3 North Carolina startups selected for Google black founders summit in Durham

North Carolina startups raised more than $1 billion last year. Durham, which is home to the American Underground tech incubator, had the most activity of any city in the state.
North Carolina startups raised more than $1 billion last year. Durham, which is home to the American Underground tech incubator, had the most activity of any city in the state. N&O File Photo

Three North Carolina-based businesses have been selected to participate in a Google summit for startups with black founders — an annual event that for the past four years has been held at the American Underground in Durham.

The event brings together startups and investors to participate in networking events and workshops on how to overcome the many obstacles that entrepreneurs of color have to overcome.

Since it was started in 2016, 19 of the companies that have participated in the summit have raised a collective $10.8 million.

That includes SpokeHub, a social media company that was founded in Durham and was part of the Google summit in 2016. SpokeHub has raised over $2 million, primarily from black investors, the organizers of the summit said.

One goal of the summit is for at least half of the startups that participate to be funded within nine months of the program’s conclusion. At the end of the week’s summit, the founders have a chance to pitch to a room of investors.

“Supporting the growth and success of underrepresented founders is core Google for Startup’s mission,” Nicole Froker, a partner manager at Google for Startup, said in a statement. “This program has proven its success year after year in equipping founders with the resources, networks, and expertise needed to scale their companies to the next level.”

Diversity has also been a focus of the American Underground, a startup hub and co-working community that has been based in downtown Durham for nearly a decade. More than 50% of the companies based at the American Underground are led by a woman and/or persons of color, the hub said.

“The American Underground believes that economic opportunity increases when there is a diverse and inclusive startup ecosystem,” American Underground general manager Molly Demarest said in a statement. “Our Black Founders Exchange program is uniquely designed to both address the challenges and celebrate the experiences of being a Black founder in tech. The traction and success delivered by the alumni to date is evidence that this is the premier program for early-stage, Black founders nationally.”

This year’s cohort is made up of 11 startups from around the country. Google said it had received more than 160 applications to participate.

The three local startups selected for this year’s summit are:

  • Courtroom5, a Durham-based company that has created a platform to help people navigate the legal system without a lawyer. Courtroom5 provides access to resources such as document templates, research tools and educational materials.
  • KWHCoin, a Wilmington-based environmental startup. The company has created a digital currency to funnel investments into clean energy in regions like Africa and Southeast Asia.
  • Freeman Capital, a finance technology startup from Charlotte whose platform helps with financial planning, investment management and education no matter how small the initial investment.

The other startups joining the summit are coming from all over North America, including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Atlanta.

Google for Startups has partnered with 11 tech hubs throughout the U.S. to host events and provide resources to startups based there. In addition to Durham, Google for Startups has hubs in San Francisco, Austin, Nashville and Atlanta.

This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work. Learn more; go to

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Zachery Eanes is the Innovate Raleigh reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He covers technology, startups and main street businesses, biotechnology, and education issues related to those areas.