Sevetri Wilson is not your average tech company founder. She’s a Black woman, she has no coding experience, no cofounders and she’s primarily based in Louisiana, a state that venture capitalists evidently have a hard time finding on a map.
Most folks with such a profile have very long odds of raising meaningful venture capital money as VC investors have long struggled to invest in diverse leaders. Black founders raised $187 million in venture capital in the third quarter, which is just 0.43% of the total $43 billion deployed in the three months that ended in September, according to TechCrunch. The annual trend is down. Year to date, funding is slightly more than $2 billion for Black founders, compared with the $4.72 billion they raised in the record-setting year of 2021.
Even so, Wilson’s software startup, Resilia, has raised $35 million in a Series B venture funding round, the company told Forbes. Wilson, 35, not only defied the odds, she became one of the top-funded Black woman founders in tech.
“Solo founders do go on to be grossly successful, and you can look at that across the board,” Wilson, who lives in New Orleans, told Forbes. “But for some reason, a Black woman solo founder can’t be successful? Make it make sense to me.”
Resilia sells software that helps nonprofit organizations manage their operations, and it includes tools for employee training, board management and donor reporting. It also allows major donors to subscribe and offer these tools to grant recipients. The goal is to “modernize philanthropy for nonprofits and funders,” Wilson said. Before Resilia, Wilson ran a consulting service for nonprofits for eight years and started the software company to “productize and scale” some of those services with technology.
Resilia has raised nearly $50 million since its founding in 2017. The most recent funding round was co-led by Panoramic Ventures and Framework Venture Partners and included participation from Mucker Capital, SoftBank Group’s SB Opportunity Fund, Goldman Sachs Asset Management Fund and Chloe Capital.
“She’s been on a decade-long journey of impacting this world of nonprofits,” said Paul Judge, managing partner at Panoramic Ventures, an Atlanta-based firm that invested $11 million in the round and generally focuses on underrepresented founders and regions. “When you uncover a problem that exists that other people have overlooked, and you’ve decided to make it part of your life’s work to be excellent at that, that’s what we’ve seen with Resilia.”
Wilson said she grew up near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with three siblings and a single mother who was an assistant manager at K-Mart. She knew early on that she would have to work to find outside resources to afford college and was able to get a full ride to Louisiana State University thanks to a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation scholarship. She said a retreat with that foundation helped expose her to philanthropy and she decided to enter the field as a consultant after she graduated.
“I was first made aware of philanthropy, and the power of philanthropy, when I won that award,” Wilson said.
In starting Resilia, Wilson said she was introduced to a software engineer who helped “wireframe” her vision and suggest other engineering talent she could hire. Wilson raised about $400,000 in pre-seed money mainly within Louisiana, but the process got tougher when she had to look out of state for her seed round. She ultimately landed Mucker Capital—which prides itself on investing outside of Silicon Valley—as the largest investor in that roughly $2 million seed round.
Other Black woman-led startups have been successful fundraisers. One of the biggest rounds was by Incredible Health, cofounded by Iman Abuzeid and Rome Portlock. The healthcare company raised $80 million in a series B round this summer and has been valued at more than $1 billion.
Jamison Hill, managing partner at Base10 Partners, led the Incredible Health funding round. He said he’s proud that Abuzeid is the first Black woman to found a tech unicorn, and said it’s “exceptional” for Wilson to bring that kind of growth capital to Louisiana. He hopes their examples can help venture money flow more easily to underrepresented founders.
“It’s profoundly more difficult for Black women to raise venture capital,” Hill said. “Beyond being, in my opinion, morally wrong, I think that it also is just a humongous missed opportunity.”
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