Twelve startups from across the country, including two in Durham and one in Raleigh, will be participating in the Google for Entrepreneurs Black Founders Exchange program this week in Durham.

And the event is nearly at capacity with only some 50 seats remaining for Friday’s ending pitch to investors.

Plus, the number of participating investors continues to grow.

“We’re now at 22 investors. Hatteras and Triangle Angel Partners will there as well,” says Adam Klein, chief strategist for The American Underground.

The conference, which is being hosted and supported by the American Underground, is intended to help black-led startups. Some 160 firms applied to participate.

“We are confirmed and excited for a great week,” Klein tells WRAL TechWire.

“All teams are participating and have been paired with their mentors.

“Our goal for the week is to ready these founders for a successful capital raise and make strategic connections for them with corporate and investor partners.”

The week will conclude with a pitch event where the startups will make their arguments for investment to potential backers.

But there’s much more happening.

“Speakers during the week include local experts (Keith Pigues, David Morris) and successful founders from other locales (Brian Brackeen from Miami Beach [is an example]) along with three expert Googlers from Mountain View,” Klein says.

“We have confirmed over a dozen investors. In addition to those in the original announcement, Backstage Capital (Hollywood), Cross Culture VC, Magic Johnson Enterprises and Village Capital will be in Durham.”

Part of the Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange Series, the “Building and Funding the Best Black Led Startups” conference runs through Friday.

Participating companies

The three Triangle firms are: BlindedHR, RewardStock and RantRoom.

Here are brief profiles about the 12 participants as provided by Google and AU:

  • AM Money (Chicago): Providing cheaper financial services to underserved young adults (16-24) through alternative risk assessment. Sandbox (Austin): Allows retailers who are selling products online to build, deploy and maintain a mobile application that increases sales on iPhone and Android devices.
  • Bandwagon (Greenville, SC): A sports tech company that utilizes data to help fans optimize their game day experience while helping teams gain transparency into attendance.
  • BlindedHR (Raleigh): A platform that helps companies form a talented, creative and inclusive workforce from use of inclusive unbiased recruiting measures. BlindedHR seeks to eliminate human error in the early stages of the candidate review process.
  • CareAcademy (Boston, MA): In an $84 billion industry the US will need five million caregivers for older adults. CareAcademy fills the gap through online training.
  • Castar (Los Angeles): An app-based community for creatives, talent, artists and entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, and find opportunities.
  • Ceek VR (Miami Beach): A platform for self generating, managing and distributing Virtual Reality experiences. CEEK enables anyone with digital assets, even those with no developer experience, to create and distribute VR.
  • InstaFund (New Orleans): InstaFunds focuses on the unbanked and underbanked population and works to help them in becoming financially organized and disciplined, while also increasing financial literacy.
  • Little Bird HR (NYC): The first HR software and employee benefits platform purpose-built for K-12 schools.
  • RantRoom (Durham): A social engagement platform which allows users to create public and/or private rooms based on specific topics.
  • RewardStock (Durham): Our free website creates plans for the best way to travel with frequent flier miles, credit card rewards and hotel points instead of cash.
  • SandBox Commerce (Austin): SandBox Commerce allows retailers who are selling products online to build, deploy and maintain a mobile application that increases sales on iPhone and Android devices.
  • TresseNoire (Philadelphia): The premiere beauty booking app for on-demand, on-location hair & makeup services for women of color.

Program details

The participating startup executives will receive mentor, advice about approaching investors, the vetting process, and more.

Also to be offered is what the hosts call “training … around overcoming racial bias in the fundraising process.”

“The funding gap for diverse founding teams is one of today’s most pressing issues in tech and business,” Klein says. “We’re honored to host world-class entrepreneurs, investors and corporate leaders in Durham to address that need head-on, and are thankful to Google for Entrepreneurs for their partnership and shared vision.”