Meet the Inaugural BK-XL Cohort
BK-XL, THE LARGEST BIPOC ACCELERATOR, ANNOUNCES ITS INAUGURAL COHORT OF FOUNDERS
Twelve BIPOC Founders Selected among 2,000 Applicants
Startups to Receive up to $500,000 Each, Participate in Ten-Week Program, and Commit to Building their Businesses in Brooklyn
Brooklyn, NY — April 4, 2023 — Today, BK-XL, a new Brooklyn-based early-stage startup accelerator for BIPOC founders, announced its initial cohort of twelve startups selected among more than 2,000 applicants. BK-XL, which is the largest accelerator in the country for BIPOC founders by potential investment size per company, was created by Clara Wu Tsai, founder of the Social Justice Fund, Vice Chair of BSE Global and owner of the Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty, in partnership with the BIPOC-led venture capitalist firm Visible Hands.
“We created BK-XL to identify and support the most innovative BIPOC founders in this country and to show the rest of the venture capital industry just how many BIPOC founders are out there with great ideas and businesses waiting for someone to step up and believe in them,” said Clara Wu Tsai. “I think the overwhelming number of applicants we received — over 2,000 — sends that message loud and clear. I’m excited to meet this talented group of founders and work with them to help their businesses thrive in Brooklyn.”
The twelve BIPOC-founded startups who make up BK-XL’s inaugural 2023 cohort are:
- Tai Adaya: Habit, a skincare brand making next generation sunscreen products
- Nash Ahmed: Undock, a calendar automation tool that syncs with email
- Todd Baldwin, Sarah Nesheim: Crafted, a user-generated content platform dedicated to food and beverage brands
- Jordan Bradley, Paulina Vo: Highnote, a cloud collaboration platform for audio files
- Emmanuel Brown, Day Edwards: Churchspace, an Airbnb-like booking platform for churches
- Jen Chiang: Opal, Smart ring that provides discreet safety and protection
- Joy Fan: re/tell, a B2B retail booking platform
- Sarah Lee, Tejasvi Desai, Anna Bailey: Relavo, a medical device for kidney failure patients to receive safer and more accessible home dialysis
- Elijah Lubala, Tuma, software-based tap-to-pay point of sale for African merchants
- Jacob Makuvire: SWYE 360 Learning, a machine learning tool to assess edtech ROI and outcomes
- Amadeu Tolentino: Preneur, a mobile-first management tool for solopreneurs
- Sergio Villasenor: Drooler, a web3 marketplace that enables consumers to buy & sell sports cards with zero fees
More information on the selected founders and their companies can be found here.
Each startup will receive up to $500,000, which includes an initial investment of $125,000 in return for seven percent equity, as well as an additional investment of $375,000 via an uncapped SAFE upon meeting certain growth benchmarks and agreeing to maintain operations in Brooklyn for at least one year. In operating BK-XL, the Social Justice Fund is partnering with Visible Hands, a VC fund that provides exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds with the funds, hands-on support, and community they need to thrive at the earliest stages of company building.
“Narrowing down the applicants from over 2,000 to these twelve startups was a competitive task, given the rich talented pool of BIPOC founders eager to participate in this kind of program,” said Daniel Acheampong, co-founder of Visible Hands. “We are excited to work with Clara and her team to help guide these founders on their path to growth and generational wealth creation in Brooklyn.”
In addition to receiving funding from BK-XL, selected founders will participate in a ten-week immersion program based out of Industry City, during which they’ll receive office space along with 1:1 mentorship through a partnership with Bolster and ongoing advisory and support from investors and operators at Blue Pool Capital, Visible Hands, BSE Global, the Brooklyn Nets, Barclays Center, and other partnering organizations. BK-XL and its network of partners will continue to support the selected companies after the completion of the accelerator program.
“Having founded my company in the pandemic years,” said Jordan Bradley, Co-founder and CEO of Highnote, “finding a solid family of fellow founders has been difficult. As a Black male CEO alongside a queer, Asian-American female co-founder, being connected to a vetted cohort of high-performing and diverse builders — specifically Black and Women founders and operators — to learn from and grow with would be incredibly valuable.”
Only 2.4 percent of all U.S. venture capital raised from 2015 to 2020 was allocated to companies with Black or Latinx founders, according to Crunchbase. For Black founders in particular, while overall VC funding dropped by 36% in 2022 as inflation and interest rates surged, financing for Black businesses saw a steeper drop of 45%. Specifically in New York City, where the Black residents make up 22 percent of the city’s population, only 3.5 percent of NYC businesses are owned by Black entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the BIPOC talent pool within the tech sector is stronger in New York City than in other major markets, with Black and Hispanic workers making up 21 percent of its tech sector, compared to less than 10 percent in the San Francisco Bay area and in Boston.
The ten-week immersion program will begin in mid-April and run until late June 2023. More information on the timeline and application process is available at www.bk-xl.com.
About the Social Justice Fund
The Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation launched the Social Justice Fund in 2020 in Brooklyn, New York, with a commitment to fight for racial justice and plan for the economic recovery of the Borough in the post-Covid era. Driven by a $50 million commitment over ten years, the Social Justice Fund has provided small-business loans to local BIPOC-owned businesses impacted by COVID and provides grants to community leaders working to combat racial injustice.
About Clara Wu Tsai
Clara Wu Tsai is a businesswoman, investor, and philanthropist. She is the Vice Chairman of BSE Global, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Barclays Center, and New York Liberty, and a Founder of the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation. In 2020, the Foundation established a $50mm Social Justice Fund focused on driving economic empowerment and closing racial gaps in Brooklyn. Among other projects, the Social Justice Fund has provided small-business loans to BIPOC founders impacted by COVID, worked in partnership with NYC’s Department of Education to bring educational programs about Jean-Michel Basquiat and blockchain to NYC students, and provided grants to community leaders working to combat racial injustice. Clara is also a founding partner of the REFORM Alliance, which seeks to reform state-level probation and parole policies. In 2021, she was recognized as a “Champion of Justice” by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for her work on social and racial justice.
About Visible Hands
Visible Hands is a VC fund that provides exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds with the funds, hands-on support, and community they need to thrive at the earliest stages of company building. We invest in overlooked founders nationally at the pre-seed and seed stages and run programs like accelerators, fellowships, and wellness retreats.
Media Contacts: DKCSocialJusticefund@dkcnews.com