CHARLOTTE – Desmond Wiggan was out on the town one night with friends when his phone ran out of juice.
He decided it was time to figure out a solution that didn’t involve carrying around a clunky cord or spare charger.
Enter BatteryXchange, an on-the-go charging fix that he co-founded with his friend, Aubrey Annoh-Yeboah.
The concept is simple: cellphone users rent portable batteries at kiosk machines located around town – retail businesses, restaurants, breweries and activities like festivals, concerts and sporting events.
No longer tied down to an outlet or wall socket, users can grab a slim battery pack, walk, recharge and go.
“Once they are finished charging to their liking, they can find other kiosks to return the battery to,” explains Wiggan, 29. “Our mission is to keep the world connected.”
The Charlotte-based startup is already drawing a lot of interest.
The pair netted the $10,000 grand prize at this years City Startup Labs’ annual pitch competition. They’ve also conducted over 25 one-day pilots at various venues, and are currently in negotiations with several convention centers to have their kiosks permanently placed.
“We’ve market validated in the business-to-consumer space having over 2500 users over the last few months. We add convenience that helps to keep customers longer and increases foot traffic through our platform.”
Crowdfunding as a means to an end
But like any startup, they also need capital – something that is “extremely difficult” to access as a black entrepreneur, says Wiggan.
He’s not alone.
These days, black founders often face disproportionate struggles in securing cash and connections to get their companies off the ground. Last year, angel investors invested around $38 million in the Southeast – but only 5 percent of funds went to founders/CEOs who were non-white, according to a recent report released by the Angel Capital Association (ACA).
So Wiggan and Annoh-Yeboah have decided to go about things differently, raising funds through the crowdfunding platform, Localstake.
This wasn’t always possible. But North Carolina passed the Paces Act in recent years, making equity crowdfunding legal so that anyone can participate in helping small businesses raise capital.
As Tom Snyder, executive director of RIoT, noted in a recent op-ed: “Suddenly anyone in the state can participate as an investor to startups — an area previously only accessible to citizens making more than $200,000 per year and having a $1 million net worth.”
Wiggan says he sees crowdfunding as a way to change the narrative in the African-American communities involvement in the tech space.
“The goal of this initiative is to have our people be a part of something big, help you educate them in business and tech while becoming an investor along the way. We are also able to provide additional revenue streams. We believe anyone can make their dream a reality, you just need the right guide.”