Anyone who is driven enough to chase their dreams of starting a business deserves a fair shot at turning those dreams into a reality. It is no easy process no matter who you are, but like many aspects of society, there are those who have a higher barrier to entry. As a Black male in tech, I’ve seen a lack of representation from my own group countless times, but have also been impressed by the focus of those around me to help change that.
Here at Branch, I was one of the first members of our ERG, Roots, which is a safe place for our black employees to network, build community, and support our career trajectories. After the many injustices we’ve seen this year, we pushed our leadership team at Brach to look for new ways to make a difference and they certainly did. One of those initiatives was the inception of Tech for Black Founders with some of our close partners like Amplitude, Braze, Mparticle, and Radar. The aim was to help level the playing field for a group of entrepreneurs that are underrepresented in tech: Black founders.
I got the chance to interview Ruben Harris, the CEO of Career Karma, as well as Chipper’s VP of Growth Marketing Hasan Luongo. We chatted about their respective companies’ startup stories and how they have utilized Tech for Black Founders to build on them.
Joey Andrean: I’d love it if you could tell me about your company’s story of how it was founded.
Hasan Luongo: Our founders are actually from Africa, Ghana and Uganda to be exact. They came to the U.S. for school, met each other there, then after focusing on their careers for a bit decided to create their own start up. There were a few companies in Africa that tried to control the P2P Payments market but failed, nothing was working. So Chipper started because there was a problem that none of the current solutions fixed.
Ruben Harris: Rapid reskilling is one of the most critical issues in our time. We created the easiest way to find a job training program online where we match workers with these programs. We offer career paths for technical and non technical roles. These are mostly set up through bootcamps we have, but then we set you up with squads so you continue to be supported through this social platform to keep you growing. Our co-founders did bootcamps before starting the company, so the way Career Karma came up is we wish we had this for ourselves. We started a podcast called breaking into startups and quickly people began asking us specific questions on how to do the same and it kept growing from there.
JA: What types of challenges or opportunities do you find having black tech founders?
HL: Like for any start up, there are challenges in raising money. Our approach was unique because our founders are from Africa and are building a business in that market. They had to educate investors on the massive opportunities in emerging markets like Kenya and Nigeria. The typical investor has no idea about this otherwise. It was also about how we spun our uniqueness to our advantage.
RH: I’m not one who likes to play the black card but you should take advantage of who you are, right? Whether you are black, an immigrant, a woman, definitely take advantage of it. Also, I’ve found that many people of other races have been just as supportive as those of my own community in startups. Being a black founder has been an advantage for us. I feel fortunate that we serve blue-collar workers and a majority of those people are black. So I’ve found it a benefit to help the majority of the folks that look like me without having to create a separate diversity department.
JA: How has Tech for Black Founders helped you, and what are your main uses?
HL: It was really cool to see Branch push forward with Tech for Black Founders during this time. The core of what we do on Branch is tracking ad spend and seeing what those users do down stream. We are always testing different channels and trying to understand performance at the ad set and ad level. For users that take meaningful actions downstream, we use the deep links feature to drive them into other key retentive use cases, like Buying Airtime or Buying/Selling Bitcoin. We also utilize Amplitude to pair with our Branch data.
RH: We’ve been able to use lots of premium tools to help improve our analytics and conversions thanks to Branch and Amplitude. I really like the Download App smart banner that Branch provides to get more mobile web visitors to download our app on iOS or Android. We also use the deep linking and attribution functionality that Branch provides.
If you want to learn more about Chipper Cash, read here: https://chippercash.app.link/tfbf
If you want to learn more about Career Karma, read here: https://www.causeartist.com/career-karma-potential-most-impactful-startups-in-america/
To learn more about the Tech for Black Founders initiative and the expanded list of partners supporting these amazing entrepreneurs, visit https://www.notion.so/TechforBlackFounders-ced8852e37514bcaac6a82bec9dc8087