Black Tech Founders Close the Health Care Race Gap in Innovative Fashion

Black Founders

Many of us have heard the stories and statistics — in every category from childbirth to cancer, Black communities across America are significantly underserved when undergoing major medical treatments or even standard services. Still, while so many of us are aware of the problem there hasn’t been substantial dialogue regarding solutions to said problem, until now.

When Ashlee Wisdom first launched her health and wellness website, over 34,000 users — most of them Black — visited the site in the first two weeks. According to Wisdom herself, this early version of the platform wasn’t the most functional. Still, the launch was successful nonetheless with Wisdom’s company, Health In Her Hue, connecting Black women to culturally sensitive doctors, therapists, doulas, and nurses across the country.

Health in Her Hue launched in 2018 with only six doctors on their roster. Two years later, users can download the app at no cost and scroll through roughly 1,000 providers.

“People are constantly talking about Black women’s poor health outcomes, and that’s where the conversation stops,” says Wisdom.“I didn’t see anyone building anything to empower us.”

As more patients begin to seek out healthcare that acknowledges their cultural values, beliefs, and traditions during treatment, Black founders like Wisdom are here to help. Motivated by their own experiences and those of their loved ones, Black entrepreneurs want to revolutionize the way people eat, exercise, and communicate with doctors. This has led to the launching of health startups that aim to close the cultural gap in healthcare using technology while also creating profitable businesses.

Startup Health, a company headquartered in San Francisco, has invested in a number of health companies led by people of color with its president and co-founder, Unity Stoakes stating,

“One of the most exciting growth opportunities across health innovation is to back underrepresented founders building health companies focusing on underserved markets,”

He further stated that the leaders of these startups have “an essential and powerful understanding of how to solve some of the biggest challenges in health care.”

Kevin Dedner, founder of D.C headquartered startup Hurdle, started his company three years ago, but saw significant growth after the killing of George Floyd. In his own words, Dedner’s company connects patients with therapists who “honor culture instead of ignoring it”. Dedner also says, “We’re really speaking to a need… Mission alone is not enough. You have to solve a problem.”

Memphis, Tennessee founder, Erica Plybeah, focused her attention on providing transportation through her company, Medhaul. Medhaul works with providers and patients to secure low-cost rides to get people to and from their medical appointments. Plybeah’s team helps schedule rides after caregivers, patients, or providers fill out a form on MedHaul’s website.

Although Medhaul is for everyone, Plybeah understands that people of color, as well as low income residents and people living in rural areas, are more likely to face transportation difficulties. She founded the company in 2017 after years of watching her mother care for her grandmother who had lost both legs to Type 2 Diabetes. They lived in the Mississippi Delta where transportation options were scarce.

Plybeah recently received funding from New York-based banking giant, Citi.

Clinify Health is a startup founded by Nathan Pelzer — yet another Black founder. His company works with community health centers and independent clinics in underserved communities and analyzes medical and social data to help doctors identify their most at-risk patients and those they haven’t seen in awhile. By focusing on preventive care, the medical providers can help patients improve their health and avoid trips to the emergency room. 

Pelzer has described it as a company that supports triage outside of the emergency room.

As Black tech founders, Wisdom, Dedner, Plybeah, and Pelzer find ways to support one another by trading advice, chatting about funding, and looking for ways to collaborate. Pelzer and Wisdom met a few years ago as participants in a competition sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. They reconnected at a different event for Black founders of technology companies and decided to help each other.

“We’re each other’s therapists,” Pelzer says. “It can get lonely out here as a Black founder.”

As the community of Black Healthcare Founders continues to grow and Black patients continue to seek out culturally competent healthcare, the Black community as a whole is bound to see unprecedented benefits. With that being said, we are only in the beginning stages of what appears to be an economic revolution.


Is a Black Facebook On The Horizon?

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Facebook has catapulted into the media gaining the attention of investors & venture capitalists with its over 500,000 million users who account for 900,000 billion status updates and likes on a daily basis. It is an idea that was cooked up by Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 that hatched in 2004. Despite the legal hurdles he’s had to climb over, he was able to launch an IPO (Initial Price Offering) worth $100 Billion. Technically, Facebook is a part of the 1% that the Occupy Movement has been protesting. It is a company that is cashing checks worth tens of millions from GM, Ford and others totaling around $600 Million in 2011.

When it was a $50 Billion company, it employed 2,000 people, a fraction of the $1 Million people GM employed when it was a $50 Billion company. It is lean, innovative and for some, addictive. It needs less people to generate much more than some of our antiquated businesses. So can its model and innovative prowess come from the ranks of the black community? Let’s examine some of the highlights.

Zuckerberg was attending an Ivy League college when he decided to drop-out to build his vision. (Yes, we have our HBCUs but what would we tell one of our students attempting to drop-out to pursue a half-baked idea?)

Facebook provided no compensation to the visionaries that tirelessly worked to build it working out of the home of Zuckerberg. (Would we encourage college students to work for free or to “get a job!”?

Zuckerberg is not flashy. (Nothing to say here…)

Zuckerberg, the 28 year-old billionaire, rejected two offers to purchase his company, one from Yahoo! for $1 Billion and another from Microsoft for $15 Billion. (Are we wired to turn down a $1 Billion check?)

Zuckerberg doesn’t have any baby mamas and recently married his longtime girlfriend. (Have you seen the story of the 33 year-old man with 30 children? Here’s the link.)

The Facebook visionaries didn’t sabotage the company by stealing information to start their own or decided to become haters against anyone supporting him. (Nothing much to say here.)

Some would say that Facebook is causing societal disconnect, but when we say that, we must also say that Zuckerberg is one dedicated and focused individual.

So, do we have a culture in our community to produce the next Mark Zuckerberg or will we simply remain spectators and users of everyone else’s visions? It is important for us to demonstrate frugal focused behavior to our children so they mimic what we do? It is important for us to actually “water” the seeds of our ideas by investing our earnings into them.

I may not be the very next billionaire nor am I promised to become one before I die but I do know that I work hard to do right and do good by others. What about your overall behaviors? If they are copied by those around you will it make their lives better or worse? Will it make them average or accomplished?

Only you can answer these questions but know that until we are able to layout an environment where our children can blossom or one where our adults can achieve greatness, as the Facebooks go public, our community will remain private and we will forever be eye witnesses watching history made while we protest the 1% to be paid.

How Do We As Black People Get Our Wealth Back?

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There is no such thing as a bad economy in sovereign nations; a sagging economy, yes. Bad? No. I can’t count how many times I’ve explained this, but doesn’t ache me to do so. The only thing sovereign economies do is experience a shift in needs. When trauma hits an economy, people shift what they desire to consume and invest in. While this demand is shifting, businesses scramble to be able to accommodate these needs of consumers and are often forced to downsize or lay-off workers as they reinvent. Now, during this process, the economy contracts and those holding the wrong investments see a financial loss indefinitely, while others see their losses temporarily. So who’s who? Fact is the rich lost money during our recent recession but because much of their assets are in paper (stocks, business ownership/sellable equity, etc.), and these are instruments, which, quite frankly, see fluctuations in value almost daily, gives these people the ability to bounce back.


The Worker Mindset

I remember when I bought my first residential property in Georgia. A security system salesman knocked on my door attempting to sell me one of their security systems. I wasn’t interested. He wasn’t pleased. He became irritated over my refusal and said, “I am only trying to help you protect your biggest investment.” I didn’t issue a rebuttal but I was silently insulted. I thought to myself “How could this be my biggest investment? What about my human capital, my stock investments, my children’s education, business investments, and my investment properties that actually generates cash and wealth opportunities beyond my physical labor?” Frankly, I believe a resident is a liability. Assets are those that not only gain value, but pay for themselves and generate additional income. We slave to maintain our homes.


However, after looking at the numbers I can clearly see where he would get such a belief. He is not alone in his ideology. The average American’s major wealth is in their residential property and very rarely extends beyond that. We work hard to pay-off our homes and reach a vested pension or retirement. We try to play it safe. But is this really the safe route? In the book, “The Millionaire Next Door” the authors Thomas Stanley and William Danko said, “Being an entrepreneur or investor is the safest way to live in America. You have to upset all of your customers to lose 100% of your income, while being an employee you only need to upset one person (your boss) to lose 100% of your income.” After reading this book, I began to live by this theory!ent

Market Watch cites that just over 90% the middle-class worker’s wealth is in their home and between 2003 and 2007, these middle-class workers collectively lost (forever) $2.3 trillion in wealth. To top it off, those in control of real estate appreciation is the very corporate regulators who caused the bubble to bust in the first place. Since the no-down payment and “stated loans” are a thing of the past, investors are not rushing to make re-financing or purchasing easy, causing a slowdown in homes being built or available, thus leading to slow appreciation.


But why are the corporations able to stomach such wrongdoings? Why are they able to have such a negative impact on the lives of workers and move forward with business as usual?


The real problem lies in our financial dynamics. These dynamics doesn’t require millions either. It simply matters what position you put yourself in. Historically, we were in an interdependent relationship; workers relied on corporations for their wealth and corporations relied on workers for theirs. But the truth (that some doubters felt was fantasy) is revealing itself. Corporations indeed care less for workers as they do the financial gains. They are truly here for wealth not workers.

Technology is now able to work 10 times as hard with 10 times less errors than workers. Its productivity is well above the worker without the “emotional headache”, and let’s not discuss the workers overseas who technology has allowed corporations to employ in your place.


Think about it. The security guard is being replaced by sophisticated security systems, the receptionist is being replaced answering services, salespersons are being replaced by newsletter programs, the bi-lingual worker is being replaced by the translation software. So what do you do?


You Are Not Doomed

The truth is as long as there are people seeking convenience and Capitalists seeking returns, there will always be earning opportunities available for anyone who has guts. The beauty supply industry is one I advocate for simply because it is a $15 billion industry with almost 14,000 stores and less than 3% of them are black-owned. I see great opportunity because Blacks generate 96% of the revenue regardless of the economy. We can simply give ourselves a stimulus package by focusing our spending on these 3% of owners eventually creating 13% owners, then 23% owners, then 33% owners, etc.


Competition of non-blacks should not be the concern, it is replacing existing stores with our top-notched, professionally ran black-owned stores should be the focus. I am not speaking on some “hope” theory. I opened a store between two Korean-owned store that drove both of those out of business. We focus on replacing. Education in this industry is definitely vital. Entrepreneurship is key!


The solution for rebounding may lie in the pre-industrialization age; when money wasn’t backed by GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and when the GDP wasn’t so speculative. This was a time when credit wasn’t popular and consumption was based on real demand. It is a time when entrepreneurship was the norm and employment was for those who were indentured servants, or were mentally or physically challenged. It’s a time when our career pursuit was mostly based on our love, expertise, and passion for the craft; not tied to the amount of income or desperation.


The bottom line is regaining our wealth isn’t even a Black or White issue. There are many race-based issues but this isn’t one of them. This is an insight vs. ignorance issue. Those who feel safe in their dependency will suffer and those who understand history may be repeating itself will survive.

Is Being A Vendor At Events Worth The Trouble?

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I get asked quite a bit if attending expos, festivals, shows or galas as a vendor is worth it. There is no specific answer other than, “check out the dynamics of that event.” I’ve attended quite a few. So here is what I can tell you.

  • Are they your audience? – You want to check out who their (event) target audience is. If you’ve read my materials then you understand market segmentation. Not because there’s a bunch of people gathering in one place means you will make a lot of money. What exactly will you be selling? Push the expo organizers to give you detailed information on the profile of their expected attendees. If they can’t, that’s a sign. If they won’t, that’s another sign.
  • Is it free to attend? – Here’s the clincher. Organizers diminish the “perceived” value of their event when it is free to the attendees. It’s easy for organizers to fill up event halls with people if they can get in for free but will this translate into sales for you? Many of them will show up to see what else they can get for free. Depending on what your item is, this can be a problem; which leads me to my next point.
  •  Do organizers support the vendors? – Sadly. And I mean very sadly, novice organizers view vendors as revenue rather than partners. They put events together, announce to the world that it’s free then charge the vendors to participate. So in actuality, the event isn’t free. Someone is footing the bill. That’s right, the vendor. This isn’t so bad. There can be light at the end of the tunnel. It becomes criminal when the event is funded by vendors and organizers don’t make regular announcements encouraging attendees to support vendors or create purchase requirements of attendees. Organizers benefit greatly from events. They get publicity, endearment from the local community and build their contact info of attendees and vendors for easy marketing the following year.

What I look for is organizers who encourage attendees to support the vendors and organizers who share the contact information with the vendors they obtained from the attendees. As a vendor, you paid a fee! You should be given the opportunity to market to attendees of the event at a later date.

I know the feeling of making an investment and wanting to see a return. There are a lot of pop-up events that take place organized by folks who see dollar signs from vendors and spare creating a true economy at the event. With a naked eye, events seem like a great way to get out there and make some money. All I can say is be careful. If you are not expecting sales but just would like to get exposure, go for it. If you want your cash register to ring after you spent hundreds or even thousands on an event, vet the event.

Avoid being taken for a ride. Don’t get drunk off hope when organizers show you pictures of seas of people from the previous year. We are all in the business of entrepreneurship but you need to watch out for the entrepreneur cannibals. They simply lookout for their own bottom line, take from other entrepreneurs and disregard if you are able to see a profit from doing business with them. I’ve been to so many “free admission” festivals, events, banquets, shows, expos, etc. across the country. They typically attract a lot of attendees, but sales for vendors…the jury is still out.



If Companies Can Reinvent Themselves, So Can We…

For nearly a decade we’ve lived what Charles Dickens penned as “the best of times and the worst of times” in his 1859 novel: A Tale of Two Cities. Americans are recovering from one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression of the 1930s; major corporations have collapsed; people are being devastated by job loss, prolonged unemployment, home foreclosures, overwhelming debt, loss of their entire life savings, and suffering with the highest rates of stress, anxiety, and depression that America has seen in decades. Economists and business analysts have characterized this as the Era of Disruption.

Additionally, companies are faced with increased competition, accelerated change, and overwhelming complexity. It’s in times like these that we see a clear distinction between good and great companies who reinvented themselves and were prepared for this season of disruption, and those that barely survived, became irrelevant and ultimately ceased to exist. Companies such as Blockbuster, Borders Books, Harold’s, Circuit City, Linens ‘n Things, Lehman Brothers, Kodak, and many others either filed bankruptcy and/or went out of business because they were not poised or positioned to navigate through these waters significant change.

The Pizza giant, Dominos, is a great example of reinvention. After consumer surveys revealed

that their pizza tasted like cardboard, they went on national TV to admit that their product needed an overhaul. Subsequently, they introduced a new recipe and brand campaign. Lego, whose profits soared in 2009 to 63% when sales across the country were tanking did so by expanding to Asia and increasing sales in Europe. Of course, a blockbuster movie and a celebrity endorsement from David Beckham who admitted that he was building a Lego Taj Mahal added an increased boost to their sales and brand. Starbucks continues to reinvent itself. Not only are they still opening stores in new markets such as China and Europe, but they now enjoy a strategic partnership with the “brand queen” herself—Oprah Winfrey, and  launched the Oprah Chai Tea in 2014.

There are many other examples, but if these companies can reinvent themselves in this era of disruption, why can’t we as individuals do the same? As a success and leadership coach, and author of the bestselling book, Reinvent Yourself: Strategies for Achieving Success in Every Area of Your Life, I am intimately aware of the number of individuals who are at a crossroad in their lives and experiencing the effects of the global recession listed above.

If Companies Can Reinvent Themselves, So Can We

If Companies Can Reinvent Themselves, So Can We

In examining the strategies that successful companies employed in reinventing themselves, below are six key traits that they possessed and that we can apply to our own lives:

  1. They recognized that redefining what success looks like was a necessity. “What does success look like in your life?” is one of the first questions that I ask my coaching clients. Chances are, your definition today is different than it was 10 years ago, and what you thought was important then, is no longer a priority. As ‘life’ happens and we experience defining moments (good and bad), we have to constantly redefine what success looks and be willing to adopt new mindsets, skill sets, and strategies that enable us to shift with the vicissitudes of life.
  2. They were clear about their purpose and they stayed true to their mission and vision. Unfortunately far too many individuals can’t say the same. I ask this question of audiences around the world, “how many of you know your purpose and are living it?” Less than 25% of the hands go up. To identify your purpose, think about where you are the most gifted; what you would do if you knew you wouldn’t fail and you had the money to do it; and what you are most passionate about. Knowing your WHY brings meaning and fulfillment.
  3. They knew when to reprioritize their goals. As your definition of success changes, so will your goals. They should be aligned with your purpose and reviewed frequently for adjustments. If you want success in every area of your life, I suggest setting goals each year towards five key areas: Family/Household, Financial, Health/Wellness; Professional and Career Development, and Spiritual Enrichment.
  4. They consistently rebranded themselves. Whether you believe it or not, all of us have a brand. Your brand is ‘who you are’ and ‘what others know/say about you.’ It’s how you present yourself and the impression and aura that you leave. In essence, it’s your communication skills. This is particularly important in your career because hiring, promotions, new assignments, and performance decisions are made based on what others know about you. If you don’t know your brand, ask your friends, colleagues, co-workers, and your direct supervisor and start reinventing your brand.
  5. They made the tough financial decisions while also making great use of their corporate assets (physical, financial, and talent). This couldn’t be a more appropriate time to reestablish your financial management plan [i.e., budget], or to create one for those who have never done so. Examine spending habits and investments to determine where to make adjustments. Identify multiple ways of utilizing your gifts and talents to make money, and learn from the mistakes that may have contributed to the financial losses you suffered during the recession.
  6. They built and capitalized on strategic relationships and alliances. It’s been said that “your network, can determine your net worth.” Evaluate your inner circle to determine whether you are surrounded by N.I.O.P.s (negative influences of other people) or O.Q.Ps (only quality people), and establish diverse and mutually beneficial relationships that will enable your success.

Reinventing yourself is not just another buzz word, nor is it a fad. It is a journey, and a real solution to the realities of life that both organizations and individuals will inevitably face. Those who respond proactively and intentionally will be better positioned to enjoy the best of times even when the worst of times hit. And those who do not, will become extinct.

African americans can reinvent themselves and how we take on small business.

Dr. Davis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CSP, is President of SDS Global Enterprises, a strategic development solutions firm that specializes in Global Talent Management strategies. She is an accomplished corporate executive, a certified senior Global HR and Talent Management expert, a success coach, and a Master of Reinvention.


It is no hiding that we are now in a service economy. The majority of our GDP is now comprised of service sector jobs. Health, Transportation, Advertising, Information, Professional Services, Education and Hospital are among the top tier of service providers. We are finding more service providers maximizing their talents and need for their services to maximize their bottom line. Sadly many anxious service providers focus on their own bottom line, even when they are not only doing business with consumers, but also doing business with customers.

There’s a distinct difference between a customer and a consumer. The key dynamic of a consumer is they use the service for personal reasons and do not resell it in any form or fashion. A business can be the customer of another business but that doesn’t make them a consumer. The consumer is the end user of a product or service. This can be a little confusing in some cases. For example, many would view a cab driver as a consumer of the gas he/she burns while driving their cab. But in actuality, the passengers of the cab are the consumers. They are charged a fee by the driver which includes the gas, tolls, insurance, maintenance, monthly payments (if any), etc on the vehicle. This concept is the same for truck drivers, who burn diesel to deliver goods, DJs at clubs or wedding receptions who are paid to entertain guests, and more.

There are countless examples where the consumer may not be directly consuming the product, but those costs the service provider incurs while delivering their service is passed to the consumer, or end user as we can also call them.

After looking at these examples, it is easy for us to see how many businesses can fail simply because of tunneled-vision service providers. They come by way of advertising mediums, insurance providers, designers, information technologists, merchant processors and more. Their focus lingers heavily on their own bottom line, while ignoring the fact that their bottom line is also tied to the bottom line of their clients. This concept is nil when it comes to businesses providing services to ‘actual’ consumers. In this case, the consumers’ bottom line is their disposable income, which is not tied to the employment of others, macro-economy or the solvency of a business. There’s a difference.

Service providers often operate with a dog-eat-dog mentality. They know their clients often need them, but they fail to realize that this is really a case of the dog eating itself syndrome; in reference to humans, known as “cannibalism.” If a service provider fails to have a clear understanding that they are not the only cost of a business, and therefore gouge who does business with them, they will not yield top profits, they will lose clients. The purpose in business is to give your customer more value than they pay for. They will come back every time. Every customer has, what is called, a willingness-to-pay threshold. Once the costs exceed the benefits, the service provider will also incur a loss; by way of losing the client and future clients in the lost client’s network.

Sure, there is a lot of blame to go around regarding the poor economy. However, at the end of the day we rarely blame ourselves and rarely have patience to build our businesses. There is a lot of money to be made by reducing your profit margin. I know. It sounds scary. But look at it this way. It is better to get 20% of the money from 100,000 satisfied and loyal people than get 80% of the money from 20,000 dissatisfied, ready-to-jump-ship disloyal clients. Look at how McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Family Dollar, Southwest Airlines and other low-cost providers continue to lead the way. Be a service provider with a vested interest in the return on investment of your client and you too may also find yourself servicing a billion dollar company.


Most people are growing poor, not growing old. Let me explain. As we age, if we are not making smart decisions while we are young, poverty will be inevitable. “Rich” is tied to skills. “Wealth” is tied to systems. When a system is created that reproduces itself, it generates the opportunity for riches and ultimately wealth. Most times, the system utilizes the skills of workers who contribute to the success of the business and the wealth of the ownership/investors. These owners/investors don’t have to do anything either, expect retain ownership. You see, skills diminish, while ownership doesn’t.

When individuals grow old without owning a system, they are ultimately growing poor, as well; not just old. When our skills are at their peak, we are happy and confuse the difference between “rich” and “wealth”. We confuse permanent with temporary. Rich feels good, while wealth “is” good.

In our culture, most of our elderly people need the financial help of their offspring. Why? This is because they didn’t invest a portion of their lives building a system that secured their wealth. Instead, they only contributed to a system that made them feel rich.


On average, it takes 2,555 days to build a successful business. Meanwhile, our average lifespan is now 28,105 days. Your childhood accounts for 6,570 of those days. So you even spend more days being a child than it takes to build that business that is on your heart. What are you going to do with those days? There will be so many extra days in your bank to either live well or dream about living well. Are you willing to allocate just under 10% of those days to live a blissful life for the remainder of it?


I encourage you to look at your life. Are you growing old and poor or are you securing your future too? Is there an expiration date on your comfortable lifestyle? They say beauty fades but if you are smart enough, your bank account won’t be forced to follow suit.