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2023 Black Leaders Shaping the Greater Boston Startup Scene

Updated: Jan 27

As we close out Black History Month, I wanted to take a moment to recognize the incredible Black leaders that I have either crossed paths with (or hope to cross paths with!) throughout my journey of founding Startup Boston in 2017.


While Boston is a melting pot, we are also known for not making it easy for diverse voices to be recognized by media outlets or throughout community events. And while we’re taking strides towards making Boston more inclusive - there is still a lot of work to be done.


This is why it’s so important to recognize these Black leaders - who not only support other BIPOC founders and leaders, but are shaping how the startup ecosystem in Boston and New England is formed. They are truly playing a role in shaking up how things have been done in the past and making way for more diverse founders to take the stage and


They have built organizations and tech startups, invested in companies, and advocated for diverse founders and new voices. Let’s see who is leading the way for the Greater Boston startup ecosystem.


Black Movers and Shakers in the Greater Boston Startup Community


Carmichael Roberts (Founder & Managing Partner, Material Impact) - Carmichael is a founding partner of Material Impact, a fund that seeks out transformative technologies and builds them into enduring companies that solve real-world problems. He is also a member of Breakthrough Energy, a mission-oriented group committed to changing the world by creating and building companies that address the threat of climate change and long-term sustainability of the planet. Additionally, he serves on the boards for the Soft Robotics, Diagnostics for All and 1366 Technologies.


Cvic Innocent (Technology Scout & VP Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships) - Cvic Innocent is the VP of Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships at JBCC, and previously worked for academia, industry and government organizations, including NASA. She spots high-potential, early-stage technologies and has built an exceptional network across startup accelerators, VCs, Angel Investors and other innovators.


Dale Dowdie (CEO & Co-founder, BlackFacts.com) - Dale built BlackFacts.com out of a labor of love, intended to provide an online resource for Black History Facts (People, Places, Events) - and to show that there were black technologists that could actually create such a resource. The site grew to become the #1 on all search engines for Black Facts, has millions of unique visitors and a social media reach that grows exponentially. In 2018, he focused the site on not only Black history but also the cultural contributions of people of color - past and present.


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.


Daniel Acheampong (General Partner, Visible Hands VC) - Daniel Acheampong is a co-founder and General Partner at Visible Hands, an early-stage investment firm with a virtual-first accelerator on a mission to highlight and invest in the limitless potential of overlooked founders.


Danielle Johnson (Founder, Spark FM Online) - Danielle was the first Black women to own a digital radio station in Boston. Spark FM Online is a digital radio platform that was created to empower and amplify the underserved voices of the community.


Derek Canton (Founder & CEO, paerpay) - Derek’s startup, paerpay has been hitting headlines throughout 2022 and 2023. Additionally, he was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for Food and Drink in 2023.


Donna Levin (CEO, Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership) - Donna is currently an exec at Babson College. Previously she was the Executive Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at WPI, a Senior Lecturer at MIT, and Co-Founder of Care.com, where she scaled the organization from start-up stage, through 5 rounds of funding and IPO.


Helen Adeosun (Founder & CEO, CareAcademy) - Helen founded CareAcademy, the leading platform educating direct care workers to provide excellent care via curated online classes. Her startup has been making news headlines throughout 2022 and 2023.


Jodi-Tatiana Charles (Marketing Strategist, Global Speaker, Author and Podcast Host) - Jodi is dedicated to educating entrepreneurs, small/medium businesses (SMB/SMEs), and international professionals on the importance of growing their personal and corporate brands. She brings 30+ years of executive leadership in marketing, branding and communication successes with high profile organizations, including the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, MassChallenge Inc., Massachusetts Governor’s Office, Massachusetts Conference for Women, NBC Universal/Comcast TV, and Clear Channel Communications/iHeart Radio.


Jody Rose (President and Co-founder, Hack.Diversity) - Jody co-founded one of New England’s most innovative workforce development programs, Hack.Diversity. Previously, she was the President of the New England Venture Capital Association and is currently on the Board of Advisors of MassChallenge.


Kenn Turner (President & CEO, Massachusetts Life Science Center) - At the MLSC, Kenn is dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts.


Mark Hardie (Director, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College) - 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. 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.


Nicole Obi (President & CEO, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts) - At the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Nicole and her team helps to advance the economic well being of Black businesses, organizations that support the Black community, and Black residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


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, 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.


Queen Allotey-Pappoe (CEO + Creative Director, Queen Adeline) - Queen is making an impact in Boston in sustainable fashion. Queen is the founder of Queen Adeline, a sustainable fashion brand, and a consultant for businesses looking to implement sustainable strategies such as waste management, zero waste practices, and ethical sourcing.


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.


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.


Spectra Asala (Tech Leader, Startup Advisor & Angel Investor) - Spectra is a startup operator, impact entrepreneur, and angel investor with nearly two decades of experience building and leading diverse product & GTM teams for high-growth tech startups and social impact ventures around the world. Spectra is also the founder and Chief Leadership Officer at Momentum Tech Leaders, a leadership and career accelerator that equips under-represented talent with the coaching, context, and community and a mentor-in-residence at Techstars.


Who else should be on this list?

There are so many incredible individuals who have laid the foundation for the Boston startup scene as it is today. I’m really excited to see what these leaders will continue to build and who will step into the scene and help build it up in the future. If you know someone who should be on this list but wasn’t, please drop us a note here.


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