Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Shaping a More Equitable Future: Tech for Black Founders

by Rod McLeod, Vice President of Social Impact, Braze

Historically, Black founders do not have the same access to capital and economic opportunity, especially
at the critical early stages of a startup. Between 2009 and 2019, Black founders received only about
0.25% of UK venture capital funding and Black women founders, 0.02%. These figures are appalling and
speak to how the odds are stacked against Black technologists and entrepreneurs.

The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked cries for racial justice, along with overdue reflection on
the systemic exclusion of the Black community across the globe. Tech for Black Founders was built in
response to these events. The program came together within two weeks once Braze, along with several
founding partners Amplitude, Branch, mParticle, and Radar, decided to act. Our coalition of companies
gives Black founders free access to valuable technology to help them build and scale their businesses.
We realized that before Braze can make an impact on the wider world, we had to first start by evaluating
what we could do to combat the lack of equity and opportunity in our own community—the tech industry.
Our shared mission was simple: to level the playing field for Black founders.

Taking action

As experts in customer engagement, we understand first hand that customer experience must be a top-
line concern for businesses. In order to drive growth, brands need to put customers first by creating
engaging, personalized customer experiences. Unfortunately for many Black founders, investing money
in critical technology during the early stages of a business can be a challenge due to a lack of funding.
Through Tech for Black Founders, Braze offers recipients a year of free technology that allows them to
capture, analyze, and act on customer data to engage their customers and improve their experience.
From there, businesses can accelerate growth and scale as rapidly and efficiently as possible. We hope
to help these promising startups grow their customer base and business, and ultimately secure early-
stage capital.

In the first iteration of the program, Braze provided grants to 16 Black-founded businesses in the U.S. The
initial companies and corresponding technologies span the “Growth Stack”— data collection, attribution,
analytics, and customer engagement. Along with our founding partners, Braze offered strong, native
integrations that are often implemented and used together by digital businesses. We specifically worked
with companies that had raised less than $30M in venture capital, and had fewer than 150 employees.
For example, Plain Sight, a social platform dedicated to facilitating networking in virtual spaces, leveraged Braze technology to drive personalized communications, optimize user experiences, and increase retention.

Since the program’s launch, this initiative has grown into a network of more than 40 tech companies with
a broad range of capabilities, including AWS, Foursquare, and Stripe. This year, Braze has opened
applications to Black founders in EMEA due to growing calls for support in the region and is adding a new
cohort of 15 Tech for Black Founder companies in 2022.

Shaping the future

The intent of Tech for Black Founders is to focus on equity, the “E” in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
(DEI). Braze wants to do our part to level the playing field for people from all backgrounds. We are
planning to expand our product grant program to support other global communities, defined as
underrepresented and underserved. We’re also committed to creating a larger ecosystem of support for
grant recipients that includes corporate mentorship, strategic networking, and community engagement.
Lastly, change comes from the inside. Braze strives to advance DEI within our own “four walls” and create
tangible change both externally and internally. Our goal is to become an inclusion-first company where
people of diverse backgrounds can have a great career, which aligns with our company value “Be a
Human.” This year, we’re focused on embedding DEI into our recruiting and performance management
business processes so DEI isn’t just a box to check, it’s just how we do business at Braze.

We’re excited about the success of Tech for Black Founders but recognize there’s still much work to be
done both internally and externally. We will continue to advocate for a more equitable future and look
forward to working with people and companies that share our values.