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Plug In Announces 2024 Tech Accelerator Cohort 5

Black & Brown Tech Accelerator Announces 2024 Cohort

Program Doubled its Submissions from Last Year; Founders Span Healthcare Tech, Digital Health, Fintech, Climate, and Gaming

LOS ANGELES, May 10, 2024 – Today, Plug In Ventures, a growing tech community in South Los Angeles, announced Cohort 5 of its Accelerator Program, tailored specifically for early-stage startups led by Black and Brown founders in the emerging technology sector.

Cultivating the next generation of founders, the accelerator connects them to the tools, networks, and business development opportunities they need to grow and scale their companies.

“I am honored to introduce Plug In’s Cohort 5, made up of seven talented founders who are driving innovation in their respective fields and making positive contributions within the communities they serve and globally,” said Derek Smith, Founder & CEO of Plug In Ventures. “We’re excited to get to work with these diverse, early-stage startups and give them the foundation they need to access the myriad of opportunities awaiting them in the ever-evolving tech industry.”

The program includes weekly meetings, special and in-person sessions, networking events, and off-site workshops, with it culminating in a “Founders Showcase,” where founders introduce their companies and breakthrough innovations to the larger ecosystem of founders, investors, and tech stakeholders.

Cohort 5 will also partner with VC law firm Gunderson Dettmer, Verizon, and citywide and statewide stakeholders that support and develop early-stage enterprises in SoCal.

The program kicked off on April 16th with an in-person dinner and founder session in Los Angeles.

This year, Plug In Ventures received 138 applications, close to doubling the number of submissions from last year. Founders represent a wide range of sectors, from healthcare tech and digital health to fintech, climate, and gaming.

Cohort 5 includes:

Kwame Terra, Founder & CEO, bEHR Systems, Inc.

bEHR Systems, Inc. is a community-based, patient-centered care platform that utilizes a comprehensive health scoring algorithm to educate and provide personalized health solutions to the Black community.

Maria Uloko, Founder & CEO, VULVAi

VULVAi is a D2C platform using evidence-based science to prioritize vulvar health and provide holistic patient-driven vulvar care.

Rica Elysee, Co-Founder, SLAY

SLAY introduces AI-enhanced smart mirrors to retail, transforming shopping with real-time skin analysis and virtual try-ons.

Martha Gamboa, Founder & CEO, Frendii

Frendii is a Los Angeles County-based early-stage, technology startup that builds community for women over 50 and facilitates frequent social and human connection.

Oliver Sanchez, Co-Founder & CEO, Extrasense

Extrasense is transforming the pest control industry through IoT and Computer Vision, helping to reduce the impact pests have on our lives.

David Scott, Founder & CEO, Evil Genius Games

Evil Genius Games specializes in tabletop roleplaying and board games, holding licenses to produce games based on popular films.

Dr. Lauren Vivian, Co-Founder & CEO, WePair Health

WePair Health is a talent marketplace that enables organizations to rapidly implement local, inclusive workforce strategies, ultimately breaking down barriers to care for underserved communities.

Under Smith’s leadership, Plug In Ventures has flourished into a renowned emerging startup ecosystem, spanning across Southern California, Atlanta, and New York. He has paved the way for countless early-stage founders and investors.

“We look forward to continue our mission of nurturing emerging entrepreneurs from historically marginalized communities, empowering them to solve big problems in healthcare, fintech, digital media, climate control, sustainability, and other areas,” said Smith. “We stand ready to seed their growth.”

We’d like to acknowledge the amazing sponsors of Cohort 5 of our Accelerator Program, which include the California Office of Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), VC law firm Gunderson Dettmer, and Verizon. Their unwavering support is so critical to helping Plug In Ventures fulfill its mission year after year of uplifting early-stage startups led by Black and Brown founders in technology. We look forward to continuing to work together and disrupting the industry for the better!

To learn more about Plug In Ventures and its Accelerator Program, please click here.

About Plug In Ventures
Plug In Ventures is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting early-stage startups, with a particular focus on Black and Brown entrepreneurs from underserved communities. Through mentorship, resources, access to capital, and educational programs, Plug In Ventures aims to create a more inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Chavonne Jones
Chavjones2@gmail.com

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Empowering Founders: A Showcase of Innovation in South Los Angeles

At Plug In Ventures, we believe in the power of collaboration and community to drive innovation. That’s why we were thrilled to partner with ChargerHelp! to host a special event that brought together 25 executives from Fortune 1000 and 500 Innovation Groups. The goal? To shine a spotlight on the incredible work being done by Founders across our ecosystem.

One of the highlights of the event was the opportunity to visit the new location of ChargerHelp! in South Los Angeles, where Founder Kameale Terry shared her vision for revolutionizing the electric vehicle industry. From providing essential maintenance services to advancing sustainability initiatives, ChargerHelp! is a prime example of the innovative spirit that thrives in our city.

But ChargerHelp! wasn’t the only success story on display. We were also honored to have Kwamane Lidell, CEO & Co-Founder of ThriveLynx, and Sky Kelley of Valient Labs join us to showcase their groundbreaking work. From leveraging technology to improve healthcare outcomes to driving innovation in the legal industry, these Founders are making waves and inspiring others to think big.

Special thanks to Councilwoman Heather Hutt (CD10) for helping support this event, ensuring everyone was comfortable and able to fully engage. We also want to extend our gratitude to our friends at the SoCal Innovation Alliance for their support in making this event a success.

Our event was more than just a showcase of innovation; it was a celebration of the vibrant startup scene in Los Angeles and a testament to the power of collaboration to drive positive change. As we continue to support and empower Founders across our ecosystem, we look forward to seeing even more groundbreaking ideas take flight and transform the world.

Companies Mentioned:
MovnHealth
ChargerHelp
ThriveLink
Plug In Ventures
Nike

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Plug In Ventures Featured in TechCrunch

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 4, 2024 – Los Angeles, CA  – Derek Smith, founder of Plug In South LA, now Plug In Ventures, established a startup incubator in 2015 to support Black and brown entrepreneurs in economically disadvantaged areas. Recognizing funding disparities, the 12-week program provides workshops and industry-specific advice, with success stories like ChargerHelp, a platform for EV charging stations.

Plug In Ventures aims to create a network of entrepreneurs driving economic development and job creation in underserved communities. Smith emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurs taking the lead, shifting from a free model to equity-based investment in future cohorts, with a new fund providing 5% equity ownership and follow-on investments.

Read on in TechCrunch.

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Keith Chaney, Founder of Peadbo, Set to Pitch at the Official SXSW Pitch Competition 2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Keith Chaney, Visionary Founder of Peadbo, Selected as a Finalist for SXSW Pitch Competition 2024

February 28, 2024 – Los Angeles, CA  – Keith Chaney, the trailblazing founder of Peadbo, is set to showcase his groundbreaking vision at the prestigious SXSW Pitch Competition 2024. Peadbo, short for Personal Advisory Board, is on a mission to close the opportunity and wealth gaps through collaborative mentorship. Chaney’s innovative pitch promises to captivate the audience and position Peadbo at the forefront of the next wave of technological advancements.

The SXSW Pitch Competition, known for showcasing the brightest minds and disruptive technologies, provides a platform for entrepreneurs to present their groundbreaking ideas to a panel of esteemed judges and a captivated audience of industry professionals. Chaney’s selection as a finalist underscores the industry-wide recognition of Peadbo’s impact and innovation.

“We are thrilled to have Plug In Ventures Alumni Keith Chaney and Peadbo among the distinguished finalists for the SXSW Pitch Competition 2024,” said Derek Smith, Founder and Managing Director of Plug In Ventures. “Chaney’s visionary approach and Peadbo’s transformative solutions align perfectly with the spirit of innovation that defines SXSW, and we eagerly anticipate the impact their pitch will have on the event.”

The SXSW Pitch Competition 2024 is scheduled to take place on March 10, 2024 in Austin,TX. Chaney’s presentation is expected to not only showcase Peadbo’s ingenuity but also contribute to the vibrant atmosphere of collaboration and exploration that defines SXSW.

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Black Tech Founders Push Industry Forward Despite Obstacles

Los Angeles – February 22, 2024

Benjamen Janey founded his company, Spooler, in 2016. The startup’s marquis product, the Tymelss platform, allows designers to promote their cause-related designs.

Janey has already raised $275,000 for Spooler, though he has a goal of raising $1 million in his current fundraising round. Despite having some success in his fundraising efforts and minting an ongoing relationship with the Texas-based VC Capital Factory, Janey said he has experienced hurdles that a white founder would not.

Check out the full article here.

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Plug In Ventures Featured in Black Enterprise

Los Angeles- February 9, 2024

Plug In Ventures has been featured in Black Enterprise this week for being awarded a $1 million grant from CalOBSA to boost early-stage Black and Brown startups in Southern California with the funding to be dispersed over four years.

The funding aims to enhance the accelerator program, providing resources, mentorship, and education. Our CEO, Derek Smith, emphasizes preparing Black entrepreneurs for venture capital opportunities. Plug In Ventures plans to increase companies securing investment by 10%-20% by 2025, while expanding into new sectors and geographies nationwide.

The firm will also shift to an equity-based model, offering 5%-7% ownership, and facilitate follow-on investments directly and through their investor community.

Check out the full article here.

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Plug In Ventures Seeking Intern to Support Startup Accelerator

📢 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Plug In Ventures Welcomes Mariessa Edmonson to Spearhead Program Development

LOS ANGELES, Jan 24, 2024 — Plug In Ventures, a leading force in venture capital acceleration, proudly announces the appointment of Mariessa Edmonson as the newest member of its dynamic team, taking on a pivotal role in program development.

We are thrilled to welcome Mariessa Edmonson to our team at Plug In Ventures! Hailing from the Long Beach Accelerator, Mariessa’s dedication to empowering Black and Brown Entrepreneurs is truly inspiring. With her dynamic energy, creativity, and grace, Mariessa brings an invaluable spark to our mission.

Founders & VCs – Seize the opportunity to connect with her in the upcoming weeks to learn more about her role and share your insights on Plug In’s future direction! Mariessa will be on the ground supporting Founders in and around South Los Angeles and SoCal at large.

“I am honored to join the Plug In Ventures Team. Personally and professionally, I fully align with the mission of supporting and empowering Black and Brown founders. I look forward to leveraging my background and skills to amplify Plug In Ventures’ impact on the broader tech ecosystem in California and across the US,” says Mariessa Edmonson.

“It’s been a long time coming, but the timing of Mariessa joining the Plug In team is divine. We’re eager to embrace her passion as we journey towards our North Star, bolstering capital, support, community, and investment in talented Founders in and around overlooked communities. She will be a great resource to Founders, partners, investors, and LA ecosystem stakeholders ” says Derek Smith, Founder of Plug In Ventures.

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Blog

Plug In Ventures Welcomes Mariessa Edmonson to Spearhead Program Development

📢 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Plug In Ventures Welcomes Mariessa Edmonson to Spearhead Program Development

LOS ANGELES, Jan 24, 2024 — Plug In Ventures, a leading force in venture capital acceleration, proudly announces the appointment of Mariessa Edmonson as the newest member of its dynamic team, taking on a pivotal role in program development.

We are thrilled to welcome Mariessa Edmonson to our team at Plug In Ventures! Hailing from the Long Beach Accelerator, Mariessa’s dedication to empowering Black and Brown Entrepreneurs is truly inspiring. With her dynamic energy, creativity, and grace, Mariessa brings an invaluable spark to our mission.

Founders & VCs – Seize the opportunity to connect with her in the upcoming weeks to learn more about her role and share your insights on Plug In’s future direction! Mariessa will be on the ground supporting Founders in and around South Los Angeles and SoCal at large.

“I am honored to join the Plug In Ventures Team. Personally and professionally, I fully align with the mission of supporting and empowering Black and Brown founders. I look forward to leveraging my background and skills to amplify Plug In Ventures’ impact on the broader tech ecosystem in California and across the US,” says Mariessa Edmonson.

“It’s been a long time coming, but the timing of Mariessa joining the Plug In team is divine. We’re eager to embrace her passion as we journey towards our North Star, bolstering capital, support, community, and investment in talented Founders in and around overlooked communities. She will be a great resource to Founders, partners, investors, and LA ecosystem stakeholders ” says Derek Smith, Founder of Plug In Ventures.

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Peadbo Founder Keith Chaney, Accelerator Cohort 4 Alum, Inspires Students on Advisory Boards and Personal Growth

🌟

Exciting News! Keith Chaney, founder of Peadbo and a proud alum of our 4th Accelerator Cohort, recently visited Detroit public high school students to share insights on personal advisory boards. As a first-generation college graduate, Keith highlights the importance of support systems for underestimated students. Peadbo, a cloud-based platform short for Personal Advisory Board, empowers users to build and manage teams for personal or professional growth. Additionally, it helps in creating recurring newsletters for a broader network of supporters and advisors.

🚀 Noteworthy: Peadbo’s growing roster of customers includes universities, corporations, and young professionals focused on leveling up their careers. Explore more about Peadbo’s innovative platform at peadbo.com. #Education #SupportSystem #PeadboJourney #AcceleratorAlum

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Accelerator

Double Success: Plug In Alums Carlos Rivera (Subler) and Remy Meraz (Zella) Each Receive Funding Through PledgeLA’s Founder Fund

🌟 Milestone Alert! 💰 Plug In celebrates over $50K in funding granted to our incredible alums, including Carlos Rivera and Remy Meraz. Carlos, an alum of our Cohort 4 Accelerator Program, secured a $25K PledgeLA Grant, while Remy, Co-Founder of Zella Life, also received a PledgeLA Grant. This remarkable achievement highlights their innovation and success. Congratulations to our trailblazing entrepreneurs! 👏🎉 #FundingSuccess #PlugInAlums #InnovationMatters