);

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

 

Profile 37 : WearWORKS

About

Based in New York, WearWorks is a haptics design company that designs products and experiences that deliver information through touch and vibration.

Their first product is a wearable haptic navigation device for the blind and visually impaired called WAYBAND. It guides users to an end-destination using only vibration. WAYBAND lets its users gain a sense of autonomy to explore new and unfamiliar environments.  Milestones for the company include: enabling a blind runner to complete the New York City Marathon and being a Fast Company Innovation by Design – Social Good finalist.

 

Founder Story Nugget

“Me and my two co-founders, we all walked into this [company] through different doors. My personal door was…I basically spent the previous year of my life trying to build this suit that you can download Kung fu into. And then the suit would teach you using vibration. So that was the door that showed me the opportunity of what haptics could do

…And so we realized we needed a language to communicate information through touch…that’s when we all came together and said, ok, let’s build out this product and let’s start it in a much simpler form of movement – navigation…”

~ from ZDNet Interview, by Tanya Hall, August 2019

 

 

Profile 36 : KÜDZOO

About

KÜDZOO offers a free mobile application that rewards students with deals, giveaways, scholarship opportunities, concert tickets, and once in a lifetime experiences based on students’ grades and achievements. KÜDZOO works together with schools and businesses to improve student engagement while bringing communities together with an educational focus.

Users earn “Küdzoo Cash” based on grades, grade improvement, and attendance, plus their answers to daily trivia and college-entrance-exam questions. They can use that “cash” to unlock discounts and deals on products and services.

Founder Story Nugget

“Chicago entrepreneur Trevor Wilkins remembers when his parents would give him $10 for an A and $5 for a B in high school. He used that as inspiration for a business.

…Wilkins, who’s based at the 1871 tech hub, said “Chicago is very near and dear to me. It’s so humbling to be able to influence people in a positive way, especially when there is so much negativity about Chicago Public Schools.”

In April, he received recognition for his work in Chicago Public Schools from the Jefferson Awards Foundation, which says it’s dedicated to recognizing local and national public service.”

~Excerpts from Chicago Tribune article, by Dong Jin Oh, May 2015

 

Profile 35 : QUARRIO

About

Led by repeat founder and United Nations Entrepreneur of the Year KG Charles-Harris, Quarrio provides a conversational interface that enables enterprises to get information from Salesforce in seconds. Sales teams have the power of instant knowledge and the IT teams get the freedom to stop wasting valuable time on ad-hoc reports. Customers can go beyond simply “searching” with a platform that lets them access and understand all their data by just naturally asking questions.

Founder Story Nugget

“…Securing funding from venture capital firms can be a difficult process for even the most qualified of minority and women entrepreneurs. For example, KG Charles-Harris, who is African-American and the CEO of two-year-old artificial intelligence startup Quarrio, has been working in tech for decades and has assembled a team of accomplished employees, many of whom hail from MIT and Stanford and have experience working for companies like Apple and Cisco.

Over phone calls and online demos, Charles-Harris was able to raise $200,000 from foreign investors, but after numerous in-person meetings with American venture capitalists (only one of which included an African-American), he has not been able to raise a cent in Silicon Valley. “If it’s difficult for me to raise money here with that kind of background, that kind of team and that kind of product, how difficult is it for other people?” Charles-Harris said.”

~Excerpts from IBM Times article, by Salvador Rodriguez , August 2015

 

Profile 34 : CARICLUB

About

Headquartered in New York, CariClub is an online platform positioned at the intersection of corporate citizenship and professional networking.

The company helps firms align with their millennial workforce and subsequently helps attract, retain and develop their next generation of leaders. CariClub does this by giving young professionals access to philanthropic leadership opportunities, specifically associate board positions with well-known nonprofits and foundations. Since its launch, CariClub has partnered with over 1,000 leading nonprofits and foundations in New York City and San Francisco to place young professionals on associate boards.  The company has plans for global expansion and is reimagining what it means to give back and get involved for the millennial generation.

Founder Story Nugget

“…While working at Citigroup as an interest-rate derivatives trader, his first job, Monrose joined the associate board of Row New York, a nonprofit that introduces underprivileged youth to the sport of rowing. “It changed the course of my life,” Monrose said. What clicked for him was how much his life improved by having more going on in it.

…What Monrose gets out of Cariclub is the chance to pay forward the assistance he received in his own life. He emigrated from St. Lucia to Harlem at age 12, when his mother, a nanny, was able to send for him and his sister.

…”I was supposed to become the doctor in my family,” he said. “But then I decided I would become a doctor to the economy.” “

~Excerpts from Crain’s New York article, by Jeanhee Kim, April 2019

 

Sky Kelley, Founder + CEO

Profile 33 : AVISARE

About

Avisare provides sourcing software for modern government agencies and the contractors and vendors who support them.

Avisare improves the process of finding, bidding and reporting on government contracts. 

Their “secret sauce” is to empower one, massive interconnected network full of contract opportunities for small business owners to grow revenue in their local economies.

Avisare’s software makes fairness and transparency for government agencies simple and, in turn, level the playing field for diverse businesses to compete for contracts.

 

Founder Story Nugget

“…That was certainly the experience of Sky Kelley, the founder of Avisare, a platform that matches small vendors with local government agency contracts.  “I’ve got three strikes against me. I am black, I am a woman and I am a solo founder. No one took me seriously,” Sky says.  She pursued a spot in the prestigious and competitive TechStars accelerator in Los Angeles as a way to get a stamp of “approval” from a network that had resources and relationships that invest in founders who want to scale their businesses.  Another major relationship that Sky credits with helping her business is with the City of Los Angeles, and especially Kecia Washington, the director of innovation and strategic partnerships for the city’s Department of Water and Power.  “Because Kecia Washington believed in me, she vouched for me with other city staff including the city’s new chief procurement officer.” Her advice to other entrepreneurs starting out? Find your Kecias.”

~Excerpt from Governing.com article, by Elizabeth Reynoso, December 2018

  • Alex Lofton, Co-Founder + Head of Growth
  • landed.com, @LandedHomes
  • Founded 2015
  • YCombinator, Comcast Ventures,
    Initialized Capital, Chan Zuckerberg

Profile 32 : LANDEd

About

Based in San Francisco, Landed helps essential professionals, starting with educators, achieve homeownership and build financial security near the communities they serve.  The company invests alongside educators when they are ready to buy a home in expensive markets like the Bay Area, Denver, Seattle, and Southern California. High land prices in these metros make it difficult for many individuals to become the long-term residents our communities depend on. Landed seeks to eventually expand to all those who uphold the communities: educators, healthcare workers, and first responders.

The company has raised over $US 11M.

Founder Story Nugget

“He [Lofton] comes to this from a foundation of family history and idealism, at least going by his Matchmakers interview with Webster. His mom was a teacher and his dad was a social worker, and while he recalled a positive, joyful family atmosphere, “money was always tight.”

Lofton maintained that memory into adulthood, as he helped to craft and build the idea for Landed. As well, he never lost sight of another ideal. “Every kid deserves a really great education – and many educators are running for the hills” given the high financial barriers to homeownership, which, of course, presents significant challenges for any teacher wanting to start his or her own family and to put down roots, or simply participate in the investment activity that is property ownership.

…“When you can provide 20 percent down, that makes you a more attractive buyer,” he said. That holds especially true for the market for homes priced close to an area average, a market that attracts fierce competition among buyers.”

~Excerpts from PYMNTS article, by Staff, April 2019