Business

Sisters Become First Black Women In KS To Raise $1 Million For Tech Startup

Matthew Kelly
The Wichita Eagle

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Matthew Kelly reports, “the Wichita sisters who founded a dating app-style platform matching job seekers with employers have raised $1.41 million for their startup, QuickHire.”

Wichita

Deborah Gladney, 34, and Angela Muhwezi-Hall, 31, became the first Black women in Kansas to raise at least a million dollars in capital, according to Project Diane, which tracks minority women-led startups.

“Most of these funds, especially when they are making early-stage investments, they are making investments in the people,” Gladney said.

QuickHire hit the million-dollar fundraising milestone in a seed round led by MATH Venture Partners.

Gladney said that in the world of venture funding, if you don’t have industry connections, you have to work extra hard to sell your vision.

“Getting to know venture capitalists is challenging because a lot of it is about who you already know or being introduced,” she said.

“We don’t come from money, so it’s not like we had family members who were pouring money into our business.”

The daughters of Ugandan immigrants, Gladney and Muhwezi-Hall launched the QuickHire beta product last fall.

“Like any first version, there were bugs and all of that good stuff, but now it is so seamless to apply to jobs,” Muhwezi-Hall said. “We utilize a lot of features that this generation likes to see when using apps — swipe left, swipe right — that’s how you apply.”

Instead of resumes, QuickHire users are encouraged to upload intro videos to demonstrate their soft skills.

Muhwezi-Hall said almost 70 paying companies and 12,000 job-seekers are already using the app. Users enter their ZIP code and are instantly shown job listings posted within a 20-mile radius.
The platform, which is available for download on iOS and Google Play, is designed to connect non-college-degree workers with employers, particularly in the retail, hospitality and restaurant fields.

So far, Wichita and Kansas City are QuickHire’s primary markets. But the sisters said they plan to expand their company within the Midwest.

Gladney said she’ll never forget how rewarding it felt when the first hires were made through their service.

“Hearing of workers who had been out of work for a while — you know, people who had just had children and needed to provide for their kids, and how grateful people were — it was just the most heartwarming thing,” Gladney said.

“It made us realize that QuickHire is bigger than us. We are really helping people improve their lives, improve their businesses.”

Muhwezi-Hall said she hopes their story inspires other Black women to bring their own good ideas to life.

“This is a very male-dominated, white-dominated industry,” she said. “And going into it, we’re new to tech. We’re first-time tech founders.

“We are hoping that this is just the start for other Black women in the Midwest to see people that have done it and they feel like they can do it as well.”

Along the way, Muhwezi-Hall said she and her sister have found some “true champions.”

Curt Gridley is co-founder of Groover Labs in Wichita, the product development lab and coworking center that provided the sisters office space and connected them to mentors with startup experience.

Gridley said it’s exciting for a promising tech startup to be born in Wichita.

“Wichita has had various successes throughout the years in entrepreneurship and startups, but in terms of sort of mainstream tech startups, there aren’t as many recent examples,” Gridley said.

“Most cities that are booming in this space have had some key examples of successful startups that other people can model themselves after. It’s one thing to read about successes out of Silicon Valley or other tech centers, but until you see it happening in your own city, it’s a little hard to relate to.”

Gridley said QuickHire raises Wichita’s visibility to outside investors and provides a crucial example to other aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Angela and Deborah are great at both seeking help and advice but also being willing to share their experiences with others,” Gridley said.

Muhwezi-Hall said she and her sister are proud of their Wichita roots.

“There’s been a lot of groundbreakers that come from Wichita and come from Kansas, and we’re really just proud to be a part of that legacy,” she said.
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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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