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Black-led tech UK startups secure Google funding

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan held a meet-up for London-based Black founders. Photo: Ben Broomfield
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan held a meet-up for London-based Black founders. Photo: Ben Broomfield

26 UK-based startups led by black entrepreneurs have secured $100,000 (£82,000) each from Google (GOOG) as the search giant pushes for diversity in tech.

The $4m Black Founders Fund was created to tackle racial inequality in venture capital funding and helps founders scale their startups.

Fund will award $100,000 to each of the start-ups along with mentorship and non-financial support.

A total of 40 black-led tech startups based across the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands were selected.

UK startups on the list include fashion tech company Sojo UK, artificial intelligence beauty company YutyBazar, the fintech start up Goodloans, and an on-demand business school called Framework.

Josephine Philips, founder and CEO of Sojo, told Yahoo Finance UK that black entrepreneurs face different obstacles when trying to secure funding.

“If you don’t look like a Mark Zuckerberg or a Bill Gates, there is this genuine barrier for investors to visualise that you are an entrepreneur that is going to build a unicorn,” she said.

Read more: UK tech overtakes China with £12.4bn in startup investment

“The intersection of being a woman, or the intersection of being black or the intersection of being young, or the intersection of being a solo founder, all of those things combine in people’s minds to just thinking you’re not the archetype of what succeeds and that barrier has to be overcome,” she added.

Sojo is a fashion tech startup that connects customers to local seamster businesses through its app and bicycle delivery services so that clients can get their clothes fixed or fitted with a few clicks. As the UK’s first clothing alterations and repairs app, it aims to help make fashion circular.

Simi Lindgren, founder of YutyBazar, told Yahoo Finance UK that black women secure less than 1% of the overall funding.

“When I was pitching, I didn’t speak to many black venture capital [investors], What I found was that even though there’s less than 2% of funding that goes to women, it is even a smaller amount – like 0.02% – that goes to black women.”

YutyBazar is an AI-driven beauty marketplace that helps conscious beauty shoppers find the right haircare, skincare and cosmetic products based on their lifestyle, environment, and preferences.

The Black Founders fund was first launched last year with $2m to support Black entrepreneurs who are disproportionately locked out of access to capital. The funding has now been doubled to $4m.

Prior to the fund’s launch, less than 0.25% of venture capital funding went to Black-led startups in the UK.

Marta Krupinska, head of Google for Startups UK, said the fund has been able to debunk the myth of the “pipeline problem”.

Read more: UK fintech £32bn revenue opportunity, says CBI boss

“Ultimately the goal is to change that mental model of what a founder looks like so that we don’t just think: Elon Musk,” she told Yahoo Finance UK.

“Quite often we hear say ‘we’re not investing in Black founders because there’s a pipeline problem’. But last year we had almost 800 applications and this year we had another 700 applications from 18 countries. There is a wealth of talent out there if you actually care to look, she added.

The startups selected in 2021 have raised an additional $81m in follow-up funding and increased their headcount by 121%.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan held a meet-up for the London-based founders, as part of London Tech Week.

“Let me be frank: people from your ethnicity haven’t in the past had a helping hand – notwithstanding the great ideas and hard work – to access those who can help you accelerate. If we can help you, there is plenty of cake and people like us don’t get enough of it,” he said.

The government has also urged tech companies based in the UK to do more to give opportunities to those from different backgrounds.

Watch: UK tech sector enjoys record year after start-ups attract more capital than ever before