The Amazing Race Meets Shark Tank: RoadPitch Is Connecting Black Founders With Investors
Described as The Amazing Race meets Shark Tank, RoadPitch is the Black-owned program connecting Black tech founders with investors across the US.
The brainchild of Barley Sober founder Rohan Brown and electrical engineer Meagan Turner, the program takes Black tech founders on weeklong trips to pitch to investors in cities they aren’t native to. The pair met virtually in 2022 while coordinating StartupBus, a national hackathon on wheels.
Getting Black founders in the room
“Because of the pandemic, a lot of people have gotten accustomed to sending over a deck or pitching over a screen,” Brown told The Plug. “We believe that there’s nothing better than an in-person interaction, so we said, “How can we get more entrepreneurs exposure, visibility and in the room with angels in a creative and competitive way?'”
RoadPitch focuses on pre-seed and seed-stage startups that are at least 51% owned by a person who identifies as Black. The program’s goal is to expose founders to investors in regions they haven’t experienced yet.
The first trip for RoadPitch was completed this February for Black History Month, where the group traveled from Boston to New York City to Philadelphia to Baltimore, and ending in Washington DC.
For each tour, RoadPitch focuses on startups in five specific industries within tech, with the northeast tour focusing on startups in robotics, adtech, digital health, B2B SaaS, and fintech. The winners in each city were:
- Boston: Thaddeus Payton, founder of agricultural technology company The Gaia Box
- New York: Yevez Perez, founder of travel booking platform WorkBnB
- Philadelphia: David Cabello, founder of Black and Mobile, a food delivery service for Black-owned restaurants
- Baltimore: Chrystal I. Berger, founder of media booking platform EBO
- Washington: Keith Chaney, founder of Peadbo, a personal advisory board
Technical.ly reports that 75% of the cohort received funding less than a month after the tour.
“This is the most traction we’ve had in five days than what we’ve had in the past two years,” said Thad Payton, CEO of GaiaBox, who won the Boston event.
Turner told Technical.ly that RoadPitch doesn’t provide pitch decks prior to the presentation, only the startup’s name and industry, to reduce bias.
“It’s already difficult to get in front of investors as a Black founder, then to raise and go through this due diligence process, but we don’t want them to come up with their own opinion about the startup before the startup is able to defend themselves in real-time with a Q&A or clarifying details.”
Brown and Turner plan for RoadPitch to expand beyond the road onto our screens as a web series or television show to create more visibility for founders. They recorded content during Northeast tour which is going to be used to create a teaser.
“All we’re doing is curating an event and giving these founders the opportunity to get in front of the right person,” Brown told The Plug. “So if there’s an opportunity for a local startup to potentially get the interest of an angel that we bring into the room, that’s exactly what we want.”
RoadPitch is currently accepting applications for its next trip across the West Coast this June.