  • (15:05) The challenges of making ONLY one piece (vs. 1000) for a custom design
  • (16:55) Complexities of tariffs and currencies for a global business
  • (23:35) Powerful origin story of AK’s NGO startup Empower 2 Play
  • (33:10) The 400M race as a metaphor for life 
  • (41:21) AK’s adventures as an Olympic athlete
  • (46:44) Personal choices, perspectives, and growth
  • (50:00) Sources of influence: mentors, friends, enemies, and books

 

MORE on ELETE 

Coach AK’s Youtube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/askcoachak

E-LETE company site:
https://www.eletestyles.com/

or check them out on Linkedin:
linkedin.com/company/eletestyles/

 

“…just do something fun… and I just brought a bag of footballs ”
~Coach AK

 

 

 

 

 

Revolutionizing thermal cooling in the global electronics market

 

Bara Cola, founder and CEO of Carbice, is the definition of a rock star scientist. Ph.D Professor. Inventor. Recognized by two US Presidents as a top National Scientist. So what does he do with all that horsepower? He runs a startup that cools things down.

In our podcast, Bara outlines the truly groundbreaking nature of the innovation developed at Carbice. As he points out, we are surrounded by a global infrastructure – from power plants and satellites to your Amazon Echo – that is powered by electronics. These chips, circuits, and devices all generate heat. If they kick out too much heat, well, then they shut down or at least slow down. Carbice’s magic material manages the heat better – so full performance can be realized.

The ubiquity of deivces all over the world means almost unlimited application for Carbice’s secret sauce techology. True to the massive scale of this opportunity, Bara makes the case that everything from Arab Spring to high end gaming is made possible by better thermal management.

Really!? Listen in to hear how and why.

 

But I guarantee you everybody has experienced the ‘spinning wheel of death’ ” ~Bara Cola

Bara and Dan talked about the Carbice journey, and:

  • fundraising via a neighborhood stroll
  • the sometimes decades it can take to achieve real science
  • Bara’s love for yellow
  • Obama vs Trump: how each uniquely recognized Bara as top Scientist under 35 in US
  • the ATL startup ecosystem – better than Silicon Valley?

 

“I would tell them to fail more. I failed a lot to get to where I am ”
~ Bara Cola

 

Notable CARBICE Interview Highlights.

  • (02:42) EVERYTHING that generates heat must regulate it 
  • (06:14) Carbice has invented the first new cooling material class in 100 years!
  • (12:58) Bara connects thermal management to the Arab Spring
  • (14:56) Bara talks Carbice’s current traction
  • (19:44) Homebase: the choice between Atlanta and Silicon Valley
  • (21:22) Closing a lead investor on a Sunday afternoon walk around the neighborhood 
  • (26:00) Growing up in Pensacola, Florida…AKA “lower Alabama”
  • (31:28) Early entrepreneurial aspirations
  • (32:35) Meeting President Obama at the White House
  • (37:44) What Bara considers the most important skill
  • (40:41) Bara gives advice to his 22-year-old self
  • (42:31) Important mentors
  • (44:02) props to TechSquare Labs – Paul Judge and Allen Nance

 

MORE on CARBICE 

Carbice technology:
https://youtu.be/m7jCPyNzF4Q

Carbice company culture:
https://youtu.be/uVqNuexJ-Xk

To learn more go to: Carbice’s site

or check them out on Twitter: @carbice

 

“It’s the first different material in about 100 years” ~Bara Cola

 

 

 

Kerry Schrader, Co-Founder + CEO

  • Ashlee Ammons, Co-Founder + President
  • mixtroz.com , @Mixtroz
  • Founded 2014
  • Steve Case’s Revolution Fund, Winterpoint Capital

Profile 44 : mixtroz

About

Mixtroz knows that event organizers work hard to create the right atmosphere for attendees to make strong connections. Yet, they just don’t mix at mixers. This phenomenon is known as homophily [huh-mof-uh-lee]. Mixtroz solves this. Their mission is to create valuable community whereever 50 or more are gathered. Connecting your attendees while gathering data becomes easier with Mixtroz: the only way to increase engagement & collect data in real-time. While attendees mix – organizers learn.

Founder Story Nugget

“In November 2014, while living in NYC, co-founder Ashlee attended a conference.  For a “networking’ opportunity during lunch, the event host suggested attendees “go up to someone with the same color dot on their name tag.” Ashlee deemed that networking activity awkward and enjoyed lunch with her smartphone, but made zero connections.

Later that same day, Ashlee shared this experience with her mother, Kerry, who ironically had had a similar experience that same weekend.  The soon-to-be founders discussed at length the awkwardness of meeting people at live events.

And following a four-hour conversation on November 9, 2014…Mixtroz was born!”

~Excerpt from Mixtroz website

” “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but we are trying to change the way it rolls. We’re the first to market in this space—the first to drive people from the digital space to the physical space, in real-time, for purposes of networking,” Ammons said.”

~Excerpts from Forbes article, by Matt Hunckler, October 2017

 

Profile 43 : CHIPPER

About

Chipper Cash offers instant cross-border mobile money transfers as easy as sending a text message. The company considers itself “the largest mobile cross-border money transfer platform in Africa.” Chipper helps customers receive and send money to Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania for free (more countries coming soon). The company allows users to add cash to the chipper wallet from mobile money, and invite friends and family to send payments to each other with no fees. That’s right, they charge no fees for sending money to a user’s friends, family, and associates.

Founder Story Nugget

“The journey for Chipper Cash’s founders from Africa to founding a startup and pitching to Joe Montana passes through Iowa. Serunjogi and Moujaled met when doing their undergraduate degrees at Grinnell College. Stints at Silicon Valley companies followed: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr, Yahoo! and Imgur for Moujaled.

Chipper Cash was accepted in 500 Startups’ Batch 24 in 2018 and their demo day for the accelerator program gained the attention of Liquid 2 Ventures.

The VC fund’s Rocio Wu invited them to pitch to  Joe Montana and the team in March 2019.

“Africa is extremely fragmented with different languages, cultures and currencies, Chipper Cash is uniquely positioned to tackle cross-border mobile payments with interoperability,” Wu told TechCrunch on the investment.

As for Chipper Cash’s continuing relationship with investor Joe Montana, “Having access to someone with the leadership qualities of Joe to provide advice and guidance…that’s something that’s priceless,” said Serunjogi.”

~Excerpts from TechCrunch article, by  Jake Bright, May 2019

 

 

 

A network helping Black Migrants connect with locals

 

Ikechi Nwabuisi gets pretty animated when he starts discussing TRiBL, the social networking app for Africans to connect in local geographies around the world. Inspired by such diverse sources as WeChat and the Green Book, TRiBL network aspires to be the place where people can connect around culture, community, and heritage. A key value for users: find those to connect with locally – especially if re-locating – that share your origin or heritage. TRiBL offers a bridge to familiar music, food, and languages that can ease the transition to new places. 

Ikechi, along with his co-founder Miles Dotson, recently completed the Techstars program in Seattle. With ready-for-prime-time versions of their app coming out this Fall, TRiBL is poised to take their large vision of reconnecting the African diaspora around the globe.

 

People have actually started building communities and teaching language in our app” ~Ikechi Nwabuisi

Ikechi and Dan sat down for a conversation that ranged all over, including:

  • building the next generation of social networks
  • fundraising (of course)
  • common traits of athletes and entrepreneurs
  • jollof rice battles
  • African immigrant privilege (huh?!)

 

“In some rooms I’m black, in some rooms I’m African, and some rooms I’m Nigerian… ” ~ Ikechi Nwabuisi

 

Notable TRIBL Interview Highlights.

  • (07:13) Ikechi describes how migration, relocation, and displacement lead to the opportunity for TRiBL’s core concept 
  • (09:47) TRiBL journey on the hunt for product-market-fit (PMF)
  • (11:08) Jollof rice bragging rights
  • (15:37) Ikechi talks about TRiBL’s traction
  • (18:00) Ikechi shares his experiences with fundraising
  • (26:00) TRiBL origin story and inspirations
  • (31:59) How education and sports influenced Ikechi’s founder journey
  • (38:01) Ikechi shares his perspectives on being a black founder that is the son of African immigrants

 

Check out TRIBL’s most recent pitch!

Pitch at Techstars Seattle DEMO day Spring 2019:
https://techstars.wistia.com/medias/dtktov4svj

To learn more go to TRiBL’s site.

For a peak at their BETA app: go here.

 

“The long and short of the fundraising process is, it will break your confidence if you let it.” ~Ikechi Nwabuisi

 

 

Profile 42 : ESUSU FINANCIAL

About

Esusu is a mobile platform designed to empower our users to better save their income, access larger sums of capital, and build credit and financial identity through community-based savings.

Across the world, millions of people use savings clubs to build financial resilience and plan for the future. These groups are formed from trusted family and friends who each contribute toward a single pot of money on a regular basis. Each group member then has the chance to withdraw the full pot and use it towards big-ticket items including education, launching a business, and remittances.

Esusu serves as the bridge between the formal and the informal financial economy for the 57% of American’s who qualify as financially unhealthy.

.

Founder Story Nugget

“For Wemimo, the idea behind Esusu comes from personal experience. Raised by a single mother, Wemimo attended one of the better public schools in Lagos, but he said he wouldn’t have been able to afford the tuition had his mother not participated in rotational savings. Now living in America, the 26-year old wants to help immigrants, students, and low-income families save.”

~Excerpt fromBlack Enterprise article, by May 2018

 

Neu Inc - founders Claudius, Rilwan, and Kwame - Founders: Claudius Mbemba, Rilwan Lawal, Kwame Boler Neu facilitates hotel-style cleans for Airbnb/vacation rentals, providing both hosts and cleaners with a stress and hassle-free experience

  • Kwame Boler, Co-Founder + CEO
    Rilwan Lawal, Co-Founder + COO
    Claudius Mbemba, Co-Founder + CTO
  • neucleans.com, @neucleans
  • Founded 2016
  • FedEx

Profile 41 : NEU

About

Based in Seattle, Neu is a marketplace that connects Airbnb hosts with local cleaners, enabling hotel-level turn arounds.  As a SaaS-enabled marketplace, the company provides a turnkey experience by supplying sheets, towels, and toiletries and scheduling cleans between guest stays. Neu’s operations team makes sure that turnover happens promptly, with fresh linens and supplies brought by vetted cleaners. This streamlines the process of preparing a unit for a new guest by the next scheduled check-in time.

Founder Story Nugget

“Neu’s CEO Kwame Boler and COO Rilwan Lawal know first hand the headaches and costs of cleaning and flipping Airbnb vacation rentals for new guests.

As Airbnb Super hosts with full-time jobs, the biggest headache Kwame and Rilwan experienced was getting their properties promptly cleaned and reset between guest visits– without breaking their margins.

What started as an idea to solve their individual challenge as hosts quickly morphed into the bigger idea for the startup that became Neu.

Fifteen minutes after discussing how they might pool resources to organize some professional cleaners for their apartments, Kwame called Rilwan back and suggested they solve this problem for everyone in the same situation.

“That’s kind of how everything started and we began the long journey of trying to create a system to clean our properties,” said Rilwan.

Neu’s third co-founder, CTO Claudius Mbemba joined the team after being highly recommended through the founders’ extended professional networks.

The camaraderie, respect, and gratitude the founders have for each other and their areas of focus and expertise are audible as they share their stories. Good chemistry, a shared vision and a sense of humor, and shared intentions for creating a company culture that supports a global team make them a solid founding leadership trio.”

~Excerpt Founders Unfound Blog, April 2019

 

Stella Ashaolu, Founder and CEO of WeSolv, a company that uses performance data and predictive analytics to help companies reduce bias and hire a more diverse workforce.

Profile 40 : WESOLV

About

Based in Chicago, WeSolv uses technology to help job candidates of all backgrounds access meaningful careers and infuse companies with diverse, high-performing talent that propels their businesses forward.

The company provides opportunities for professionals to develop and leverage their talents by solving real challenges for some of the world’s leading organizations. WeSolv then provides enterprises with in-depth performance analysis of each candidate, enabling them to reduce bias in their hiring process and uncover top talent.

The WeSolv user community is the largest network of diverse MBAs — reaching 30,000+ from over 100 programs nationwide — with 50% female and 70% underrepresented minority MBA candidates.

Founder Story Nugget

“…Even though she had started her own business and had worked for an entertainment law firm prior to her MBA, she initially had a difficult time because her corporate background didn’t match that of a lot of her peers and Stella didn’t look like a typical MBA candidate; nor did she have an extensive professional network to rely upon.

Ashaolu had to get creative and resourceful to find real projects as an MBA student. Case competitions enabled her to showcase her whole self and skills to the companies she sought to join after graduation. She discovered that when she performed well in a  competition, the same company she had directly approached before was now more eager to recruit her; and she got the offers she wanted.

…[Ashaolu says] “The reality is there are many roadblocks to building any viable solution whether you get funding and support, or you don’t. It’s always a difficult process. You never know how much you can actually achieve until you are forced to do it. It’s challenging to grow and scale as fast as you know you can when resources feel finite.” “

~Excerpts Founders Unfound podcast, March 2019

 

  • Rapa Thompson Ricky,
    Co-Founder + Director of Operations
  • safeboda.com, @SafeBoda
  • Founded 2015
  • CRE Venture Capital, GoJek, Allianz,
    Global Innovation Fund

Profile 39 : safeboda

About

SafeBoda is a community of entrepreneurs and Boda drivers working together to improve professional standards across the urban transportation industry in Africa. At the click of a button, they provide a safe, convenient, and mobile-first alternative to urban transportation for Africa’s booming young population. The company aims is to improve the industry for both drivers and passengers by increasing safe trips taken and making travel around cities stress-free.

Founded in the heart of Kampala Uganda, SafeBoda is truly an African business, designed for the African context.

Founder Story Nugget

“Ricky Rapa Thompson, the co-founder of popular ride-hailing app Safe Boda, was one such driver himself.

After a close friend and fellow driver died from hitting his head on the pavement, Mr. Thompson realized that boda-boda drivers and their passengers really needed to be wearing helmets.

“Our aim was to bring change into the boda-boda industry. People are dying as boda-boda drivers every day,” Mr. Thompson told the BBC.

“People like the fact that the details of the journey are stored somewhere, that someone is accountable for the drivers.”

He started Safe Boda to create a more professional ride-hailing service, where drivers were trained to meet better safety standards.”

~Excerpts from BBC News article, by Mary-Ann Russon, March 2019

 

Profile 38 :
ON SECOND THOUGHT

About

On Second Thought is a messaging app that enables its users to undo and edit messages before they get to the recipient’s phone. It offers its application for iOS mobile phones to send and receive SMS and MMS messages, group messaging, and automatic synchronization of contacts and existing conversations. Over 80% of texting Americans use messaging in a professional capacity. Companies are making it easier to send money, confirm an order, or contact customer service via text. With more at stake in our messaging ecosystem, we want to update the user experience to match the new demands we’re putting on the medium. 

The company’s patented technology has been recognized at SXSW and at the AT&T-sponsored Innovator’s Classic.

Founder Story Nugget

“For Peterson…this idea came when she found herself caught up in a similar situation.

“I sent an ex a text that autocorrect changed and when I saw what got sent, I was so embarrassed and had to explain what I really meant to say,” she tells BET.com. Being her innovative self, a light went off in her head. “I did some research and found that there wasn’t an app that could take back your texts, so I asked my friends did they have the same problem and would they want technology that could help. And they all said ‘yes.’”

After winning first place in The Kauffman Foundation and Up Global SXSW pitch competition in March 2014, things started to heat up. And by December 2014, the app went from being an idea to the finished product.”

~Excerpt from BET.com article, by Kellee Terrell, May 2016