DURHAM – Former professors Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone know first-hand how tricky it can be to get caught up in the United State’s legal system.

“We’ve had to represent ourselves in court, unfortunately, too many times,” said Ebron. “As academics, we felt a responsibility once we understood the lay of the land to share it with others.”

So they built Courtroom5 — an educational site launched in 2017, which eventually grew into full-fledged case management platform.

On Friday, the startup — which has already raised $100,000 in capital — won the Black Founders Exchange Demo Day competition. They’re now headed on an all-expense-paid trip to the San Francisco Bay area to meet with strategic partners and investors.

Courttoom5s Debra Slone and Sonja Ebron.

The event was the culmination of a week-long immersion accelerator program hosted by American Underground in partnership with Google for Startups, focusing on the unique challenges that black founders face, particularly in the early stages of business.

In total, 11 early-stage black-led startups gave three-minutes pitches before a 200-strong crowd gathered in Carolina Theatre’s main auditorium.

Since its founding in 2016, Black Founders Exchange has helped 19 participating companies to collectively raised over $10.8 million in funding since completing the program.

This includes 2016 cohort graduate SpokeHub, that completed a historic raise of $2 million from primarily black investors and 2017 cohort graduate Partake Foods, which raised a $1 million seed round led by Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners.

The goal of the program is for at least half of the startups to be funded within nine months of the program’s conclusion.

Keith Pigue, founder and CEO of Luminas Strategy, was among those in the audience. Earlier in the week, he had led a session focusing on company value proposition. He applauded the program’s mission.

“Clearly this is an event that is helping companies to get their sea legs and accelerate their impact on the market place,” he said. “We’re be hearing a lot from these companies in the marketplace in the months and years to come.”

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