KEY INSIGHTS

  • E2open, a cloud-based platform for supply chain management founded by a Howard University grad, has raised at least $1.1 billion
  • The Lip Bar, a cosmetics company founded by a FAMU graduate that can be found in Target and Walmart, has raised at least $2.75 million. 
  • Some HBCU grads are serial entrepreneurs, like Paul Judge, a Morehouse grad who has co-founded at least four companies that have raised between $3.3 million to $219.6 million

Over the past several months, companies like Mastercard and PNC have announced entrepreneurship initiatives with historically Black colleges and universities. But though these programs may be new, entrepreneurship at HBCUs is not. A new analysis by The Plug looked at data from Crunchbase and PitchBook, examining 30 companies that have raised at least $1 million and were founded by HBCU graduates since 2000. 


While most of the companies on the list have raised tens or hundreds of millions, E2open, a cloud-based platform for supply chain management, has raised at least $1.1 billion and went public in early 2021. The company was cofounded by Nevan Charles Elam, a 1989 graduate of Howard University who later left the company. Elam went on to cofound Rezolute Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that has raised $181.6 million over 13 funding rounds and went public in 2012.


Morehouse College has produced another serial entrepreneur. Paul Judge, a 1998 graduate of the Atlanta-based HBCU, has cofounded four companies that have raised between $3.3 million to $219.6 million. 


HBCU alumni can also be seen in places as ubiquitous as Target and Walmart shelves like the Lip Bar, a cosmetics company founded in 2011 by Florida A&M University graduate Melissa Butler that has raised $2.75 million. 


Some companies were founded by a team of graduates from multiple HBCUs, like Partpic and Health In Her HUE. Partpic founders Jason Crain, Jewel Burks Solomon and Troy Nunally went to Morehouse, Howard and Tuskegee University, respectively. In November 2016, Amazon acquired the company for an undisclosed amount. 


For the founders of Health in Her HUE, a platform connecting Black women and women of color to culturally competent healthcare providers, they both went to school in the DMV region but at different institutions — Ashlee Wisdom is a Howard grad and Eddwina Bright is a Morgan State University grad. Their company, founded in 2018, has raised $1 million over three rounds.


Current entrepreneurship initiatives on HBCUs


In October, a multi-million dollar partnership to expand entrepreneurship opportunities across historically Black colleges and universities was announced. A $16.8 million, five-year grant from the PNC Foundation, the main philanthropic arm of PNC Bank, is creating the Howard University and PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship, which will also include regional hubs at three other HBCUs.


But it is not the only initiative at HBCUs to increase entrepreneurship. In February, Morehouse, Spelman College and the Black Economic Alliance Foundation announced plans to establish the Center for Black Entrepreneurship, starting with $10 million in seed funding from Bank of America. In September, Mastercard gave another $5 million to the project.


HBCUs are also helping teach the building blocks of entrepreneurship to their students. Tennessee State University offers an entrepreneurship minor where students can learn about business strategy, marketing, financial modeling and even franchising.


At Fayetteville State University, the Center for Entrepreneurship provides students a leadership institute, pitch competition and undergraduate concentration. 


In July, Clark Atlanta University, Spelman and Morehouse announced a $1.5 million, five-year initiative with Blackstone Launchpad to expand students’ access to mentors, funding and entrepreneurship-based internships. Morehouse is also home to the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, which provides access to entrepreneurship training and capital to students and the public across the metro Atlanta area.


Just this fall, Bowie State University opened its Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community, where students have access to entrepreneurship workshops, skill development and like-minded peers.


Students currently going through these programs  can look to some of the alumni from their schools for inspiration and a model of a path to success.


Take a look at all 30 companies that have raised $1 million or more below: