How leveraging the power of small checks can make a big impact to build companies and create generational wealth

Image for post
Image for post

Startup funding is evolving and growing past its reliance on venture capital. Founders are finding alternatives and taking control of their businesses with the help of what I call, “micro-angel” investors…people who make small investments from $100 — $4,999.

Micro-angel investment didn’t exist until a few years ago. To understand why, here’s a short history lesson.

After the 1929 stock market crash, the Securities Act of 1933 was passed to protect investors from losing money. …


+ My new crowdfunding course so you can learn how too!

Image for post
Image for post

The global pandemic is fueling micro angel investment like never before. Startups are receiving much-needed capital to grow and scale their companies from non accredited micro angel investors through crowdfunding. All thanks to the JOBS Act.

The JOBS Act allows startups to raise capital from both accredited and non-accredited investors. Essentially anyone can invest and secure equity in an early-stage company. I took advantage of this legislation in 2019 and became the first female founder to raise over $1M in an equity crowdfunding campaign. You can read about my ICO/STO discovery journey here.

That first-round allowed us to reach critical milestones in product and team development. However, $1 million is not enough to grow and scale a company like PopCom. We knew it would be necessary to raise a follow on round. But then the retail landscape took a dramatic turn in 2020 and caused us to rethink our go-to market strategy. COVID hit right before our round was set to open and we were not sure what to expect. …


“Female Owned Tech Companies Merge as PopCom Acquires Game-Based Survey Company Wyzerr”

Image for post
Image for post

Longtime friends CEOs Dawn Dickson and Natasia Malaihollo announce far-reaching plans for the future. Wyzerr has built fun innovative game surveys helping businesses like Kroger, Paypal, McDonalds, Walmart, Google, Proctor & Gamble and Facebook better understand their customers and employees. PopCom will utilize gamified surveys to enhance their artificial intelligence, vending machines and contactless retail solutions.

Just reading that headline feels surreal. I met Wyzerr Founder Natasia Malaihollo through friends at CES in 2016, I had just pivoted PopCom (then called Solutions Vending International) to be a full technology company focused on building software for vending machines and kiosks. I had never built a software company before, I had so much to learn. When I met Natasia I was immediately impressed by her tech savvy — to be so young and already on her second tech company, this time working with SaaS and artificial intelligence. Wyzerr had just completed the Brandery accelerator, closed a $1M+ seed round and were well on their way to scaling. We hit it off right way and became fast friends. Not long after we met I asked her to join PopCom as an advisor. I knew I could learn a lot from her. PopCom had not yet raised any substantial funding and I was looking for an accelerator that would be a good fit for us. Natasia and her co-founders Bjorn (BK) Simmons and Stedman Harper were so helpful! …


Back by popular demand, I have curated a list of companies led by Black founders that are generating revenue and seeking capital. Here is the deal flow you have been looking for.

Image for post
Image for post
Me winning $125,000 in the MEDA $1M pitch competition in 2019

The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement across the world has resulted in an increased interest of investors to find Black founder led companies to place their capital. Many venture capital funds have jumped on the bandwagon posting #BlackLivesMatter and pledging more capital allocated to Black founders. In the words of investor and the founder and managing partner of Backstage, Arlan Hamilton “It’s About Damn Time!” …


THE CAKE

20 ways to invest in your own self-care and set boundaries for all

Image for post
Image for post
Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images

When I tell people that my motto is “me first,” the first response is typically that I am selfish. I can understand how that can catch someone off guard, especially when they are not accustomed to the concept of boundaries and self-care.

The concept behind “me first” is that if I am not at my best mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally, it is almost impossible for me to perform at a high level and show up as the highest version of a CEO, team member, parent, friend, and every other role I play in the lives of others.

I have heard people say things like “I need to make time for self-care” or “I need to get better at self-care” which leads me to believe that most have no concept of what self-care actually looks like for them, and it looks different for everyone. Today, we see the phrase “self-care” tossed around like “all natural,” “organic,” and “diversity” — buzzwords that sound good but that people don’t really understand in a practical sense. …


I wrote this in November 2016 after I decided to fully focus on PopCom (then Solutions Vending) and I was pitching to investors to raise seed funding to start developing the software. I found this in the notes section of my phone and was inspired to share. So much has changed since then, I have now raised $2.5M+ but this reminds me that it was my tenacity and resilience that got me this far.

Image for post
Image for post

I respect your no, but it won’t stop me. It actually fuels me, it excites me because I say yes, I invest in me. …


The CB Insights 2019 Retail Trends Report Validates PopCom in a MAJOR way

Image for post
Image for post

When I got the idea to start PopCom (Solutions Vending International, Inc.) in 2012 as a smart hardware company with the focus on retail products MANY people, especially investors, ignored my efforts stating there was not a market or the opportunity was too small.

I knew from my work as Founder & CEO of shoe company Flat Out of Heels, that there was an emerging market of retailers who wanted a better direct to customer distribution solution. I was aware that hardware was not a ‘sexy’ investment, it’s capital intensive and often requires many iterations before the product reaches the market. …


Image for post
Image for post

ICO vs STO

My journey exploring non-traditional ways of raising capital started in late 2017 after my company PopCom completed our seed round, bringing our funding total to $900,000 from angels and VC funds. All 2017 the tech industry, and almost everyone else, was buzzing about bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and initial coin offerings (ICO). When I began hearing about ICOs and the capital that startups were able to raise through them, I became enthusiastically interested in learning about the process. Like many founders, I have a compelling product in need of a substantial infusion of cash to reach its true market potential. This has been quite a challenge, because again, like most founders — particularly female founders of color — I’ve been at the mercy of the Silicon Valley machine. Although I have been successful at raising venture capital, I am still caught in an exhausting cycle of convincing VCs of the massive potential of the self-service retail industry and why they should invest. …


Image for post
Image for post
Logo property of Black Tech Nation, but it’s cool

We have all heard the underwhelming statistics about the success of Black technology founders (men and women) raising money from venture capital investor. A recent article in the Baltimore Business Journal states that ‘despite gains, most Black female founders still get no funding”, and the last ProjectDianeState of Black Women Founders’ report in 2016, found that since 2009, black women have collectively raised 0.0006 percent of all tech venture funding (yes 0%).

These numbers do not mean that Black founders are not starting innovative, game changing and potentially billion dollar companies, it just means that we are not securing funding proportionately to our ‘non-Black’ peers by institutional investors. …

About

Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene

Serial Entrepreneur, Inventor |Founder, Flat Out of Heels |CEO, PopCom| #Speaker #Retail #SaaS www.DawnDickson.me

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store