DURHAM – Ten startups – including two from the Triangle – have been selected to participate in the upcoming Black Founders Exchange put on by Google for Startups and the American Underground startup hub.

The 2023 program is the eighth such event, providing mentorship from investors and industry leaders.

Focus for 2023 is cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

The selected companies are:

The selected startups for the 2023 Black Founders Exchange are as follows (background provided by AU and Google for Startups):

Artifact AI

ArtifactAI delivers proactive defense against AI misuse.

  • Founder: Matthew Kenney
  • Location: Durham, NC

Cadence Cash

Cadence is a financing alternative that unlocks working capital and provides access to cash quickly. The platform supports owners — especially women and minority-owned businesses — by providing a seamless and secure platform for users to send and receive money online. 

  • Founders: Charles Inokon, Andrea Inokon
  • Location: Raleigh, NC

Elroi Enterprise Inc

Elroi enables secure and transparent exchange of personal information between individuals and companies.

  • Founder: Rachel Cash
  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Layman, Ltd.

Layman’s  two-sided legaltech marketplace reduces the friction of filing a civil claim in America to reduce the Access to Justice Gap for the 100 Million Americans who need an attorney. 

  • Founder: Esosa Ohonba, Harrington Thompson
  • Location: New York, NY


ReferAll was created on the premise that the best way to obtain a job is through “Who YOU know” in a company and also through “Who knows YOU and YOUR skill sets”.

  • Founder: Calvetta Phair
  • Location: Miami, FL

Resilient Software Security

Resilient Software Security is the AI Doctor (or the AI Assistant) for Software SMB security health.

  • Founder: Damilare Fagbemi
  • Location: Phoenix, AZ

Shades of Color

Shades of Color is enhancing the shopping experience for all shades of color with a personalized beauty marketplace.

  • Founder: Tashara Earl
  • Location: Saint Louis, MO


Tribaja is an AI-powered career coach for mid-career professionals interested in high demand careers.

  • Founder: Shannon Morales
  • Location:  Philadelphia, PA


Voiceblocks is an AI software-as-a-service helping parents and caregivers of K-12 special needs students navigate the IEP process.

  • Founder: Dr. Lonna Hardin
  • Location: Detroit, MI

Words Liive

Words Liive turns song lyrics into literacy tools for K-12 students via the Opus App.

  • Founder: Sage Salvo

Location: Washington, DC

History of landing VC

Google for Startups and the American Underground have helped 55 participating companies raise more than $30 million in venture funding.

“The Black Founders Exchange is a flagship program for the American Underground, and each year we design the curriculum to ensure it tackles the current challenges that Black founders are facing,” said Tim Scales, executive director at the American Underground, in a statement. “This year, as we track the rapid evolution of technology in cybersecurity and AI, we wanted to specifically support founders tackling major problems in these volatile and uncertain industries.”

Added Nicole Farmer, Partnerships Manager with Google for Startups: “Startups building for cybersecurity and AI are on the front lines of creating innovative approaches to society’s biggest challenges. Whether protecting our critical infrastructure from cybercrime or helping doctors detect diseases earlier, startups focused on cybersecurity and AI are key to improving our society.