First Boulevard raises $5M for its digital bank aimed at Black America

The murder of George Floyd last May ignited many things in the United States last year — one of which that was perhaps unexpected: a rise in the number of digital banks targeting the Black community.

Some members of the Black community took their belief that big banks are not meeting their needs and turned them into startup concepts.

One of those startups, First Boulevard (formerly called Tenth), has just raised $ 5 million in seed funding from Barclays, Anthemis and a group of angel investors such as actress Gabrielle Union, Union Square Ventures John Buttrick and AutoZone CFO Jamere Jackson.

For co-founder and CEO Donald Hawkins, the genesis for the Overland, Kansas-bank came after Floyd’s murder, when he and friend Asya Bradley were talking about what they felt Black America “really needed to get out of a vicious cycle” of dealing with the same issues with no real solutions in sight.

CEO Donald Hawkins

COO Asya Bradley

“After viewing yet another tragedy engulf the Black community, and the all-too-familiar protests against persisting issues,” Hawkins said. “it was beyond clear to me that the solutions Black America needs must be financially-focused and developed within our community.”

The pair both had fintech experience. Hawkins had founded Griffin Technologies, a company focused on providing real-time, contextual intelligence to community banks and credit unions. And Bradley most recently was a founding team member and head of revenue at Synapse, a platform that built banking-as-a-service APIs to help bank the unbanked of America by connecting fintech platforms to banking institutions.

They discovered that there were only about 19 Black banks in the U.S., collectively holding about $ 5 billion in assets.

“And their technology was really behind the times,” Hawkins said. “We also took a hard look at some of the existing digital banks to really see who was really going about it  in the same way that we felt like America needed, and it was pretty clear at that point, that no one was really attacking the issue of helping Black America build some level of financial stability through the form of wealth-building play.”

The pair formed First Boulevard last August under the premise that Black Americans are “massively underserved consumers” of financial products and services despite having a collective spending power of $ 1.4 trillion annually. The startup’s mission is to empower Black Americans “ to take control of their finances, build wealth and reinvest in the Black economy” via a digitally-native platform. First Boulevard has 100,000 people on its waitlist currently.

Part of its goal with the new capital involves building out a Black business marketplace, which will give its members Cash Back for Buying Black™. It also plans to use the money to expand its team, increase its customer base and grow its platform to offer fee-free debit cards, financial education and on developing technology to help members automate their saving and wealth building goals.

History has proven that oppressed communities can succeed when their finances are centralized, and when it comes to financial services for the Black community, a centralizing force is long overdue,” Hawkins said.

The bank’s Cash Back for Buying Black™ program helps members earn up to 15% cashback when they spend money at black-owned businesses. 

“I believe the most recent stat but that also was that 41% of black owned businesses have closed since COVID-19 started,” Hawkins said. “We want to support them as much as we can.”

First Boulevard also is focused on passively building wealth for its communities.

“Black America as a whole has been blocked from learning how money works. We want to connect our members to wealth-building assets such as micro investments like money market accounts, high yield savings and cryptocurrency — things that Black America has largely been blocked from,” Hawkins said.

Bradley, who serves as First Boulevard’s COO, believes the current financial industry was not built to serve the needs of melanated people. Its goal is to take their understanding of the unique needs of the Black community to provide things such as early access to wages, round up savings features, targeted financial education and budgeting tools.

The pair aims to have a “fully inclusive” team that represents the community it’s trying to serve. Currently, its 20-person staff is 60% black, and 85% BIPOC. Two-thirds of its leadership team are women and 100% is BIPOC. The company plans to boost its headcount to 50 by year’s end.

“We are very proud of that considering that in the fintech space, those are not normal numbers from a leadership perspective,” Bradley said.

For Katie Palencsar, an investor at the Female Innovators Lab by Barclays and Anthemis, said that her firm has always recognized “that access to financial services has long remained a challenge despite the digital evolution.”

“This is especially true for Black Americans who often reside in financial deserts and struggle to find platforms that truly look to serve them,” she said. “First Boulevard deeply understands the challenge.”

Palencsar believes that First Boulevard’s mission of helping Black Americans not just bank, but actually build wealth, is unique in the market.

First Boulevard sees the wealth gap that continues to grow within the U.S. and wants to build a digital banking platform that addresses the systemic and structural challenges that face this population while enabling Black Americans and allies to invest in the community,” she said.

The company also recently announced a partnership with Visa, under which First Boulevard will be first to pilot Visa’s new suite of crypto APIs. First Boulevard will also launch a First Boulevard Visa Debit card.

First Boulevard is one of several digital banks geared toward Black Americans that have emerged in recent months. Paybby, a digital bank for the black and brown communities, recently acquired Wicket, a neobank that uses AI and biometric technology to create a personalized experience for users. Hassan Miah, the CEO and founder of Paybby, said the bank’s goal is to be “the leading smart, digital bank for the Black and Brown communities.”

Paybby, which started by offering a bank account and a way to expedite PPP loans, will soon be adding a cryptocurrency savings account for the Black and Brown communities.   

“Black buying power is projected to grow to $ 1.8 trillion by 2024,” Miah said. “Brown buying power is over $ 2 trillion. Paybby wants to take a good portion of this multi-trillion dollar market and give it back to these communities.”

Last October, Greenwood raised $ 3 million in seed funding from private investors to build what it describes as “the first digital banking platform for Black and Latinx people and business owners.”

At the time, co-founder Ryan Glover, founder of Bounce TV network, said it was “no secret that traditional banks have failed the Black and Latinx community.”

Startups – TechCrunch

[DailyPay in PR Newswire] Top American Companies Demonstrate Commitment To Their Employees’ Financial Wellness By Partnering With DailyPay To Support “America Saves Week”

Leading American companies are prioritizing their employees’ financial wellness by teaming up with DailyPay to support employee savings and “America Saves Week.” The annual event that kicks off today is organized by the nonprofit America Saves, an initiative of the Consumer Federation of America. The event’s mission is to encourage and support Americans to save effectively, aimed at motivating individuals and families to take better control of their finances and achieve financial stability.

Read more here.

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This Kenyan insurtech startup is eyeing Asia and Latin America after raising $6m funding – Face2Face Africa

This Kenyan insurtech startup is eyeing Asia and Latin America after raising $ 6m funding  Face2Face Africa
“startups when:1d” – Google News

Mergers And Acquisitions Advisory Market Competitive Landscape and Highlighted Key Acquisitions 2026: Top Industry Leaders – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Citi, Bank Of America Merrill Lynch – KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper

Mergers And Acquisitions Advisory Market Competitive Landscape and Highlighted Key Acquisitions 2026: Top Industry Leaders – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Citi, Bank Of America Merrill Lynch  KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper
“startups when:1d” – Google News

Newsletter: Online retail gets real + Making America thin again

  • Startup of the Week: ByondXR enlivens online shopping
  • DouxMatok’s top team to make America thin again
  • You know it makes scents: The Bouqs on Valentine’s Day
  • Kryon speeds Israel’s world-beating vaccine rollout
  • Israel-Dubai trade soars to $ 272M in five months
  • InSightec’s surgery without scalpels now available in Japan
  • Tevel Aerobotics harvests investors from Japan and China
  • CyberMDX appoints new CEO as revenues soar 300%
  • Signals Analytics: Military tech helps predict consumer trends – Forbes
  • Arcadia CEO: President Biden should extend community solar
  • Rambam Hospital adopts Nanomedic’s wound-healing Spincare System
  • Introductions
  • 900 job vacancies at OurCrowd companies

 

Startup of the Week
ByondXR brings online retail shopping to life
ByondXR “set out to make the ecommerce experience more natural, less digital, more human,” says Forbes. With physical stores shuttered, retailers have accelerated their shift to online shopping. Global online retail topped $ 4 Trillion in 2020 and is expected to grow from 14% of retail sales to about 22% in 2023. ByondXR gives brands an online edge by enabling them to create engaging, interactive stores and showrooms via its immersive virtual commerce platform. Using state-of-the-art, cloud-based 3D rendering and a real-time visualization engine to create a customizable virtual showroom, virtual store, and home decor using 3D, VR and AR technology, the platform is already being used by brands including Walmart, Target, Coca-Cola, Lancôme, P&G, and others. Co-Founder and CEO Noam Levavi previously co-founded and led YCD Multimedia, a digital media provider helping some of the world’s biggest brands deliver personalized content to their customers. Click here to see the technology in action.

Learn more.

DouxMatok’s top team to make America thin again
Chef Michel Roux and British Bake Off star Ruby Bhogal taste test DouxMatok for The Times of London 

DouxMatok, the OurCrowd portfolio company making waves in The New Yorker and The Times of London with its fat-busting sugar, has appointed two top executives with vast experience to lead its U.S. launch. Lorraine Niba, the new VP Sales, was in charge of business strategy and product portfolio for the global nutrition platform at multinational sweetener giants Ingredion. Jim Schulok, who becomes VP Applications, has nearly 25 years of experience in product development and R&D with Mondelez and Kraft Foods, FoodDive reports. DouxMatok’s Incredo Sugar has 99.75% the makeup of regular sugar, but requires 40% less of it for the same sweetness. The company has a manufacturing partnership with Lantic, owned by Rogers Sugar, Canada’s largest refiner. DouxMatok expects Incredo Sugar to be available in the U.S. this year.

You know it makes scents: Let the Bouqs brighten your Valentine’s Day
What’s the best way to celebrate a lockdown Valentine? “You can score twice the flowers for the price of one classic bouquet,” with OurCrowd portfolio company The Bouqs, the New York Post reports. The Bouqs Co. is selling its deluxe bouquets for the price of its original options. Just use the code 2XBLOOMS to get the deal. First-time buyers can also get an extra 30% off their order with the code BOUQTHEREITIS. Forbes says The Bouqs’ “standout” rainbow offering is The Best Ranunculus Arrangement to deliver this Feb. 14. The company uses technology to streamline the flower supply chain, cutting costs and waste. Who gets your special petal?

Kryon speeds Israel’s world-beating vaccine rollout
With Israel’s rapid Covid-19 vaccination rollout capturing worldwide attention with more jabs per capita than any other country, OurCrowd portfolio company Kryon Systems has revealed that its V-Bot’s ability to automate large-scale appointment scheduling is one of the factors behind the speed of the inoculation drive – and says it is making the system available worldwide, Globes reports. The software bot accelerates and streamlines the scheduling of hundreds of thousands of patient appointments to receive the two-shot vaccine for Covid-19. Clalit Health Services, the largest healthcare maintenance organization in Israel, has already used the Kryon V-Bot to schedule more than 100,000 vaccine appointments per day.

Israel-Dubai trade soars to $ 272M in five months
We are less than half a year into the Abraham Accords normalization between Israel and the UAE and business is already booming. Trade between Dubai (not the UAE as a whole) and Israel in the last five months to January touched $ 272.2 million, according to statistics released by the Dubai Media Office. Exports to Israel were almost double imports. Dubai’s main imports from Israel include vegetables, fruits, diamonds, flat screens, hi-tech devices as well as medical and mechanical devices. Exports include diamonds, smartphones, engine spare parts, perfumes and lubricants. “The expansion of trade and investment between the two sides will benefit not only the business communities in the UAE and Israel, but also other stakeholders and business communities in the Middle East,” said Sultan bin Sulayem, DP World group chairman and chief executive and the chairman of Dubai’s Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation.

Top Tech News

InSightec’s surgery without scalpels now available in Japan

Kashiwaba Neurosurgical Hospital in Sapporo, Japan has joined the Incisionless Neurosurgery Program of InSightec, an OurCrowd portfolio company which uses sound waves to perform surgery instead of a scalpel. The hospital, one of Japan’s leading neurosurgical medical centers, will treat essential tremor and tremor-dominant Parkinson’s Disease patients using the company’s Focused Ultrasound Exablate® Neuro platform that delivers sound waves precisely targeted to treat deep in the brain with no incisions.

Tevel Aerobotics harvests investors from Japan and China
China’s Forbon joined a $ 20M investment round in Tevel Aerobotics, the OurCrowd portfolio company whose flying robots pick fruit from trees, cutting costs and waste. Forbon joins Kubota Corp., Japan’s leading robotics company. The market opportunity for Tevel in China “is enormous,” Forbon’s chairman and CEO Renzong Wang told AgFunder News. “China is the largest fruit producer in the whole world [but the] agriculture labor shortage already puts China in a very difficult situation, and it will become even more severe over time,” he said. “The industry desperately needs a feasible solution like Tevel’s.”

CyberMDX appoints new CEO as revenues soar 300%
CyberMDX announced the appointment of industry veteran Azi Cohen as CEO of the company to build on record 300% YoY growth in revenue, HelpNetSecurity reports. A veteran of the IT and cybersecurity industries for more than 25 years, Azi Cohen joins CyberMDX from WhiteSource Software, a global leader in open source security software, where he was the Co-founder & SVP Global Sales and successfully built the customer base to over 1,000 clients worldwide. CyberMDX protects networked medical devices in the fast-expanding internet of things. “Following a year of tremendous growth for us in 2020, we are now ready for the next phase of our global go-to-market strategy,” said Amir Magner, the company’s President and Co-founder.

Signals Analytics: Military tech helps predict consumer trends – Forbes
Signals Analytics “is employing military technology to help companies like P&G, J&J, MARS, Kraft Heinz and others identify emerging trends to predict what will be popular next,” Kimberly A. Whitler writes in Forbes. “There is more overlap than many may understand,” between the military and marketing, she suggests in an interview with Signals Analytics’ CMO Frances Zelazny. The company was recently acquired by Kenshoo

Arcadia CEO: President Biden should extend community solar
Almost two-third of Americans, or 85 million households, cannot install solar panels on their roofs. “The solution is community solar, which allows anyone to directly support a new solar project in their community and get cheaper, cleaner energy at home,” Kiran Bhatraju, CEO and Founder of Arcadia writes in FastCompany, but “only 19 states and the District of Columbia have passed some statewide policies to support community solar.” Arcadia is the largest manager of such projects in the U.S. “I’m calling for President Joe Biden and the new Democratic majority in the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to expand third-party community solar to all 50 states,” she writes. 

Rambam Hospital adopts Nanomedic’s wound-healing Spincare System
Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel, has become the first global center to use the Spincare System from Nanomedic as routine protocol for treating burns and chronic wounds in both adults and children, Nanomedic’s Gary J. Sagiv writes in Health Europa. The technology creates an artificial skin layer using a customized matrix of nano polymers that adheres precisely to a wound or burn. The artificial layer is both waterproof and transparent, so patients can shower after 24 hours while healthcare professionals can monitor the healing process. “Nanomedic’s Spincare System has many advantages, including protection against infection from contaminating bacteria and properties that allow it to optimally adhere to the injury in a way that regular dressings cannot,” said Prof. Yehuda Ullmann, Chair of the Surgical Department and Director of the Plastic Surgery department at the Rambam Health Care Campus. “Because the device is portable and easy to operate, burns that do not require hospitalization can be treated immediately in the emergency room, where the doctor can spray the substance on the patient’s burn,” said Danny Kruchevsky, MD at Rambam’s Department of Plastic Surgery.

Introductions

Your portfolio gets stronger when the OurCrowd network gets involved. Visit our Introductions page to see which of our companies are looking for connections that you may be able to help with.

Job Vacancies

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, there are hundreds of open positions at our global portfolio companies. See some opportunities below:

Search and filter through OurTalent to find your next challenge.

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WJR Business Beat with Jeff Sloan: The Importance of Small Business in America (Episode 170)

Did you know that 75% of all new jobs in this country are created by small businesses? Or that 99% of all employers and approximately half of this nation’s GDP is driven by small businesses?

On this morning’s WJR Business Beat, Jeff discusses the importance of our small businesses in America and the true impact on individuals who create and run successful small businesses.

Tune in to this morning’s Business Beat to learn more about the importance of small business in America:

“Small businesses are not only the engine of the American economy, but more importantly, they are tied to who we are, and what we stand for as a nation.”

– Jeff Sloan

Tune in to News/Talk 760 AM WJR weekday mornings at 7:11 a.m. for the WJR Business Beat. Listeners outside of the Detroit area can listen live HERE.

Are you an entrepreneur with a great story to share? If so, contact us at editor@startupnation.com and we’ll feature you on an upcoming segment of the WJR Business Beat!

Good morning, Paul!

Most people aren’t aware of the importance of small business in America, but they need to be. How important is it? Well, the bottom line, how about this? Seventy five percent of all new jobs in this country are created by small businesses. How about this one? Ninety nine percent of all employers and approximately half of this nation’s GDP is driven by small businesses.

And while the statistics underpinning the importance of small business in America are clear and compelling enough, the importance of our small businesses in America goes way beyond that.

Let’s talk about the impact on individuals who create and run successful small businesses. It gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment and even personal expression.

You see, small business owners see their businesses as a fundamental part of who they are, what they stand for and how they can serve their clientele and customers, giving real purpose to their lives.

Moreover, a civic economic study indicated that small businesses and their earnings are retained at a rate of roughly $ 68 out of every $ 100 spent with them in their local communities to improve schools, employ others and enhance the overall quality of life.

Small businesses are not only the engine of the American economy, but more importantly, they are tied to who we are, and what we stand for as a nation.

Look, people from around the world still look to us as the land of opportunity. And while many of us contend to take this for granted or even overlook it all together, don’t. For you pioneering entrepreneurs who dare to be bold enough to strike out on your own and do it your way, you are a true inspiration.

And for those of us who reach into our wallets as consumers, with a plethora of options we have to spend our hard-earned dollars, make those dollars go further by making your spend with small businesses whenever and wherever you have the choice to do so. Our great country depends on that, especially now.

I’m Jeff Sloan, founder and CEO of StartupNation.com, and that’s today’s Business Beat on the Great Voice of the Great Lakes, WJR.

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