It truly takes a group of incredibly driven and intelligent folk to create an incredible startup community. As we step into 2024, we’re excited to acknowledge the visionary Black leaders who are taking the helm and steering the Greater Boston and New England startup scene towards unprecedented heights. These folks are investors, founders and community leaders who are breaking barriers, amplifying their own success stories and supporting the community around them.
The 2024 Black Leaders in the Boston and New England Startup Community
Alexis Smith-Attuquayefio (President, National Society of Black Engineers) - At NSBE, Alexis focuses on connecting Black tech professionals and engineers with career development and advancement opportunities.
Anj Fayemi (CEO & Cofounder, Rivet) - Anj founded Rivet, an AI marketing and community growth platform for musicians, in 2021 and is already making great strides. Grammy nominees, chart-toppers, podcasters and others are already using Rivet to build and own their fan communities and businesses. In 2022, Rivet went through the Techstars Boston program and in 2023 they joined the Google for Startups Accelerator and locked in $500,000 of pre-seed funding.
Damon Cox (Head of Next Practice and Inclusive Growth, MassChallenge) - Damon is a proven innovation ecosystem builder and specialist. With his position at MassChallenge, he leads the organization’s efforts to expand into high-impact emerging technology and industry categories while ensuring that current and new work is led through an inclusive lens. Previously, he was the Assistant Secretary for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Daniel Acheampong (Co-founder and General Partner, Visible Hands) - At Visible Hands, Daniel supports overlooked founders nationally at the pre-seed and seed stages and runs programs such as accelerators, fellowships and wellness retreats for founders. Previously, he was an Entrepreneur in Residence at MIT designX, where he co-founded a marketplace platform and an Associate at Summit Partners, where he helped manage the firm’s due diligence process to raise investment funds.
Derrick Young Jr (Co-founder and Executive Director, Leadership Brainery, Inc) - Through the Leadership Brainery, Derrick is focused on closing wealth gaps by ensuring underrepresented communities have equitable access to graduate-level education and workforce leadership. In 2023, Derrick was named 40 Under 40 by the Boston Business Journal in 2023 and as one of Boston’s Most Influential Men of Color by Get Konnected.
Joanna Smith-Griffin (Founder & CEO, AllHere) - Joanna founded AllHere, an AI-powered text messaging solution that reinvents school-to-family communication, in 2016. Since the startup’s inception, AllHere is used by more than 8,000 schools across 34 states and a guide to more than 3 Million students and families through their K-12 educational journey. Additionally, she has raised a Series A for the startup.
Joshua Aviv (Founder & CEO, SparkCharge) - Joshua has been making moves since founding SparkCharge, which provides grid-free EV charging solutions that make charging electric vehicles easy, mobile and convenient, in 2014. In 2018, SparkCharge went through the Techstars Boston accelerator program. In 2020, Joshua was then seen on Shark Tank and received a $1 Million investment from Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner for his startup. The company has hired nearly 50 employees.
Keeana Saxon (Founder & Executive Director, Kidogo Productions) - Through Kidogo Productions, Keeana creates diverse, wholesome, educational and accessible content for preschoolers. This content specifically highlights and centers the faces, voices, cultures and talents of the vast and heterogeneous African Diaspora. Additionally, Keeana has made a great impact on the City of Boston by previously serving as Deputy General Counsel at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development and she is currently a Commissioner on the Liquor Licensing Board since 2014 (appointed by Mayor Marty Walsh).
Lisa Ranglin (President & CEO, Rhode Island Black Business Association) - In her role at RIBBA, Lisa is dedicated to advancing business opportunities and vitality of Black-owned and minority businesses in Rhode Island through contracting, business development resources, entrepreneur training, business advocacy, investor services, access to capital and workforce development. She has been awarded both Community Person of the Year by Rhode Island Affirmative Action Professionals, has received the Rosa Parks Award from NAACP, Woman of Achievement Award, Rhode Island Entrepreneur of the Year and Women of Achievement in Business by Congressman David Cicilline.
Mark Hardie (Director - Center for Private Equity & Venture Capital, The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth) - Mark is the Director of the Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, working with and guiding MBA candidates into careers as capital investors. Additionally, Mark is a Career & Professional Development coach at Harvard Business School, focusing on entrepreneurial alumni interested in starting a company, joining a startup or pursuing innovation and new product initiatives at more established companies. Previous to his current position, Mark was the Director at the Entrepreneur Innovation Center at Framingham State University. He is also a career coach at the Harvard Business School.
Modjossorica (Rica) Elysee (Founder & CEO, BeautyLynk) - At BeautyLynk, Rica is rethinking the growing industry by offering women of all backgrounds beauty at their doorsteps. The company is dedicated to providing in-home beauty services to people with disabilities and special needs. Additionally, she is the co-founder of At the Table, a community focused on bringing together female founders from different industries and was named 40 under 40 by the Boston Business Journal in 2023.
Pariss Chandler (Founder & CEO, Black Tech Pipeline) - Pariss is a Software Engineer turned Founder and CEO of Black Tech Pipeline - a job board and TalentMatch recruiting platform centering Black technologists across the globe. Pariss is also mobilizer of the hashtag, movement, and community #BlackTechTwitter since 2018, which created an awakening in the tech industry by debunking the infamous pipeline problem which has been used as an excuse for the lack of representation of Black professionals in the tech sector. She was named one of the 100 Women of Influence by Entrepreneur in 2022 and her work has been highlighted by many local and national media outlets.
Rahkeem Morris (Founder & CEO, HourWork) - Rahkeem dropped out of high school when he was 14 to help his family. He then went on to hold 13 hourly jobs in the course of a decade, all while earning his high school degree through night courses. Then, Rahkeem went on to graduate from Cornell, work for Google in California, and earn an MBA from Harvard, where he co-founded HourWork. Rahkeem founded HourWork in 2017 and raised a Series A for the startup in 2022 and grown the startup to nearly 40 employees.
Ronald Daniel (President, Boston Young Black Professionals) - Ron organizes events for over 2,000 members of YBP, a non-profit focused on connecting black young professionals and building community.
Rose Barboza (Founder & Executive Director, Black Owned Maine) - Rose is committed to fostering an inclusive and equitable environment where dreams and aspirations of Black entrepreneurs become a reality. This company was founded in June 2020 and quickly gained traction with a social media presence of over 17,000 followers on Instagram.
Sheena Collier (Founder & CEO, Boston While Black) - Sheena is the founder of Boston While Black is a membership network for Black professionals, entrepreneurs, & graduate students - native or new to Boston - who are seeking a thriving & connected community. Additionally, she is the Founder & CEO of The Collier Connection, which designs a portfolio of solutions that address the barriers that people of color face in seeking information, access and belonging in cities and she’s a Board Member of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. Previously, Sheena was the Director of Economic Opportunity for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
Tinotenda Charles Rutanhira (Co-founder & Executive Director, Vermont Professionals of Color Network) - Tinotenda created VPCN to build community and create a network that promotes, supports and affirms People Of Color, to help them succeed both personally and professionally. This community brings together people and professionals of color and businesses and entrepreneurs of color for the people in Vermont.
Please join us in celebrating these leaders in our startup community - and if you know someone that you think should be highlighted in the (near) future by Startup Boston, please drop us a note here.