Ziscuit Wins Google For Startups & American Underground Black Founders Exchange’s Pitch Competition


October 8, 2022 – On Friday afternoon in the basement of a coworking space in downtown Durham, 10 entrepreneur teams from around the country stepped before a panel of judges to sell their vision and passion. It was the culmination of the annual Black Founders Exchange. The business ideas, while generally tied to tech, spanned industries like education, business growth, and personal wellness. Darius and Courtney Pettway presented their digital platform, Kidvestors, which teaches marginalized youth economic literacy. Keith Chacey talked through his company, Peadbo, which helps undergrads transition into the corporate world.

Picking the winner was up to three judges, including Triangle-based executives Abha Bowers, who heads the Raleigh marketing agency Walk West, and Kirk Merriweather, who cofounded the Raleigh business strategy firm The Diversity Movement.

The top prize was $5,000, which went to Mark Peterson, founder of the Atlanta-based startup Ziscuit, which helps customers compare grocery prices ahead of shopping. But those who took part in the weeklong exchange said the experience was more about the journey than the final pitch. “It’s really the exposure,” said Rowan Brown, 29, founder of the digital solutions company Barley, who traveled up from Miami for the week. “Typically, most of us don’t have the network know-how within this space, so having a curated and hyper-focused programming week through Google is very beneficial for a lot of us.”

The Black Founders Exchange was established in 2016 and is available to Black leaders of high-growth startups, most related to the tech industry. The event is hosted by American Underground, a coworking community with locations throughout Durham. Sponsored by Google, the annual residency program offers Black startup leaders the chance to hone their ideas, network and take advantage of mentors who popped into the coworking office throughout the week to offer insights, from how to deliver a captivating pitch (be authentic) to how to identify key clients. “What I do appreciate from the Black Founders Exchange is the opportunity to really delve into the purpose of our businesses and really communicate that message more strongly,” said Ciarra Dortche, 30, who grew up in Charlotte but traveled in from her home in Austin for the week.

Dortche is a co-founder of Kadogo, which helps people round up everyday transactions to use for charity or personal investments. “I think particularly with this event, the amount of time they’re taking to give us individualized help is invaluable,” she said. Having grown up in North Carolina, Dortche emphasized how she’s been impressed by the recent changes Durham has undergone.

“Tech wasn’t something huge in the area growing up,” she said. “It was really nice over the years how Durham really is reinvesting back in the community.” 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.

Read more at: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article266965716.html#storylink=cpy

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