Meet Bubble’s latest cohort of Immerse pre-accelerator for BIPOC founders! These 16 founders stood out from hundreds of applicants because of their passion for solving problems, their understanding of their market, and the need for a product that they can bring to their eagerly waiting customers.
Over the next three months, they will be building their products in the Immerse pre-accelerator ahead of their demo day on April 14, 2021.
Sign up for Demo Day & get a sneak peek at founder presentations!
Meet the Immerse Founders
Inclusivity in tech is about more than race and gender - it’s about broadening the scope of where great entrepreneurship comes from. Innovative founders come from diverse backgrounds, and we are proud to highlight these amazing entrepreneurs.
Shannon Morales is passionate about helping underrepresented communities thrive in their pursuit of better career opportunities and job security. She has won “Culture Builder of the Year” 2020 in the Philadelphia tech scene. She has also won $10,000 in the LTX Fest Pitch competition and a $1,000 grant from IFundwomen & Caress program for her company Echo Me Forward (Tribaja). Currently, she has built a 2,100 member community with a growing base of paying clients. Within Immerse, Shannon is building a platform that allows innovators and businesses to collaborate and work together on ideas and new ventures. When her product is complete, she plans to scale her community to reach hundreds of thousands of people. You can see a sneak peek of her work at the Diversitech Summit on Thursday, March 25th.
Born and raised in Vietnam, Trang Ho attended USC and graduated to work in e-commerce in the footwear industry. After falling in love with the autonomy that e-commerce gives to producers, Trang noticed that no seamless way exists for local farmers/producers to sell direct-to-consumer or for consumers to shop from local farmer’s markets. This drove her to create Masa, a localized e-commerce marketplace where local vendors (farmers or producers) own their accounts, list their products at their own prices, and benefit from Masa’s fulfillment service. Through the platform, shoppers can pick and choose exactly what they want from multiple vendors and get the assorted orders through pickup or contactless delivery. Since April 2020, Masa has gained over 2,000 users, 1,700 orders, and over $100,000 in revenue. Within Immerse, Trang hopes to reboot the Masa platform to expand her service offering for her customers.
Joél-Léhi grew up in Utah as an English Language Learner, low income, immigrant, Latino boy of color with a deep passion for social justice and education. He is currently national president for the Education Liberation Network, a local elected official, and a student in the MBA of the entrepreneurship program at the University of Utah. As a board member for national teacher associations, Joél-Léhi noticed that the process of collaborating and sharing lesson plans with other educators is extremely difficult, despite the growing need for inclusive education, exacerbated by a heightened focus on race since summer 2020. Within Immerse, he is building Machitia - a web app that helps K-12 educators with a deep passion to improve their pedagogy, by providing a centralized web application to create, collaborate and share lesson plans so that they can transform their teaching to be more culturally responsive and trauma-informed. So far, he has letters of interest signed from major teacher groups with thousands of members waiting for his Immerse product.
University of Virginia graduate Joshua Blackwell started his career in sales at Oracle and Samsara. Passionate about the future of music, Joshua put together the Dope Millionaire Visionaries web series to show how songs can be made into larger artistic experiences. This initial prototype currently has over 120,000 views on YouTube and was the inspiration behind his Immerse product - Trilla. Trilla is a content platform that builds media ecosystems around artists’ songs including videos, web series, and movie shorts. After building the Trilla platform, he hopes to partner with artists to create live experiences around their music including theme parks and other attractions.
Shemeka Neville Watson
Harvard Business School & Virginia Tech graduate Shemeka Watson is disrupting the fashion industry by building a marketplace for women who don’t fit into traditional sizes. When online shopping, women feel significant uncertainty around fit forcing them into a cycle of purchasing and returning multiple sizes, contributing to fashion’s return problem. Shemeka’s product - Chief Complex - is a new made-to-measure luxury fashion marketplace for the multidimensional woman who's anything but standard. Her mission is to enable women to be authentic on their journey to chiefdom by designing products that fit every woman, in every dimension, every time.
Ashton Keys is a veteran entrepreneur who started his first company at 15 - a fashion brand that he showcased at Paris fashion week. Now, after completing fellowships with Detroit Ventures and Venture for America, Ashton is looking to help athletes build & monetize their personal brands. The NCAA’s historic announcement in 2020 now allows college athletes to monetize their likeness. But since the average athlete spends over 50 hours a week on athletics and school, the nearly 500,000 potential influencers are unable to find their audience. After over 100 customer discovery interviews with D1 athletes and fortune 500 brands and securing 3 pilot partners, Ashton plans to build Athlytic - a platform that provides athletes access to prospective partners based on their unique identities.
Naomi Thomas is the founder and former chief executive for BB Market, a digital marketing company with a portfolio of public figures and global brands reaching millions of users a week. She and her co-founders, Justin Shaifer and Tarlon Khoubyari, are passionate about getting more people of color into STEM, so she founded the STEM Station in the summer of 2020. Naomi is joining Immerse to build Beyond, an educational platform where students gain technical skills while earning prizes from their favorite brands. The platform teaches diverse high school students cutting-edge STEM skills via immersive, personalized, and culturally relevant instruction. By leveraging their collective community of over 90,000 educators, brands, students, and thought leaders, they are excited to bring Beyond to market.
Claflin University graduates Kalvin Smith and Jordan Smith co-founded Kouple Connect after noticing a gap in the market. There are currently over 1000 dating platforms for singles looking for love, but not many for couples already in long-term relationships looking to establish meaningful friendships with other couples Over the past year, Kalvin & Jordan having been building community with their audience of couples through events and relationship-related discussions. Within Immerse, they are building a platform that will connect couples based on geography, demographics, interests, and personality traits.
A graduate of Illinois Tech in bioengineering, Kamari began her career at environmental health & safety startups, working in product management and business analysis. She noticed that businesses are struggling to keep employees and their talent pipelines filled. Often pipeline efforts are maintained by several services converging to deliver recruitment, training, and professional development separately. At the same time, emerging talent is looking for other avenues, besides Higher-Ed, to advance their careers. Kamari is building Work for Tomorrow to solve this problem on both sides by delivering a learning platform and emerging talent database in one. They work with companies to identify the roles they want to fill and the skill-set of their ideal candidates. From there, they create company-specific learning modules that are accessible for anyone 16 and older to complete for free. By completing modules, learners make themselves eligible for an apprenticeship at the company or a full-time role.
Arizona State graduate Luther Moore is bringing his marketing experience at companies like Roland to his passion for music. The music discovery process on major streaming platforms does not cater to the long tail of small artists, making it difficult for consumers to find emerging sounds and for artists to monetize their audience. WavMob, a curated streaming platform, will recommend music from upcoming artists based on vibes and modify recommendations based on user preferences. By putting small artists first, Luther hopes to cultivate a better community between artists and fans.
Tanishia Santana is a military veteran, clinical therapist, licensed social worker, and life coach who provides healthcare services to the VA. During her time in the military and later as a therapist, she saw that trauma can have lasting effects on people’s mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. Mental health treatment has shown to be effective for symptoms related to mental health illnesses related to trauma. However, limited accessibility makes it difficult to obtain treatment. Her company Clinical Holistics combines evidence-based mental health interventions, holistic practices, and life coaching that helps to alleviate mental health illnesses and symptoms, and stressors that lead to mental and physical illnesses. Within Immerse, she will build a platform to house these services for the millions of Americans who need them.
Alex Lewis is leveraging his experience working in sports communications for schools like Penn State and Texas A&M to disrupt the college athlete recruiting process. Despite the availability of data & analytical solutions, the college recruiting process lacks analytical rigor, preventing coaches from having a clear view of their recruiting process, athlete stats & stages. Athletes also lack a single portal to be able to evaluate schools against each other, forcing them to make insular decisions. Within Immerse, Alex is building a platform to centralize both processes and working with recruiting departments to get started.
LaShawnna Harris is a seasoned education professional who founded an elementary school in Queens and served as a principal for over 6 years. During her tenure, she noticed that limited resources, outdated hiring policies, and inefficient purchasing practices create barriers that make it difficult to get the right vendors & freelancers into schools. Her platform sharEDtalent solves these problems by bridging the gap between an underserved labor market (schools) and an abundant labor pool (freelancers). sharEDtalent recruits and matches freelancers across industries with schools to fill their human capital needs by providing temporary and project-based instructional and non-instructional support through their digital matching platform. After hosting a virtual conference in 2020, she is excited to bring her solution to dozens of schools waiting to integrate the product.
Christopher Perceptions is passionate about increasing access to promising wealth vehicles, especially cryptocurrency. Within Immerse, he is building PerceptForm - an end-to-end ecosystem of cryptocurrency/blockchain products and services for introducing minority communities to the new world of blockchain. So far, he has partnered with SolidBlock for real estate tokenization and the Midwest Blockchain Consortium to conduct educational initiatives. After building PerceptForm, he hopes to launch a crypto fund and bring on institutional investors.
Originally from San Joaquin Valley, Edward began his career in sales and experienced firsthand the emergency capital problem for low-income families. Due to a lack of savings, many poor families fall into the payday loan cycle and can’t escape. In 2018, he founded PayPadz - a rent protection platform that allows you to split your rent into 2 payments that work with your pay cycle. After growing to over 100 active paying users, his application managed by external developers crashed. During the Immerse program, Edward plans to rebuild PayPadz 2.0 by himself so that he can return the product to over 500 people on his waitlist.
Toddler mom, neuroscience student at Penn State, and AWS sales professional Iamka Martinez is solving the problem of stylist accessibility for the millions of Americans with kinky, coily, or wavy hair textures that struggle to find the right products and styling methods. She is building Telecurl - a platform that acts as your stylist in your pocket, matching clients to stylists based on their needs and facilitating consultations through video calls and direct messaging. Iamka is eager to bring this product to her beta testing group who are excited to give her Bubble app a try.