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Google’s Black Startup Fund Issues Grants To Three North Carolina Companies

By Zachery Eanes The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The three N.C. companies selected to collectively receive $200,000 in grants are all alumni of Google's Black founder summit which provides mentoring for Black entrepreneurs. 

Durham

In response to the killing of George Floyd earlier this year, Google promised to take a number of steps to improve racial equity inside the walls of the technology giant.

Part of that promise was a pledge to use its money to fund promising young Black-led startups across the country that have raised less than $3 million from investors.

Google announced Tuesday which startups would receive money from its newly created Black startup fund. Among them were three North Carolina companies, which collectively will receive $200,000 from Google.

-- Durham-based LoanWell, which has created a loan origination platform for community banks and credit unions, will receive $100,000, the largest grant in N.C.

-- Courtroom5, a Durham-based company that helps people navigate the court system, will receive $50,000.

-- Charlotte-based finance startup Freeman Capital will also get $50,000.

The awards were based on a variety of factors, including readiness for funding and the startup's size.

The three N.C. companies selected were all alumni of Google's Black founder summit, which takes place every year at the American Underground coworking space in downtown Durham. That summit provides mentoring for Black entrepreneurs, and it has a goal of helping Black-owned companies land funding from investors in the months after the summit.

"We are committed to helping Black founders who have been deeply impacted by COVID-19 and who are disproportionately locked out of access to the funding they need to succeed," Jewel Burks Solomon, the head of Google for Startups US, said in a statement. "By combining cash awards with Google for Startups mentorship and programming, we hope to help create a more level playing field for these founders, who are building amazing companies and making an impact on their communities."

The pandemic has devastated Black-owned businesses across the country and in North Carolina, The News & Observer previously reported. During the first few months of the pandemic, for example, the number of active Black business owners declined by 41%, according to a study at Stanford University. Active white business owners declined by 17%.

And cash balances for Black businesses were down by 26% at the end of March from a year earlier, compared with a 12% decline for all firms, research by the JPMorgan Chase Institute found.

Google's Black startup fund gave grants to more than 70 startups across the U.S.

The three North Carolina winners all offer services that directly address issues the Black community is facing during the pandemic.

LoanWell helps small businesses access pandemic relief money and small business loans. The startup worked with the NC Rapid Recovery Loan Program to process that program's loans to small businesses hurting because of the pandemic, GrepBeat reported.

Courtroom5 helps people who can't afford lawyers navigate civil procedures. With eviction cases expected to balloon because of the pandemic, its platform could potentially help people stay in their homes, company cofounder Sonja Ebron recently told The N&O.

And Freeman Capital's platform teaches financial literacy to its users and provides a roadmap to building wealth.

Bernard Worthy, the CEO of LoanWell, said Google's money will help it expand its business during a critical time.

"LoanWell's cloud-based solution is helping thousands of small businesses across North Carolina access COVID relief dollars," he said in a statement. "(A)nd with Google's support and these funds we will expand to the Midwest and West Coast helping more community lenders provide a lifeline to thousands of more small businesses across the country."

It's not just Google looking to provide grants to Black startups in North Carolina.

NC IDEA, a foundation that provides seed grants to startups, will soon award $500,000 in grants to groups promoting Black entrepreneurship in North Carolina, part of an effort to increase minority representation in the state's startup ecosystem. Despite its large Black population, North Carolina's technology industry, as a whole, lags behind much of the country when it comes to representation, according to figures provided by the N.C. Tech Association.

This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work. Learn more; go to bit.ly/newsinnovate ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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