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At Immerse, Bubble's no-code pre-accelerator, we love a good intro. After a few years of intense video conferencing practice, I’d say we’ve gotten pretty good at it. But at the kick-off session for the fourth cohort of the Immerse program, we seemed to have a few more technical difficulties than expected—screen share debacles, sound problems. I chalked it up to first-day jitters and braced myself to jump in and guide everyone through the usual virtual adjustments. It was important to make everyone as comfortable as possible in our virtual home base—we’d be building here together for the next 10 weeks.

When it was Jabari’s turn, his hands and face animated without sound.

“You’re on mute,” I fired at his first attempt. Prematurely, I committed our clumsiness to memory. I knew from experience it would dissipate as they ventured together to build the apps of their users’ dreams. This was only Week One, after all. He started again.

“You have to unmute yourself,'' I offered. The other founders started to chime in with their audio wisdom before Jabari launched into a third try.

Still no sound—but this time, understanding flashed across a few of our faces. I paid more attention to the quick and intentional movements of Jabari’s hands, and there was a domino effect across the video grid of founders. Of course. Jabari, the founder of Atlanta-based Sign1News, had just introduced himself and his business by way of the third-most commonly used language in the United States: American Sign Language.

Demo Day for Immerse, our product pre-accelerator for underrepresented entrepreneurs
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Introducing: Cohort 4

We believe the next generation of leaders in tech will not look like the last, and that it is mission critical to remove barriers for entrepreneurs like Jabari does in accessibility, Melanie in after-loss, and Floyd in music tech. To support a healthy rate of innovation, the broader tech ecosystem must embrace the solutions coming from and serving communities that are historically not represented. On the product side, Bubble's Immerse program exists to do our part helping truly innovative founders translate their insights to web applications that will rise to the occasion.

The Founders in Residence of Immerse have been small business owners, domain experts, niche hobbyists, tech professionals—but they all exhibit two key attributes:

  1. Industry or experiential knowledge that illuminates why current solutions miss the mark.
  2. Deep conviction that a new solution would hit the bullseye based at least partly on customer discovery.

After ten weeks of building, we’re excited to debut the very best of what these founders have built all on their own at Demo Day. See you on June 23rd!

Ademola Awofisayo, Permit Partner

Having practiced in private architecture firms and public organizations for over two decades, Ademola is an architect with broad experience in design and construction. Through his experiences, he sees the strengths that both the private and public realms contribute to creating safe buildings. In his current role as a construction plans examiner, he helps residential and commercial builders get building permits by ensuring that proposed construction projects align with the regulations that protect public health, safety, and wellbeing. Through Permit Partner, he aims to make construction permits more accessible to people everywhere by increasing the dialog and transparency around obtaining them.

Dominic Mensah, PayAmends

Dominic Mensah is the founder of PayAmends, a platform that provides stress-free childcare payments to working parents with children under age 5. He is driven by the mission of accessible quality childcare services for all children, believing that it is immoral to compel parents to choose between their careers and providing quality child care for their young ones. PayAmends helps parents avoid having to seek out low-quality care options that are unlicensed or under the table to save money. Prior to this venture, Dominic started his career as a system analyst with Accenture working in the banking and payments industry. He is a proud product of Lincoln University and North Carolina A&T State University.

Eissra Eltom, Verve

A third culture kid, Eissra grew up between Europe and the Middle East, straddling multiple cultures and ultimately finding a sense of belonging in people rather than places. After advising global clients on corporate strategy and organizational health at McKinsey and Company, she is now redefining team culture in the new, distributed working environment through Verve. Verve is a virtual team hub on a mission to keep remote teams connected and cultures thriving via shared experiences and rituals.

During the pandemic, Eissra observed that the natural unifiers we took for granted, like the office, were slowly becoming obsolete; companies would need a replacement as their teams became increasingly global and distributed. Having been responsible for employee engagement in prior roles, she started Verve to take what’s special about real-world interactions—connections, spontaneity, discovery—and help managers bring that to remote teams. She holds a B.S. from the London School of Economics and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Floyd Muir, Music Tech Product

Floyd Muir is co-owner of G & F Records and the founder of a yet-to-be-renamed product that helps upcoming musicians make a sustainable living from their art. Formally known as Rightspay, this platform is a custom technological solution for early- and mid-career musical creators that helps them better track their royalties and potential underpayments. Floyd’s love of music was fostered at a very young age—he ventured into the music business with his brother, creating a music publishing company and indie label. As a producer and former musician, he’s passionate about solving the issues that artists face when monetizing their musical creations. Prior to his venture in music, Floyd was an early employee at Mailchimp and, most recently, a cybersecurity trainer at The New York Times.

Jabari Butler, Sign1News

Jabari is co-founder and co-CEO of Sign1News, an award-winning, CNN-affiliated digital media network for the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Jabari has led a range of forward-thinking ventures across multiple countries and sectors and has served on the Small Business Association’s Leadership Council, the Small Business Technology Council, and the Forbes Technology Council. Jabari combined his award-winning technology and business background with co-founder/co-CEO Karen Graham’s Emmy award-winning production experience to develop the platform. Sign1News facilitates TV-broadcast quality virtual productions and accessible content creation for organizations across the U.S.

Jabari and Karen will be developing a marketplace that connects organizations with high-quality sign language interpreters at an affordable rate. This venture aims to help more organizations gain access to a wider audience while strengthening the skills of both Deaf and hearing interpreters.

Jensine Mattis, DesignPlum

Jensine Mattis is the founder and CEO of DesignPlum, a platform amplifying the visibility of underrepresented interior designers. Due to the lack of diversity across the interior design industry, she became passionate about creating an app for people to find, connect, and collaborate with interior designers of color. She founded DesignPlum after executing her first interior design project for Airbnb hosts in New York City. DesignPlum serves to highlight the intersection of interior design and wellness. Everyone deserves a curated, functional space that meets their needs and interests and promotes desired habit building.

With a background in psychology and social work, Jensine aims to inspire people to create spaces they love and can thrive in to achieve mental wellness. She started her career as a Case Manager at Catholic Charities and holds a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY Plattsburgh. Outside of work, she enjoys writing poetry, travel adventures, and promoting self-love.

Lisa Michelle, Bridesquad

Lisa Michelle is the founder of Bridesquad, a SaaS company that helps brides and bridesmaids plan everything from the bachelorette party to the wedding day – while earning rewards along the way. A graduate of North Carolina State University's Poole College of Management, Lisa Michelle has worked as a digital marketer at Fortune 500 companies like BET Networks and AXA Equitable Financial with expertise in design thinking.

Lisa founded the company  after frantically planning her own wedding during the pandemic. She also managed being maid of honor for her best friend's wedding that same year, all while juggling being a new mother and moving more than 2,000 miles.

Bridesquad helps bridal parties plan, book and organize everything – from the bachelorette party to the wedding day – all while earning rewards and prizes every step of the way. With a mission to help family and friends plan stress-free, the rewards help money go further at a time where every dollar spent is just as important as the celebration itself.

Melanie Bowles, Lifalog

After losing both of her parents in a short period of time, Melanie found digital end-of-life resources and grief services to be scarce when she needed them the most. She founded Lifalog to empower grievers and their allies to have meaningful conversations about loss. Melanie will be scaling Lifalog into a platform for the bereaved to create an ongoing collection of digital memories and reflections of grief in a safe space. Specializing in digital transformation, Melanie has been a catalyst for helping businesses increase traffic, improve user experience, and increase conversions and revenue. She has over 10 years of experience developing digital strategies for both SMBs and Fortune 500 companies across industry verticals. Melanie is based in Columbus, OH, and attended the Ohio State University.

Michael Derard, Realo

Michael Derard, the founder of Realo, is a licensed real estate broker and an active commodity trader. Michael has a combined 15 years of experience in real estate, finance, and commodity trading. As an active trader primarily focusing on the Futures market, REITs, ETFs, and as a real estate broker, Michael is well-versed in data's impact on decision-making in investing.

Leveraging practical expertise in real estate, data analytics, and technical knowledge in data valuation, he created Realo to help investors make faster real estate investments decisions through actionable insights. As a brokerage and data platform, Realo streamlines the lengthy process of real estate investment analysis, market research, underwriting, and property evaluation, providing users with the information they need for taxable real estate entities in any given market within the United States.

Rebecka Marshall, HEM ME

The pandemic was Chicago-native Rebecka Marshall’s cue to forge ahead with her lifelong dream of forming her own company. With a BFA in Web Design and Interactive Media and a Master’s in Digital Marketing, Rebecka has built a successful career as a front-end developer and email marketing specialist. Throughout her 10-year career of creative problem solving, sewing remained a natural and welcome hobby in her life. Combining these two things resulted in her desire to create HEM ME, an on-demand gig marketplace for custom-made clothes and clothing services.

The expansion of virtualization and personalization in e-commerce has sparked radical transformations in many industries. HEM ME is bringing an exciting alternative to the clothing market by introducing on-demand, made-to-measure, and eco-friendly solutions that fit every body. Whether it’s tailors, dressmakers, fashion designers, personal stylists, or shoe makers, customers can finally connect with the freelance fashion designers and clothiers that will become the new epicenter of design.