These Black founders are giving a new meaning to inclusive technology for the future

Founders

Black entrepreneurs and creatives have long been a driving force of innovation in the Canadian tech ecosystem. Yet, Black people face some of the most systemic and complex barriers when seeking tech opportunities. Calls to action around diversity in tech are everywhere, but that has not necessarily changed this story for Black entrepreneurs.

Black tech workers are:

  • The lowest paid group at tech companies in Canada, comprising 2.7% of the workforce
  • Left behind by most diversity initiatives that focus on people of colour without acknowledging the specific and varied experiences of Black populations

Black Innovation Fellowship (BIF) Founding Partner Isaac Olowolafe (Founder, Dream Maker Ventures & DMZ Advisory Council Member) understood this only too well and decided to do something about it. Other organizations that shared the same vision as Isaac decided to be a partner include Shopify, BMO, and Canadian Women’s Foundation.


“At the DMZ I learnt how to effectively express my ideas
in a world that was dominated by people who did not talk or look like me. This is a bridge to being legitimized, to be able to figure out what your style is, on your own terms.
– Manu Kabahizi DMZ Alumni Founder & CFO of Ulula

The DMZ values equity over everything and puts founders first.  Our BIF program takes a personalized programming approach, that is tailored for each founder so they can learn, develop and scale their business while staying true to themselves. 

The stories of black entrepreneurs in tech are diverse and full of innovative excellence. This should be celebrated.

So, we have decided to feature a few  Black entrepreneurs in our network that are making big moves: their achievements, their experiences, and what Black entrepreneurship and Black history month means to them.

Alexandra McCalla, DMZ BIF Founder and COO, AirMatrix.

“I really appreciate that BIF is not separate but is seamlessly integrated into the DMZ.We do not need separate programs, we just need space held for us… There is so much history here (black people in tech) and there may only be two black people in your office but it’s really important for you to take the time to think about how their experiences are different than yours.”
– Alexandra McCalla

Air Matrix:

  • Partners with cities to develop highways in the sky or integrated transit systems for drones. 
  • Secured pre seed round and won $100,000 from Communitech in 2019 and that’s only the beginning.
Manu Kabahizi, DMZ Alumni Founder & CTO, Ulula.

“As an entrepreneur, I know how important it is to put people first. My staff, my customers, partners. People matter and that’s something I really saw at the DMZ.”
– Manu Kabahizi. Manu is the new Head of the Accelerator Program at the Canadian Digital Service. Congratulations, Manu!

Ulula:

  • Committed to preventing human rights abuses and operational risks in business supply chains.
  • Utilizes enhanced two-way communication systems to ensure honest and continuous feedback loops between supply workers and operational teams across the world.
Farah Brunache, DMZ BIF Founder and CEO, Lagatos.

“What attracted me most to the BIF program was how candid they were about the experiences of black founders, especially black women founders. There was a realness and transparency. No gloss, you don’t usually see that.”
– Farah Brunache.

Lagatos:

  • Empowers digitally underserved communities by running hyper-localized and accessible Infrastructure as Service (laaS) platforms. 
  • Addresses the growing digital divide, which Farah witnessed in her home country of Haiti (where she is currently travelling to grow her consumer base).
Renee Raymond, DMZ BIF Founder and CEO, Daya Lens.

“There are barriers for black entrepreneurs and they need to be acknowledged. BIF does that. The DMZ community here has taught me how to see potential mistakes as a part of knowledge production. There is so much knowledge here.”
Renee Raymond

Daya Lens:

  • Provides VR Stimulation that gradually exposes those with PTSD to triggering environments so they can get back to their day-to-day lives 
  • Grew from Renee’s work as a registered psychotherapist, where she saw the detrimental gaps in PTSD patient focused technology firsthand.
  • Website in development, reach out at renee.raymond@dayalens.com to learn more.
Leon Nsengiyumva, DMZ BIF Founder and CEO, Odessu.

“Representation matters, it’s cliche but it’s true. It is hard to not be around anyone that looks like you. We have a little community at the DMZ, it’s awesome… (Black history month) is an important time to reflect and programs like this are a step in the right direction.
-Leon Nsengiyumva

Odessu:

Utilizes AI to fight the biases of the fashion industry.

  • Helps women find great clothing that actually fits, no matter their size, shape or age.
  • Driven by Leon’s belief that everyone deserves to feel good in their clothes.

 

Tell us about the black entrepreneurs you think
are changing the tech game.
Share and tag @RyersonDMZ with #DMZBIF

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