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How an HBCU Alum Got a $1 Million Investment From Serena Williams

Last Updated: September 29, 2022
Michael B. Jordan tapped Serena Ventures and MaC Venture Capital to award one Black-owned business $1 million. Meet the entrepreneurs who gave it their best pitch.

Following the news of Serena Williams‘ Serena Ventures raising $111 million for an inaugural fund to boost early-stage startup companies, Boardroom takes a look at the three companies that competed in the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic pitch competition for $1 million from Serena Ventures and MaC Venture Capital. 

The competition was centered around HBCU students and alumni competing for an opportunity to earn funds that they may not otherwise have the chance to receive. The three finalists were:

  • TracFlo is an online platform that eases the tracking of ongoing costs for construction and contracting projects. Khalid David, the founder and CEO of TracFlo, is a graduate of Morehouse College.
  • Gaba is an AI-powered career discovery and development company that uses social media content to drive mentorship and growth. Founder Candice Blacknall is a graduate of the Morehouse School of Medicine. 
  • Blacksteel issues credit cards based on income and cash flow rather than a person’s credit score. Brandon Stokes is the co-founder of Blacksteel and a graduate of Tennessee State University. 

Each finalist received support and advice throughout the process from the competition’s primary sponsors, Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator, Audible, Invesco QQQ, and Public.com. The experience proved to be extremely powerful to the larger corporations who drew inspiration from the upstart entrepreneurs while providing key resources and supports as they prepared for their pitch.

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The finalists stood in front of the Serena Ventures’ Alison Stillman, the tennis legend herself, and MaC Venture Capital’s Michael Palank in an attempt to win the three executives over. 

Outside of the competition, Serena Ventures has “nine years of angel investing under our belt,” according to its official website. “In an ecosystem where solo women founders receive 2% of venture funding and Black founders receive 1.2%, we break the mold,” the website promises. “We don’t require founders to come from historically underrepresented backgrounds, yet 76% of our portfolio founders do. We bet on the best founders, period.”

As Alison Rapaport Stillman,General Partner at Serena Ventures, said in a statement:

“As a team led by women and people of diverse backgrounds, Serena Ventures is built on tenacity, grit, and passion – sharing an underdog mentality with the diverse entrepreneurs we work alongside. With the recent announcement of our inaugural $111 million fund, we’re thrilled to support diverse founders, unlocking opportunities to improve the lives of underrepresented communities, and reshaping the industries we invest in. 

In the end, the panel of Serena Williams, Alison Stillman, and Michael Palank chose Khalid David’s TracFlo as the $1 million recipient.

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About The Author
Randall Williams
Randall Williams
Randall Williams is a former Staff Writer at Boardroom specializing in sports business and music. He previously worked for Sportico, Andscape and Bloomberg. His byline has also been syndicated in the Boston Globe and Time Magazine. Williams' notable profile features include NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent, Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad, BMX biker Nigel Sylvester, and both Shedeur and Shilo Sanders. Randall, a graduate of "The Real HU" -- Hampton University — is most proud of scooping Howard University joining Jordan Brand nearly three months before the official announcement.