Meet Five Black-Led Startups That Have Achieved Unicorn Status

Recently, Esusu, a firm that builds the accountability and systems you need to save more, joined the list of growing Black-led startups that have hit the $1 billion valuation mark and it got me thinking…how many of you know that there are quite a few unicorns that have been led by Black founders or CEOs?

So here’s a small but mighty list that might act as a source of inspiration to you. Firstly – a “Unicorn” is a venture capital term used to describe firms that have achieved a valuation of more than $1 billion.

Second – achieving unicorn success is not easy in general and it can be even harder as a Black founder and that’s why we’re celebrating this select group of individuals for their milestones.

Zepz

Zepz, formerly WorldRemit, is a digital cross-border payments platform operating two market-leading brands with over 11 million users across 150 countries.

The company was founded by Ismail Ahmed, originally from Somalia. In 2021, the company announced that it has raised $292 million in new primary financing, achieving a valuation of $5 billion. It was the first Black-owned company to reach unicorn status in Britain.

Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash offers a cross-border, peer-to-peer payments service in African countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya. It was founded two years ago in San Francisco by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled.

The firm has over 3 million users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily, according to Techcrunch. It raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital, a U.S based VC firm that invests in early-stage startups in 2020.

Esusu

Esusu, a fintech company that uses data to bridge the racial wealth gap by reporting rent payments to credit bureaus, was co-founded by Nigerian-born American Abbey Wemimo and Indian American Samir Goel.  The company achieved a unicorn status of $1 billion after raising $130 million in a Series B fundraising round.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the funding round, with participation from Jones Feliciano Family Office, Lauder Zinterhofer Family Office, Schusterman Foundation, SoftBank Opportunity Fund, Related Companies and Wilshire Lane Capital, TechCrunch reported.

Marshmallow

Marshmallow was founded in 2017 by identical twins Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham, and David Goate. The firm is an ‘insurtech’ startup in the U.K. building a product for immigrants/expats who are poorly served by the car insurance market, according to TechCrunch. The firm reached unicorn status recently after it reached the $1bn threshold after its latest Series B funding round, making it the second UK unicorn with founders of Black heritage.

Calendly

Calendly is a cloud scheduling app founded by Tope Awotona. Calendly is designed to make the process of finding meeting times easy. Currently, about 10 million people use the platform monthly since it was created in 2013.

And in 2021 – it was valued at $3 billion after it announced that it has closed a $350 million investment led by Boston-based OpenView Venture Partners and included participation from Iconiq Capital.

We will do a follow up list.
Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.