- The new investment by Greenhouse Fund brings QuirkChat to a total of $750,000 in funding.
- QuirkChat hopes to grasp at least five percent of the social media market within the next 12 months, growing to 3.5 million followers.
- In 2020, the anime market generated revenues of nearly $24 billion and is expected to hit $43 billion by 2027.
Last week, Chicago-based Greenhouse Fund, an investment firm led by entrepreneur Kathryn Finney, announced their investment in QuirkChat, a social application for anime fandom discussion created by 29-year-old Bee Law. QuirkChat is currently raising seed capital, with the new investment by Greenhouse Fund bringing the company’s total funding to $750,000.
“Our goal for the seed round is to determine our space in the market, as well as to grasp at least five percent of the market within the next 12 months, so with that, we would be looking at 3.5 million followers.” Law, CEO and Founder of QuirkChat, told The Plug.
The investment from Genius Guild will allow Law and the team at QuirkChat to focus on branding. Law has hired a Black woman-owned branding agency to help QuirkChat come up with branding that makes them very sticky and noticeable in the community, Law said.
“I've always been just super nerdy,” Law said. “I grew up in Matthews, North Carolina, which is a small suburb outside of Charlotte. And with that, I was one of the few people at my school who was into anime, at least outwardly, and I am also a Black woman, so mixing the two, anime as well as being a Black woman, was very hard to find [other enthusiast], at least in the mid 2000s.”
Before it became QuirkChat, Law launched the first version of QuirkTastic in the fall of 2019, a friendship finder app for convention goers. But when the coronavirus pandemic halted conventions and public gatherings in 2020, Law had to pivot. She then got invited into Techstars, spending the early part of 2021 developing and rebranding to QuirkChat, which officially launched in April of this year.
“Nowadays, people are realizing that being a nerd and liking anime is actually kind of cool, but no one's really created a platform that is more updated to these new ideals, so that was where I felt that there was a space QuirkChat could kind of fill that void and we just started building a platform where people could just talk geek through video,” Law said.
QuirkChat allows users to create 15 second videos about anything: from anime theory to horror or film. Users can respond to other people’s videos or have others respond to their own.
In 2020, the anime market generated revenues of nearly $24 billion, growing at roughly 9 percent annually, and is expected to hit $43 billion by 2027, according to Brandessence Market Research.
“As a Black geek and an investor who understands how Black communities are overlooked and untapped, I know firsthand why we need a space to connect and embrace our passions,” Kathryn Finney told The Plug. “Bee’s vision is exactly what we strive to support at Genius Guild – taking a creative approach to uplifting and unlocking the potential of Black communities.”
“Quirkchat is well positioned to grow with this large, untapped market and serve as a leader in engaging and building authentic Black communities,” Finney said. According to Law, the platform currently has tens of thousands of users, 84 percent of whom identify as people of color and 56 percent of whom use she/her pronouns.
“It feels like we're setting a new standard. I think with the world becoming more diverse, it was interesting to see that on some of these other platforms the diversity wasn't reflecting our diverse society,” Law said. “I feel like with QuirkChat, we're doing a better job of representing just people of all different backgrounds and cultures on our platform and it just shows that maybe we could set the standard and be like the home for people who may be marginalized on other platforms.”
Law and Finney first met around 2017 when Law participated in the Digitalundivided incubator, which Law calls “an MBA on steroids,” and which she credits with building her foundation to create a startup that is scalable and repeatable and what it looks like to work with investors. The two remained in touch, with Finney serving as a mentor to Law throughout the years and through the launch and growth of QuirkChat.
In 2013, Finney launched Digitalundivided, a social startup providing economic security to Black and Latinx women by helping them start their own businesses, raising over $25 million in investments and reaching over 2,000 founders, according to Finney.
But when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States last year, Finney saw the harrowing impacts the pandemic had on Black and Latinx owned businesses and communities. She then founded Doonie Fund, in remembrance of her late grandmother Kathryn “Doonie” Hale, making micro-investments in Black women entrepreneurs. To date, Doonie Fund has provided $150,000 micro-investments to 15,000 founders.
Finney did not stop there. Shortly after, she launched Genius Guild, a business creation platform that uses a venture studio model to build and invest in market-driven innovations that end racism, investing $75,000 to $250,000 into startups with at least 50 percent Black ownership. The Greenhouse Fund, which is part of Genius Guild, invests in high growth companies led by Black founders that serve Black communities and beyond. The company says Greenhouse Fund has raised $6 million to date.
“Our team at Genius Guild investment thesis is that Black led companies create returns, aka alpha for not only investors, but for their community and for the founders of these companies. We call this a 360-value approach,” Finney said.
“Genius Guild is only getting started,” Finney said. “We are bullish on our portfolio companies and know that several are heading towards positive exits that will generate returns for everyone- Genius Guild, Black communities and the founders themselves.”
Finney added that Genius Guild will also be in the process of closing their second, much larger fund to continue to invest in these startups as they head in Series B and above. In 2021, the fund made four additional investments, including The Labz, Health In Her Hue, REFASHIOND Ventures and Rarebreed Ventures.
“This investment is the embodiment of what I strive to do in supporting my fellow Black, women founders and my community.” Finney said. “I am currently one of the only Black women general partners of a fund and one of just over a dozen Black women leaders in the venture capital space. I want the success of the Greenhouse Fund to fuel even more Black women to be able to lead their own funds.”