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Funding Innovations in Learning

Black women CEOs are getting Silicon Valley investors to take notice

Female entrepreneurs of color have traditionally faced plenty of obstacles with venture capitalists they’ve approached to seek funding for powerful new tech ventures. Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO of DreamBox Learning is the daughter of a Haitian immigrant. And she is among those black women on the forefront of successfully turning capital-raising roadblocks into bridges with technology investors.

Woolly-Wilson has so far raised $170 million to design and craft personalized innovations for math learners. But opening those doors to big capital was not without its early frustrations.

While waiting to present her vision to investors in 2012, Jessie was asked to go get coffee for them. “I don’t know where the coffee is around here,” she replied, not missing a beat. “But when you find it, would you mind bringing me some? I take it black.” She says she laughs about it now. Though, at the time it was a tense, challenging and a defining moment.

Jessie’s quest is to build DreamBox adaptive math learning for students of all backgrounds and ancestry, and help prepare them for tomorrow’s technology world. To make this happen, she has learned to press past cultural and gender barriers into the heart of partnership possibilities. She tells other black women in technology “…there’s all of this rich, promising talent out there who will help them be more successful and create more solutions and products that are relevant to an increasingly diverse marketplace.”

Black women are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the country. They are innovating across a service spectrum that runs the gamut from education and civil rights to cuisine, sustainable agriculture, construction projects, and more. Statistically, they have been the least likely to receive venture capital funding. But as an increasingly empowered and committed group of creators, they are turning the tide with investors.

To read more about Jessie and other black women raising money to explore trailblazing ideas in technology, enjoy the USA Today piece: Good ol’ boys network, meet black girl magic: Black women are changing Silicon Valley

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