Diversity & Inclusion

Forum Ventures Celebrates our Black Founders

Feb 25, 2021
min read

Since 1976, the month of February has been recognized in the United States as Black History Month to observe and celebrate the Black experience in its many forms. Decades later amidst 2020s’ seemingly endless whirlwind of restlessness, trauma, mourning, and unease, specifically within the Black community, it’s vital to remember that despite the trials and tribulations we may endure individually or as a community, that this is not the whole picture. Oftentimes, our stories are told within the context of the historical and systematic inequalities we have faced but we are not a monolith nor are we a summation of our generational trauma. We are so much more. 

Black joy, Black peace, and Black success deserves space, deserves to be honored, and deserves to be celebrated, and not just during February. With that being said, here are some of the incredible Black founders from our portfolio that represent sunshine on what has felt like a cloudy few months (in no particular order):

Chinwe Onyeagoro

Chinwe is the Co-founder & CEO of PocketSuite, an all-in-one app that helps anyone start and run a business within 15 minutes. Chinwe is a third time founder, previously co-founding Fundwell and O-H Community Partners. Prior to that Chinwe spent time leading a global team as President of Great Place to Work as well as consulting with Fortune 500 Companies at McKinsey and Monitor Group.

Chinwe is affectionately known as the "Solo Business Economist'' and takes a data driven approach to helping businesses thrive and grow. It’s no surprise that tens of thousands of solo and micropreneurs run their business on PocketSuite.

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

I am super proud to have helped thousands of self employed professionals from beauty and fitness to therapy and pet professionals consistently make six figure incomes even in the middle of a global pandemic. Our vision is to create a world where a career as an independent business owner is as sexy and financially rewarding as being a doctor, investment banker, or software engineer.

Yang Forjindam

Yang is the Co-founder of PocketSuite, an all-in-one app that helps anyone start and run a business within 15 minutes. Yang spent the first 11 years of his career at NetSuite building business management systems that helped 10,000 large and midsize companies run their front and back offices. Now, he is doing the same thing for small, independent companies. Yang was engineer #5 at NetSuite and is still the youngest software architect in NetSuite's history. Yang earned a Master’s degree in engineering from Stanford University and has several patents in the area of SaaS and email delivery.

Yang is one of the nicest and most humble people you will ever meet. With that said, he’s incredibly smart, driven and passionate about delivering world class technology solutions to millions of freelancers and solo businesses around the world.

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

I am really jazzed that we launched a Desktop version of PocketSuite this month. It has changed the game for so many of our businesses who are now working from home, delivering services virtually. It has also attracted an entirely new community of independent professionals in creative industries to PocketSuite, including photographers, videographers, writers, marketers, designers, developers, and other consultants.

Ariel Lopez 

Ariel is the founder of Knac, a data driven talent evaluation platform that helps companies not overlook candidates. A career coach, entrepreneur, and public speaker with almost a decade of recruiting experience, Ariel has helped some of the biggest brands in the world build great teams; and has worked with thousands of marketing, advertising, and tech professionals to help them grow in their careers and find lucrative opportunities.

Ariel is an elite communicator, natural leader and driven visionary, blending her extensive experience as a recruiter and career coach to realize her extremely ambitious plans to completely reimagine the candidate job search experience.

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

Working with major brands like Nike and also being a recipient of Google’s Founders Fund (they were an early supporter). We’ve raised 500K+ from notable investors and are closing out our seed round now. 

Bocar Dia

Bocar is a technology entrepreneur and Sales and GTM leader who is passionate about building and scaling Sales from the ground up. He was part of the founding team of the Enterprise product at Hootsuite and helped the business grow to well over $100M in revenue in less than 5 years. Bocar has been on the founding board on Forum Ventures Canada since its startup. He recently co-founded Aplayr, a company that enables sales teams to be productive in a high growth environment.

Bocar’s ability to find processes and make the very difficult early stages of Go To Market easy to understand is nothing short of amazing. The other founders would turn to him for advice on so many steps of the process - from getting cold customer discovery calls to building out an Ideal Customer Profile. His calm, expertise and empathy for everyone in the process was and is incredible.

Lisa Soodeen

Lisa is the COO and Co-founder of StonePaper, end-to-end supply chain tracking for digital and physical assets. Previously, Lisa spent 6.5 years at Three Lefts, building her career from Coordinator to VP Operations.  

Navigating the world of operations and running multiple teams over the past ten years in various functions and formats has ignited Lisa’s passion for architecting solutions for operational problems and business optimization. Lisa has navigated the huge change that the last year has brought with calm, a huge smile, and great results. Her ability to marshal resources and get the team onboard in a shifting landscape is amazing to watch.

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

There are many rewarding moments on this journey; however, one of the most fulfilling parts is examining our business to shift our focus so we become socially responsible. Ambitious to leave a footprint that benefits society and not just ourselves.

Meka Este-Mcdonald

Meka is the Co-founder of Sote, the operating system for trade in Africa. Meka is a second time founder, building his first company in 2013 focusing on the job search challenge, shortly after graduating from Stanford. Meka is a former product manager at Verizon and Gigster.

Meka and Felix are both incredibly driven and ambitious; and have very big long term goals for Sote and the impact Sote can have on Africa. 

What is your biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far?

The thing that has given me the biggest source of pride and joy is creating space for others to lead and apply themselves creatively. To have built something big enough for many strong leaders to be the most expansive version of themselves, and to join them in their growth journey, has been tremendously rewarding.   

Felix Orwa

Felix is the Founder and CEO of Sote and together with his co-founder Meka, they are building the digital logistics infrastructure for Africa.

Felix grew up in Nairobi Kenya, where he had a dream of becoming a pilot. He moved to Oklahoma to study aviation technology, where he trained other pilots and used the income to pay his tuition, graduating as valedictorian, and becoming a pilot. On the side, Felix started exploring tech and entrepreneurship, and moved to Silicon Valley, which eventually led to the start of Sote. 

Felix and Meka are both incredibly driven and ambitious; and have very big long term goals for Sote and the impact Sote can have on Africa. 

Bobby Gilbert

Bobby is the founder & CEO of FundStory, a full-stack financing platform designed to provide value at each stage of the funding cycle. Before founding FundStory, Bobby began his entrepreneurial career focused on software, internet services, and mobile technologies. He oversaw a variety of roles across strategy, analytics, partnerships, and development, as co-founder of two consumer-focused startups. 

Bobby is extremely driven and deeply committed to educating early stage founders about the capital raising opportunities outside of traditional venture capital. He is a constant learner, analytical thinker and data driven product builder.

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

Helping our 1st cohort of beta testers capitalize in their business without dilution.

Sam Udotong

Sam is the Co-founder & CTO of, an AI assistant for meetings that records and transcribes voice meetings. Sam graduated from MIT where he studied aerospace engineering and computer science. 

Sam turned down Harvard Business School to build a startup while living below the poverty line. Today he manages a team that operates out of 5 continents and raised $5 million in seed funding in late 2019. He's also a full-stack engineer and frequent guest lecturer for Stanford's introductory AI classes. 

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

Being featured on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine in September 2020.

Shadrach Vaughn

Shad is the Founder and CEO of GoApron, aircraft parking management software that helps airports park airplanes smarter and increase utilization. Founded in 2018, GoApron is building modern software for the airport industry, starting with aircraft parking management; but with big plans to modernize and automate many other workflows that happen at airports on a daily basis. 

Based in sunny San Diego, Shad is a second time founder with a background in finance. He’s incredibly driven and intellectually curious, always looking for ways to continuously improve. 

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

Despite the changes to the travel industry, we proved the need for GoApron, signing up several international airports during the pandemic.

Ron Johnson

Ron is Co-Founder and CEO at GroLens Inc, Cannabis software that helps remove the stress from the cultivation process in order to produce high-quality cannabis. Ron is an MBA graduate from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, with seven years of enterprise sales of technology and financial products at organizations like Xerox and Paychex. 

Ron’s passion for plants and people led him to start a commercial grow in 2013, and he started Gro Lens to advance the Grow community with data-driven web technology. Ron has deep domain experience and clearly GroLens is riding the market tailwinds as cannabis is starting to be legalized more broadly. 

Ron’s laser focus has shown GroLens to be one those companies that can consistently put up strong growth year after year regardless of the economic conditions.

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

It’s hard to point to a single moment of success but going from an idea that I pitched to my cofounder during a workout to a 100+ customers in multiple states is pretty gratifying.

Romeo Ware

Romeo is the CEO and Co-founder of StonePaper, end-to-end supply chain tracking for digital and physical assets. Previously, Romeo co-founded ThreeLefts,  a research and development studio of emerging technologies focused on the Blockchain. Before that, he was VP Operations and Partner at ITM House. 

Many people claim to be innovative, but Romeo can truly stand on the cutting edge of technology and build things that deliver value. He also cares about his team deeply.  Watching Romeo lead his team from a service business to a product while the world went into lockdown was incredible.

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

There have been many high points on this journey. One of my most proud moments was helping launch the first blockchain solution for media ip rights management and royalty recoupment with our partner Groupe Media TFO. 

Deon Robinson

Deon is the founder of DockPad, an agile scheduling construction platform. Prior, Deon joined a construction tech company called PlanGrid as employee number 26 and helped grow it to 200+.

Deon has worked in tech for 10+ years helping build amazing products and managing teams of developers. He also worked in various academic labs doing machine learning and computer vision research, as well as owned a consulting company doing Android development for 8 years.

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

DockPad has been piloted on our first 100 million dollar project in 2020.

Niger Little-Poole

Niger is the CTO and Co-founder of Constellation Analytics, software that bridges the gap between documents and data by easily turning things like emails, websites, contracts, PDFs, articles, and more into datasets. Niger previously worked at Sigma Ratings as Director Of Engineering and was the first Data Scientist hired at GIPHY.

Niger is passionate about solving problems that matter, and his sense of curiosity combined with his drive and big data skills have well-equipped him to do this. His rare blend of elite engineering and product skills have Constellation well on its way to realizing its aspirational goals.

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

I have to say the first time someone organically contacted us about Constellation. There is so much work that goes into truly finding the right product market fit and its moments like that that demonstrate how far we’ve come. 

Cole Calhoun

Cole is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hopthru, a software and analytics platform to help public transit organizations make sense of their data and ultimately run more efficiently. It’s a large and underserved market; and Cole and his team have spoken to hundreds of transit agencies and have an incredibly strong knowledge of the market. 

Prior to Hopthru, Cole was a release manager at Salesforce and is such a pleasure to be around. It’s hard to remember times at the Forum Ventures office where Cole wasn’t smiling!

Biggest success on your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

Hopthru successfully pivoted in early 2020. We spent over a month talking to 100+ transit agencies to better inform our newest product. I couldn’t be more excited about what the team has accomplished and the momentum we’ve built over the past year! 

Osa Gaius

Osa is the Founder and CEO of Parrotmob, 1-click pay by text software. Previously, he worked his way up to become a Lead Software Engineer at Mailchimp. From there, he went on to become one of BlackRock’s youngest executives. Osa left his job at BlackRock to uncover and follow his passion for commerce and mobile, and to build a better, more mobile way to shop online. 

Osa strongly believes that great technology should empower people. This stems from the fact that he grew up in Nigeria with little exposure to computing. That experience fueled his passion for elegant and useful software products. 

Antonio Barnes

Antonio is a logistics entrepreneur with over 20 years of professional experience, 14 of those in investment banking. He has a BBA from Howard University and an MBA from MIT, and was also in the Air Force Reserve. He’s always been interested in transport and logistics, and was the CEO of a company in Atlanta, FMX Logistics, that sold in 2018. In 2019, Antonio founded Fridgio, software that enables companies to arrange, manage and monitor refrigerated logistics. 

Antonio is the definition of a visionary entrepreneur with relentless focus. His deep expertise and network in the logistics industry has given him an insider's perspective that allowed him to shore up relationships with some of the biggest players in the space. We’ve been nothing but impressed with his execution and hustle.

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