Possip is the First Black Woman-founded Company in Tennessee to Raise over $1 Million in Funding
January 13, 2020 / Share:
Today we want to celebrate Possip’s founder and CEO Shani Dowell being the first black woman in Tennessee — and one of fewer than 60 black women in the United States — to raise more than $1 million in venture funding. Nationally, less than 2% of all venture funding goes to companies led by women, and .006% to companies led by black women.
“The fact that we are still able to keep track of the number of black women who have raised over $1 million speaks to the continued barriers,” Shani told publication Black Enterprise in an interview. “It is up to those who hold money and resources to think differently about how they invest in the future. That’s going to require them to expand their networks, learn about companies outside of the Coasts, and learn about ideas that may not speak to their personal and lived experiences but can still be great ideas.”
Although Dowell calls Nashville and the EC home, the impact of this achievement extends beyond to the state of Tennessee and the greater Southeast region as the trend of startup activity shifting away from Silicon Valley continues. Investors in the round include the Launch TN Impact Fund, a fund that was created to invest in for-profit Tennessee based companies looking to make a real impact.
“We’re thrilled that Possip is one of our first investments since creating the Innovation Capital Continuum,” said LaunchTN President and CEO Margaret Dolan. “Possip is changing the landscape for schools by enabling streamlined communication among families, teachers, and administrators. We are confident that Shani’s success as the first black woman in Tennessee to reach the $1 million investment mark is the first of many as the company grows to serve more schools and students.”
Dowell is proud to be the first black woman in Tennessee to achieve raising over $1 million in funding and is excited a new precedent has been set for young black, female entrepreneurs.
“Raising over $1 million has special significance for me as a black woman in Tennessee,” Dowell said. “There are incredible companies being founded and led by women and people of color in this state. We hope Possip is just the start of even more investments in these great companies.”
Dowell is also vocal about how this is just the beginning and is advocating for Nashville and others to step up.
“Black female founders in other states were part of my encouragement to reach this milestone,” says Dowell. “After raising over $800,000, other black female entrepreneurs encouraged me to keep pushing towards the larger raise. So, I was already inspired by other founders across the South and East Coast to continue pushing. Part of that was a responsibility to show that black women have great business ideas and can raise money as well.”
After joining the EC as a PreFlight scholar and graduating from our InFlight program last year, Shani is already stepping into a mentoring role as one of two EIRs for Twende, a new program supporting entrepreneurs of color.
“I’m the Entrepreneur in Residence at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, and there are so many founders who are doing great things, but they’re just not getting enough runway time,” Dowell said. “I think one of the pathways toward opening up capital markets is going to be more individual folks who can invest more, who can identify and tap into more funding sources.”
Dowell is using her power in the entrepreneurial world to make a difference and be an example for future female entrepreneurs of color in Nashville.
“I certainly hope to be a role model,” she said. “There are increasing numbers of role models that the next generation of black female founders have in Nashville.”