"Honor your journey. Startup is just a style of business – remember for 'who' and 'why' you're building." - Cherae Robinson, Founder & CEO of Tastemakers Global, first guest speaker in Bubble's Immerse program.
Reflecting on the more than 450 applicants who showed interest in this year's Immerse program, including the final twelve featured below– Cherae's words ring true. This quarter's applicant pool for our fully-funded, pre-accelerator for BIPOC founders was the largest and most geographically diverse ever – proving that a pre-accelerator focused on product exclusively is appealing to founders worldwide.
For founders at the idea stage, your company is at worst a figment of your imagination, and at best an abstract concept. Through customer discovery, you build confidence in what you know to be true, learn how to articulate the challenges observed, and glean insights that lend itself to building a solution you think users will love. But this process requires an heightened level of passion, and conviction – remembering your "why" daily, and intuitively – to craft your vision in real life.
Nothing makes a founder's "why" more palpable than putting a product in the hands of users. It's one of many factors that helps you stay the rocky path of early building, and gives you stamina to traverse the messy middle. But founders at the idea stage don't get this encouragement enough due to the lead time from idea to MVP, and it begs the question:
How many great ideas have never seen the light of day because a founder was discouraged early in the process?
At Bubble, we endeavor to close this trough of discouragement by helping founders quickly build a product to test ideas in real life. And if the Immerse applicant pool is a proxy for the entrepreneurial desire to connect to our whys more tangibly, founders in markets around the world - namely Brazil, Nigeria, Belgium, Mauritius, Peru, and South Africa – are looking to do the same thing.
Meet Our Immerse Founders
For this crop of Immerse Founders, who and why is guided by personal experiences and close proximity to the problems they are attempting to solve. Many of them have built storied careers in their industries (e.g. management consulting, fashion, publishing); fostered decade-long hobbies as professional multi-hyphenates (e.g. classically trainer dancer and knitter, software developer and rapper); or nurtured small businesses or communities targeting a demographic with specific needs (e.g. sponsorship marketers looking for event organizers, people searching for family historians).
We're pleased to introduce this phenomenal cohort and hope to see you on Demo Day on December 16th.
Andre Fowlkes, Case Prep Hero
Andre Fowlkes is the founder of Case Prep Hero, a platform that helps candidates independently increase their skill and experience with case interviews by using software to provide realistic simulations of a case interview
With a background in finance and analytics, Andre Fowlkes experience spans across industries and job functions including corporate finance in healthcare and real estate; and 6 years in data analytics roles in software and health-technology. Andre holds a BS in computer engineering from UMBC, an MS in finance from UT Dallas, and an MBA from UVA. Outside of work, he enjoys playing in recreational tennis leagues, taking continuing education classes, and traveling internationally.
Christine Saffold, Charma Capital
Chicago native Christine Saffold is the Founder and CEO of Chama Capital, a fintech company on a mission to increase access to capital for women-owned businesses. She founded Chama Capital after graduating from Chicago Booth, where she focused on Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management as a Toigo Fellow and Forté Fellow, and worked in venture capital as an Investment Fellow at VestedWorld.
Christine has advised businesses and investors on three continents. Prior to Booth, she managed a housing revitalization program for a community economic development non-profit in Chicago, launched the African operations of an impact investment consulting firm in Ghana, and did business development at MicroVest Capital Management, a fund manager that impacts underbanked communities in emerging markets. She started her career as an Investment Banking Analyst at Barclays in New York and holds a BA in Psychology from Yale University.
Enovia Bedford, VettDeck
Marketing, Sponsorship, and Business Development expert Enovia Bedford is the founder of the VettDeck agency, a platform and consultative agency that connects multicultural event planners and entrepreneurs with potential sponsors. She has held management roles designing and executing marketing and sponsorship campaigns where her expertise has secured millions of dollars in sponsorships for an array of companies and organizations across the United States over two decades.
Through no-code, Enovia's agency will relaunch as a crowdsourced, lead generation marketplace for the sponsorship and event industry.
Harmony Jackson, HMF Pattern
Miami- based creative, Harmony Jackson, works at the intersection of tech, dance, and fiber art. As classically trained dancer with over 20 years of experience, her work as a product designer, apparel designer, and her entrepreneurial endeavors are all heavily influenced by movement education.
Harmony is the founder of HMF Pattern, formally known as HMoneyFactory. HMF Pattern is a community and curated library for the 21st century crocheter and knitter that grew. Users can search a curated library of patterns, media, and guided instructions that teach you how to make their own knitted versions of current fashion trends.
J. Terrell Allen, Bookworm
Also known as J.Prose, J. Terrell Allen, is a self-taught product designer of 7+ years working in mobile games, community, health tech, and law tech. He is also a bestselling gay erotica author of 12 years with over 79 titles published, and the founder of Queercentric Books, a LGBTQ+ book community and newsletter.
As an avid reader and author himself, J.Terrell is on a mission to create fantastical, immersive experiences for bookworms through his same titled company. Bookworms is the Fitbit for readers and storytellers who want to take a more data-driven and community-oriented approach to reading and publishing.
Jeremy Wells, BeatKillas
Jeremy Well is a lifelong learner at the intersection of music, business, and technology. With a background in software development and IT systems, Jeremy is also the founder of BeatKillas, the next ‘Netflix for Beats’ that aims to support hip hop artists on both sides of the production cycle. After cultivating a deep passion for hip-hop during high school and starting a rap career in undergrad, BeatKillas is the manifestation of Jeremy’s unique set of skills and experiences.
"I am excited for this journey to unfold and thank the Bubble team for creating a platform and the Immerse program to help founders like me turn their dreams into a reality!"
Jordana Wright, Activate Space
In her role as Managing Director of Activate Space, an impact real estate social enterprise she founded in 2017, Jordana leverages her deep understanding of city building processes to transform vacant and underutilized properties from liabilities to community assets. She has led a range of forward-thinking ventures across sectors and silos, working with individuals, real estate developers, and public organizations to reimagine and reinvent urban property, maximize shared value in processes of city building, and stimulate economic development.
Jordana will be scaling Activate Space into a platform that connects startups with a global network of affordable community spaces located within faith properties. This includes 1,000 seat sanctuary performance venues for emerging artists, fully stocked church kitchens for new culinary businesses that aren’t yet ready to sign onto a multi-year restaurant lease, and more.
Jose Torres, Finch
José is an attorney with a decade of experience launching and scaling legal and compliance programs at companies like Toast and Twitch. Being the go-to legal resource for family and friends as well as providing pro bono services, he is keenly aware of how people search for legal help; how attorneys market themselves; and that most people who could benefit from an attorney's advice will never receive it.
Working in technology, José spends a lot of time considering the impact new tools could have on both the legal industry and the communities that struggle most to access it. He founded Finch to simplify and personalized the legal experience.
Jourdan Brunson, Kinkofa
Jourdan and co-founder Meshia Rudd-Ridge founded Kinkofa after bonding over their shared research frustrations and ”brick walls,” later learning through DNA that they’re cousins. Kinkofa is transforming the family history research experience for Afro-descended people by shifting the “right of passage” toward democratized family histories instead of the arduous discovery one currently encounters to get there.
To support the efforts of Afro-descended family historians and preserve the legacies of often-neglected Black burial grounds, kinkofa is starting with the Black Cemeteries App. The preservation of historically Black cemeteries is gaining momentum and this app will be critical to preventing history from being lost.
Milan Ball, Philan
Milan Ball is a multidisciplinary fashion professional with experience working in several domains from design and production to buying, influencer marketing, editorial, and fashion tech. Her background spans contemporary to luxury household names such as MILLY, Diane von Furstenberg, BCBG Max Azria, and Victoria Beckham.
At her most recent role as Executive Editor, Milan found herself drawn to social impact driven businesses which paved the way for her ideation of Philan, which aims to be the next leading platform in consumer activism. By allowing users to discover, curate, save, and share philanthropic companies with ease, Philan simplifies the conscious consumer's search for social goods.
Spencer Charles, Huddle Local
After becoming a homeowner for the first time, Spencer discovered that finding and booking trustworthy home service providers was both time-consuming and costly; and that his neighbors were encountering the same challenges while trying to book the same types of services. He thought, “we all have the same goals, how do we make this into a relay instead of many individual races?”
Leveraging his experience in commerce and ad products at Google as a Product Operations Manager, Spencer founded, Huddle Local to help homeowners find and book neighbor-recommended home service providers. Unlike other on-demand marketplaces, Huddle groups neighborhood requests together in order to negotiate cheaper rates on services. By building the “Uber Pool for home services”, Spencer hopes to make homeownership easier and more affordable.
Taylor Joffrion, CheckN
Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Taylor Joffrion is the founder of CheckN, an automotive repair marketplace. He's a passionate car enthusiast that aspires to improve the car ownership and repair experience with intuitive technology for both consumers and auto shops across the country.
Taylor is a graduate from Case Western Reserve University with a degree in Management and Marketing, and currently works as a product marketer in enterprise technology.