Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/ AP
Julia Collins’ passion for food led her to co-found a technology-enabled food company in Silicon Valley called Zume Pizza. While using robotics and artificial intelligence to speed up the pizza making process, the company that she founded along with Alex Garden in 2015, has reached a valuation of $2.25 billion after a recent $375 million investment.
As USA Today reports that “Collins is the first Black woman to co-found a company valued at $1 billion or more by investors,” Collins, who received a BA from Harvard and an MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, doesn’t want to be the only Black woman to do so.
“Although I recognize that I am the first, the thing that I spend the most time thinking about is how to make sure I am not the last or the only one,” Collins said.
And she’s not doing it alone. Other Black women are challenging the disproportionate amount of venture capital funding that goes to white men in comparison to Black women, who are considered the less likely group to receive it at all. How are they challenging it? With something we like to call Black girl magic.
According to USA Today, Kathryn Finney’s (a Yale trained epidemiologist who funded a research initiative called ProjectDiane) “first report in 2016 found that just 12 startups led by Black women had raised more than $1 million in funding. Two years later, nearly triple the number of Black women founders – 34 – had crossed that threshold.”
Photo: Savannah Brock
With investors accepting less pitches from both women and minority entrepreneurs, ProjectDiane’s other findings reported that “from 2009 to 2017, Black women raised $289 million, or 0.0006 percent of the total $424.7 billion of venture capital raised.”
Melissa Hanna, co-founder of a maternal healthcare tech company called Mahmee, pointed out that “until investors sit across the table from someone who is unlike anyone they have ever invested in before, hears them out for who they really are and says, ‘Wow, you have the potential to lead a multimillion-dollar or billion-dollar company,’ we are not going to see the metrics change.”
But Black women are not sitting around waiting for that to happen. Case in point: Arlan Hamilton.
Photo: Backstage Capital
She built a venture capital fund from scratch and has since created a $36 million fund just for Black women through her investment firm Backstage Capital. Hamilton named it “It’s about damn time fund,” which has funded 38 Black women led companies.
As this Black sisterhood in tech continues to grow, we expect many others to walk down the path that Julia Collins has blazed!