Profile 23 : Solo Funds


SoLo brings the power of financial collaboration through a mobile lending exchange that connects lenders and borrowers to provide affordable access to loans under $1,000. They offer free financial literacy courses on topics like budgeting and planning for retirement. The company has helped more than 100,000 people through hard times, connecting them to lenders to cover the cash emergencies life throws at all of us. Based in Los Angeles, the team is working to rid the world of expensive and predatory payday loans.

Founder Story Nugget

“Why they ask me for $50, or $150, or $200…what can that really do for them? I didn’t realize that was the difference between putting gas in the car and making it to work and not getting fired. That was the difference between lights on, lights off.” 

“When I looked at the numbers, I quickly realized that, at that time, 76% of the country is paycheck to paycheck…And then the bigger stat to me was that 47% of the country doesn’t have $400.”

~GHOSH with Jamarlin Martin, Episode 11 April 2018


Janice Omadeke, Founder + CEO


  •  Janice Omadeke, Founder + CEO
  • thementormethod.com,
  • Founded 2015
  • Backstage Capital

Profile 22: The Mentor Method


The Mentor Method is a social enterprise that provides curated mentor matches, connecting the next generation of tech leaders with change-making mentors at the top of their game.

​Their process focuses on people and value-fit first, to foster authentic, lasting connections. The result is stronger teams and inclusive workplace cultures.

Transform today’s entry and mid-level talent into fearless leaders for tomorrow ready to tackle the most complex business challenges. With an inclusive, next-generation culture rooted in mentorship, they’ll be 100% engaged along the way.


Founder Story Nugget

Omadeke’s career success is a world away from the life her parents came from. Originally from the DRC Congo, her parents grew up in absolute poverty and came to the United States with three children, barely knowing any English, to provide their children with a better life than the one they had left behind. She is the first entrepreneur in her family. “I have no excuse not to push myself. How could I not try when they put everything on the line for us?”

“If we want to see more minorities in leadership positions, we have to change the way we provide opportunities to future leaders.”

~from Naturally Curly



  •  Helen Adeosun + Madhuri Reddy 
  • careacademy.com, @careacademyco
  • Founded 2013
  • Backstage Capital, TechStars, Right Side Capital Management, Rethink Education, LuminaFoundation, Pipeline Angels

Profile 17 : CareAcademy


CareAcademy develops evidence-based online classes to help both professional and family caregivers provide excellent care at home so older adults can live independently.

CareAcademy provides home care agencies with a best-in-class online education platform that delivers engaging video-based classes and real-world scenarios that walk through aspects of the caregiver experience. 

Approved classes are based on state mandates, client needs, and your caregiver’s learning path.

Founder Story Nugget

“When Madhuri and I created CareAcademy, we saw that there was a lot missing in caregiver education. At CareAcademy, we sought to fill the void with fresh, relevant classes to engage learners, a dynamic platform that personalizes learning, and the extra set of hands home care agencies need to increase productivity.

So, we started CareAcademy in 2016 with a simple idea: to empower caregivers to learn how to deliver the best care to older adults with the support, guidance, and compassion needed to improve their quality of life.

We would then make it easy for caregivers to “upskill” and continue their education over time so they could better serve clients as needs changed and advance their careers.

The result is a better caregiver, a better home care agency and a better way to care.”

~CareAcademy website

CEO Brandon + COO Bradley Deyo, Co-founders


Profile 16 : Mars Reel


Mars Reel Media is a Mobile Sports Network that produces highlights, profiles and other content covering the high-school basketball world.

Mars Reel is designed for 13- to 24-year-old viewers and features, short highlight videos with cool music delivered to their mobile devices. Mars Reel reaches 25 million millennials every month.

Mars Reel also offers an Academy that lets young athletes workout with the best trainers in their region–with the opportunity to get discovered by Mars Reel scouts, trainers, staff, and videographers.

Founder Story Nugget

Brandon and Bradley Deyo founded Mars Reel in 2010, when they were themselves high-school basketball players living in Maryland.

“Bradley Deyo, co-founder and COO of Mars Reel Media, said the partnership with USA Today Sports has helped it significantly expand its reach to attract a whole new base of high-school basketball fans. “As we continue to expand our distribution network, we are particularly excited to be working with the team at USA Today Sports to produce unique, story-driven content,” he said.”


Dr. Carol Epsy-Wilson, Founder + CTO OmniSpeech


  • Dr. Carol Epsy-Wilson, Founder + CTO
  • omnispeech.com, @omnispeech
  • Founded 2009
  • Backstage Capital, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

Profile 15 : OmniSpeech


OmniSpeech is an innovative software technology company that aims to revolutionize the enhancement of voice communication in speech-enabled applications and in digital mobile devices.

OmniSpeech’s groundbreaking speech extraction technology, OmniClear, provides highest quality background noise reduction and speech enhancement, delivering superior voice quality and intelligibility in a software-only solution.

Founder Story Nugget

Founded by world-renowned electrical engineer, Dr. Carol Espy-Wilson, and based on decades of research into the physiology of human speech, OmniSpeech takes a novel approach to the challenge of ensuring clear speech in noisy environments.

“I became interested in noise problems while attending a workshop at NSF. People from various companies discussed issues with deploying speech technology over VOIP and dealing with everyday noise. Because of my training at MIT where we focused on understanding what’s unique about speech and understanding how it is produced. I could use my knowledge to deal with removing noise to help improve voice communications.”


Kellee James, Founder + CEO


Profile 14 : Mercaris


Mercaris is a market data service and trading platform for organic, non-GMO and other identity-preserved agricultural commodities.

Mercaris was formed to address this gap through two types of services. First, they provide up-to-date, accurate information on market conditions for organic and non-GMO commodities. Second, their trading platform allows buyers and sellers to meet online and trade physical commodities.

Founder Story Nugget

Prior to Mercaris, Kellee spent five years at the start-up company Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), the first electronic trading platform and registry for spot, futures and options on carbon, sulfur, clean energy and other environmental derivatives. In 2009 she was appointed by President Barack Obama as a White House Fellow and was Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine ’40 under 40’ rising leader. 

Kim and Tim Lewis, Co-founders


Profile 13 : Curlmix


CurlMix is a clean beauty brand for all types of curly hair. Their innovative take on clean beauty hair products has won them praise from top industry publications such as Refinery29, Essence Magazine, Ebony Magazine, and ABC TV.

Founder Story Nugget

After quitting her first job fresh out of college (2013), Kim threw herself into the beauty space. With a growing love of her new natural hair and a love for educating other women, her mission to empower other curly women began. Knowing they’d need some capital to start their first business, Kim had the bright idea to sign Tim up for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. He went on to win $100,000 and invest in their first business. Crazy right?!

Their journey into entrepreneurship was born. After their first failed startup of a niche social network, she and her husband Tim launched CurlMix (2015), which started as a Do-It-Yourself box for curly hair. 

After two years of stagnation, Kim sought advisors and pivoted CurlMix with a newborn on her hip. They turned their best-selling boxes into a hair care line (Jan 2018).


Civic Eagle co-founders (from l to r) Damola Ogundipe, Yemi Adewunmi, Shawntera Hardy, and Ken Thompson.


  • Damola Ogundipe, Yemi Adewunmi, Shawntera Hard, Ken Thompson
  • CivicEagle.com, @Civic_Eagle
  • Founded 2015
  • Backstage Capital, Right Side Capital Management, Techstars, Higher Ground Labs

Profile 12 : Civic Eagle


Civic Eagle provides workflow solutions for public policy professionals to get the most out of legislative intelligence.

Civic Eagle’s SaaS platform leverages artificial intelligence to help organizations reduce the time and costs to identify, track, and analyze legislation and regulations from across the country.

Enview does the discovery work, so your team can focus on winning your policy campaigns. 

Founder Story Nugget

With home bases in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C., Civic Eaglelaunched three years ago under the rallying cry, “Everyone deserves an educated point of view on democracy.” Its mobile-first platform beckoned users to engage in video conversations about topics of the day, while keeping fact-based dialogue and civility front and center.

“We recognized that a lot of advocacy groups — from national organizations like the NAACP to those in individual states — had a tough time understanding and keeping track of legislation, and we wanted to help [them] to advocate for legislation that’s good for society,” Ogundipe explained.



Melanie Igwe +Kwaku Owusu, Co-founders


Profile 11 : Ilerasoft


Ilerasoft was founded to create a new standard in healthcare and reduce the cost of healthcare. The Efficiency Score is like a credit score for medical equipment scoring medical equipment based on utilization and 16 inputs unique to your hospital and patient population to help managers make better purchasing and operational decisions.

Founder Story Nugget


Co-founder and CEO, Kwaku Owusu discovered massive inefficiencies around medical equipment utilization while working as a consultant for a large health system in New York. He founded Ilerasoft to provide a solution that plagued most hospitals and was a systemic issue. 

Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Melanie Igwe, was inspired to join forces with Kwaku to launch Ilerasoft after witnessing unnecessary deaths and injuries due to medical devices.

~Backstage Capital




Jessica O. Matthews, Founder + CEO


  • Jessica O. Matthews
  • u-pwr.co,  @upowerco
  • Founded 2011
  • Backstage Capital, NIC Fund, Kapor Capital, Lingo Ventures, BBG Ventures, Magic Johnson Enterprises

Profile 10 : Uncharted Power


New York-based Uncharted Power is a full-service power infrastructure technology company on a mission to democratize energy access worldwide. Using a patented suite of technologies, they build, own, and operate power infrastructure to provide communities with energy that is both clean and low cost.

Founder Story Nugget

Founder + CEO Jessica O. Matthews invented the SOCCKET, an energy-generating soccer ball, at Harvard University, and realized that the world of play and motion held untapped potential for tangibly addressing real issues we face as a global society. Jessica was invited by President Barack Obama to the White House to represent small companies for the signing of the America Invents Act in 2012. In 2016, she raised what is presently the largest Series A ever raised by a black female founder in history, and was selected to ring the NASDAQ opening ceremony bell, representing all Forbes 30 Under 30 alumna. The Uncharted Power team has evolved into a talented, diverse team pioneering innovation within the renewable energy field.

Uncharted Power’s remarkable progress has been featured by Popular Mechanics, Inc., CNN, and the Colbert Report. 

~Backstage Capital