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Digitalundivided Demo Day Shines Bright Light on Black, Latina Startup Founders, Part 1 – NJ Tech Weekly


A group of “incredible founders who just happen to be black and Latina women” presented at digitalundivided’s first Newark-based BIG Demo Day, on December 17.

That was how Kathryn Finney,
digitalundivided’s founder and CEO, introduced the cohort of women who had been
working part-time for months on their companies.

“They spent more than nine months,
building, creating, sweating, crying maybe, as they built their companies. We
are so excited and proud to have them,” she said. One of the founders had
already been accepted into and completed Techstars, and several founders were
well on their way to raising their first pre-seed rounds, she added.

The women spoke to a packed-to-capacity room at digitalundivided’s new headquarters, in Newark’s Hahne building. The organization moved from Atlanta to Newark last year.

Karen Rios, cofounder and CEO of
Lifesaver

Karen Rios, cofounder and CEO of Lifesaver | Esther Surden

First up to present was Karen Rios,
cofounder and CEO of Lifesaver (New York). Lifesaver is designed to enable
anyone to discover the “perfect bank,” a trusted partner on the path to financial
wellness. Lifesaver steers applicants away from banks with low interest rates for
savings accounts and high fees for accounts and services. It also provides an
up-to-date digital experience for customers, which is much needed in the
community banking industry.

Rios explained that when she
started looking at community banks and credit unions, she found the high
interest rates for customers and no-fee policies she was looking for, as well
as on-site customer service that excelled, “but when things got digital, that’s
when the wheels fell off.” Banks spend nearly 10 percent of annual revenue on
technology that doesn’t work, she said.

With most banks, customers can’t
even open an account online. Lifesaver works with banks to make opening and
applying for new accounts easy, so the banks can onboard new customers at “ten
times the speed of tier-one institutions.”

Lifesaver offers an engine that
matches customers to banks, as well as a back-end enterprise-ready system that allows
banks to onboard new customers in one step. When banks and credit unions use
Lifesaver, “consumers don’t have to choose between a great digital experience
and high-touch customer service,” she said.

Nehemoyia Young, founder of SpiritList

Nehemoyia Young, founder of SpiritList | Esther Surden

To start her pitch, Nehemoyia
Young, founder of SpiritList (Brooklyn, N.Y.), told a story about how, when
struggling with anxiety 10 year ago, she looked for a holistic health provider,
and found a broken system. “Back then, I found practitioners on an information
board at my dad’s studio.” They had no websites, and “we emailed back and forth
before finally booking an appointment by phone.” After a decade, the process
hasn’t changed much, she told the audience. 
As service industries become more digitized, holistic health has been
left behind. Practitioners are wary of managing their own websites and using social
media, she said.

Young’s solution is a practice-management
platform that helps providers scale their practices online. SpiritList helps
them to be found more easily by setting them up with a fully SEO-optimized SpiritList
page, so they don’t have to worry about managing their own websites. The
startup is also working on a smart recommendation algorithm, to match clients with
holistic health providers who are searching for them. “And, lastly, we help
practitioners get paid, baby,” Young said.

She noted that this is a $33 billion market, and of that $33 billion, half is spent on practitioners like those who will be found on SpiritList. They are herbalists, acupuncturists, spiritual counselors and others. SpiritList’s business model is to charge a monthly fee to practitioners, and a transaction fee for each booking.

Krychna Baker, founder and CEO of
Tapisserie

Krychna Baker demos Tapisserie. | Esther Surden

Presenting next, founder and CEO Krychna
Baker pitched Tapisserie (Newark), which offers a better way to find hair
products that suit the needs of women with textured hair.

Baker noted that there is a
bewildering array of choices for people with textured hair, and that they
resort to YouTube videos, friends’ recommendations and influencers when making
their choices. “We interviewed over 150 women with textured hair, and they all
said the same thing: ‘I don’t know what works for my hair.’”

Tapisserie’s solution is to provide
an electronic boutique for hair care within a social community. The platform is
powered by a proprietary algorithm that matches people to the right products
after they take a hair quiz. “You download our app, you do a hair quiz, and the
algorithm populates a boutique experience of products, videos and stylists —
all on one platform,” she said. Tapisserie’s solution has some attributes of
YouTube, some of Facebook, and some of Instagram, with picture posting, she
said; and “we meshed them all together and married them into one gorgeous
platform for women with textured hair.”

Baker talked about how Tapisserie
will target smaller niche brands to get them in front of its audience. She and
her cofounder plan to go to trade shows to develop face-to-face relationships
with the smaller brands. They also plan to use micro-influencers, who have a
smaller, but more engaged following than influencers. “They have more
credibility,” she said. And the company will use social media marketing.

[In the second part of this
article we will feature the presentations of the founders of  Dropt, Rest Assured, Strata and RentId.

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