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Digitalundivided Demo Day Shines Bright Light on Black, Latina Startup Founders, Part 2 – NJ Tech Weekly


In December, digitalundivided held its BIG Demo
Day at the company’s headquarters, in Newark. The organization focuses on nourishing
startups that have black or Latina female founders. For nine months,
digitalundivided had mentored the founders who presented at the event, helping
them build their businesses.

Kathryn Finney, digitalundivided’s founder
and CEO, noted that her organization helps founders get from an idea to the
point where they are ready for an accelerator. All of the startups that the founders
pitched had a tech component.

The first part of this article,
which covered Lifesaver, SpiritList and Tapisserie, is here.

Michelene Wilkerson, founder of Dropt

Michelene Wilkerson, founder of Dropt | Esther Surden

The struggles and challenges
artists face when trying to make money are very real, Michelene Wilkerson,
founder of Dropt, told the audience at BIG Demo Day.

Dropt is a portfolio platform where
artists can showcase and monetize their projects.

“We are creating a space where artists
can grow their careers doing exactly what they love doing. We are creating a
space for them to discover and get discovered, apart form bloggers and
influencers. We are providing space for artists to showcase their work beyond
three-inch by three-inch grids,” she said. “And we are creating a clear and
intuitive path for artists to monetize their work that doesn’t require them to
have a five-figure social media following in order to attract brand sponsors or
other opportunities. We are connecting them to an audience that is passionate
about creativity.”

Wilkerson said that the platform’s
real magic is its concentration on marginalized talent, particularly people of
color, as well as women. The platform will focus on visual artists and photographers,
building relationships with high-potential emerging talent and mid-tier talent
that is overlooked, but has the potential to grow, she said.  

The business model involves taking
a commission for all works sold on the platform. Dropt will also sell brand
partnerships, particularly for live events the company will hold.

Shannon Jones, founder of Rest
Assured

Shannon Jones, founder of Rest Assured | Esther Surden

Most people don’t like to talk
about death, but Rest Assured founder Shannon Jones addressed that taboo head
on in her BIG Demo Day presentation. Faced with having to help plan three funerals
three in one year, Jones began to help others with their funeral arrangements.

“I was astounded at how antiquated
the funeral planning process is. Paper work, faxing, taking a check to the
office, flipping through pictures of caskets in a notebook — I couldn’t believe
that this is how we are planning a funeral in 2019,” she said.

When attempting to develop a
solution to this problem, she thought that family members who were funeral
directors could help. But she then began to look at the issue in a different
way. “I’m a second-time founder and owner of a marketing agency. We work with
brands in entertainment and we are experts in figuring out how consumers
interact with those brands. What if we were to apply those same principles to
how people think about death?” Jones asked. “Can we use marketing content and thought
leadership to change how people interact with the end of life?”

Rest Assured, which is in beta now,
will be a simple turnkey platform that lets people plan for the end of life, for
themselves and their loved ones, she said. It will also provide discussion
guides on how to broach the subject of death and planning with family members
or others. And it will deal with the challenges that may crop up after the
fact, such as difficulties with siblings about what mom would have wanted. It
will all be there in the app. The startup plans a secure digital storage
solution, so that users can keep everything in one place.

The business model will involve a
freemium arrangement: There will be a set of features that everyone can use to
get started, but more specialized features, which require more time and
attention, will be handled through add-on services. An affiliate model will be
used for service providers and other resource people to use at the time of a
death, Jones said.

Strata
founder Angelica Jackson

Angelica Jackson, founder of Strata | Esther Surden

After telling a story about an
overwhelmed, stressed-out mom she knows who had a stroke, Angelica Jackson,
founder of Strata, said that she knew she had to do something. Thus, Strata was
born.

Moms are overworked, overwhelmed
and stressed out, Jackson said, adding that most moms think they don’t have any
time for themselves. However, “time for Millennial mothers does exist, and
Strata finds that time and automates the process. Strata is a personalized,
automated scheduling system for self care,” she said.

Strata exists at the intersection
of parenting, productivity and wellness, Jackson explained. The Strata app asks
moms questions such as, “In the real world, what is relaxation for you?” They
answer, and the calendar is populated with schedules that include “self-care
activities that they will love.” In a beta test, moms told Strata that they were
no longer stressed and were increasing the time they spent on themselves. Also,
“Our moms are enjoying being there for their families, their careers and their
friends.”

Parenting, productivity and
wellness are all large markets, Jackson said. Parenting alone is a $46 billion
market, and moms are 85 percent of that market, she added. The startup launched
its beta test with five women, and now has over 300 women in its pipeline, both
in the U.S. and in Nigeria. To get Strata known, the company is already
partnering with mom bloggers and lifestyle influencers. It plans to partner
with national brands and parent-teacher organizations to get the app into the
hands of moms.

 “The women on our team are women of color and
moms,” Jackson said. “We have experience at Google, Microsoft, Redfin” and
elsewhere, and all have strong educational backgrounds, she said. She also mentioned
that the company wants to raise $500K for development, with an 18-month runway.

Rentid
founder and CEO, Claudia Steer

Claudida Steer, founder and CEO of Rentid | Esther Surden

There are 43 million renters in
America, said Claudia Steer, who describes herself as an interior designer,
renter and proud founder and CEO of Rentid (New York). Renters are told that
they can live in a space, but they can’t make it home. So, they buy decor and
furniture they don’t really care about, or they fall prey to the “West Elm
effect” in which everything looks alike, Steer told the audience at the BIG Demo
Day.

Rentid is an online service that
allows renters to feel as if they belong in spaces they don’t own. How? By
infusing a little soul, she said. What does she mean by soul? “We are talking
about getting to the essence of who you are.”

The vision for Rentid is to hold a
virtual consultation, during which the startup gets to know the client and
everything about the space. “We leverage all of that data and use our algorithm
to come up with what we call an ‘ID focus.’” Clients then log into an online
design studio to review concepts and choose the items they want to use. Rentid will
handle the shopping and payments, and “we store those items as they roll in one
by one, and handle the delivery all at once, at your convenience.”

The business will make money in
three ways: commission on furniture and décor, a design fee per room, and a
commercial option.  What is the
commercial option? Property developers can offer Rentid as an amenity when they
are renting out apartments. White-glove delivery will be available for an additional
charge.

“Our competitive advantage is
really about deep personalization at scale,” Steer said, but the startup has
also focused on renters’ pain points. To that end it will offer a “reversion”
service, “where we uninstall everything we’ve installed for you at the end of
your lease, so your security deposit is safe and secure.”

The startup plans to begin by
offering its design services to renters in New York City.

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