Exclusive Interview: Crowdfunding platform geared toward the African American community

Forbes contributor Devin Thorpe interviews CEO Nathan Bennett Fleming from Black Startup, a new Crowdfunding platform focused on projects and ideas positively impacting the African American community!

adj_nathan_flemingNate Bennett-Fleming was born in a single family household in Southeast D.C., from a young age Nate witnessed the vast political and economic inequities faced by many in Washington D.C. Through a scholarship provided by Hannah Hawkins, founder and director of Anacostia’s Children of Mine Center, he was able to graduate from St. Andrews Episcopal School in Potomac, Md.

In 2007, Nate graduated cum laude with a BA in political science from Morehouse College, in Atlanta, GA, where he was an Oprah Winfrey Scholar and an African Presidential Fellow. Nathan was the Executive Director of the Morehouse College Student Government Association, Vice President of the Atlanta University Center Council of Students, and Vice President of the Psi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Nate will receive a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) where he is an editor of the Berkeley Journal of African-American Law and Policy. In addition, Nate was awarded a full tuition Public Service Fellowship to complete a Master of Public Policy degree at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was an editor of the Harvard Journal of African-American Policy.

Nathan’s work in public service was launched in 2001, when Nathan was a staff assistant and intern in Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office. After learning from Congresswoman Norton, Nathan has worked on several national, state, and local campaigns including the Ben Cardin for U.S. Senate campaign, where he was a regional field coordinator and the John Kerry for President campaign, where he was the deputy national director of African-American Religious Outreach.

In 2009, Nathan worked on crafting a comprehensive strategy to achieve statehood and congressional representation with the D.C. Council’s Special Committee on Statehood and Self Determination, chaired by Councilmember Michael A. Brown. In addition, Nathan has gained legislative and legal experience as a summer attorney at two Washington D.C. law firms. Nathan also has finance experience gained as a summer analyst at the Wall Street investment banking powerhouse, Goldman, Sachs & Co. The variety and depth of Nathan’s professional experiences leaves him as the best qualified candidate to advocate for self-determination and to represent D.C.’s residents as a liaison to the United States House of Representatives.

[Biography Courtesy of SteinDemocrats.Org]

DevinThorpeDevin Thorpe thinks he is the luckiest person alive. After being “let go” from the best job he’d ever had—as the Chief Financial Officer of the multinational food and beverage company MonaVie—he and his wife ended up living in China for a year where he wrote Your Mark On The World and embarked on the career he’d always wanted yet hadn’t dared dream.

Now, as an author, a popular guest speaker and Forbes contributor, Devin is devoted full time to championing social good. His current life isn’t much like his past.
As an entrepreneur, Devin ran—at separate times—a boutique investment banking firm and a small mortgage company. He served as the Treasurer for the multinational vitamin manufacturer USANA Health Sciences years before becoming CFO for MonaVie. Over his career he led or advised on the successful completion of $500 million in transactions.

Devin squeezed in two brief stints in government, including two years working for Jake Garn on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee Staff and another year working for an independent state agency called USTAR, where he helped foster technology entrepreneurship during Governor Jon Huntsman’s administration. Devin is proud to have graduated from the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business, which recognized him as a Distinguished Alum in 2006. He also earned an MBA at Cornell University where he ran the student newspaper, Cornell Business.

Today, Devin channels the idealism of his youth with the loving support of his wife, Gail. Their son Dayton is a PhD candidate in Physics at UC Berkeley (and Devin rarely misses an opportunity to mention that).

blackWhat is BlackStartup?

BlackStartup is a platform that allows black and non black innovators to finance their ideas through small pledges collected from many funders. Projects can come from any field — cultural or technological, creative or spiritual, a small business, a community oriented project or an advocacy campaign — as long as a positive link to our community is created. Funders receive rewards for their financial support.

Why do you need BlackStartup? Why not KickStarter, IndieGoGo or another established crowdfunding platform?

Access to capital is a larger problem in the black community than it is in other communities. Crowdfunding is democratizing finance, yet Blacks are overlooked and under-participate in this market. BlackStartup’s goal is to increase minority participation in the crowdfunding marketplace.

Academic studies assert that African-Americans start businesses at a rate higher than whites, however it is more likely that a white-owned business will become an operational venture. The minority-owned ventures do not reach operational status in part due to a lack of access to capital. As you know, seed capital is the most difficult capital to raise. Since minority-owned businesses are more directly affected by a lack of access to capital, these businesses have the most to gain by efforts that expand access to capital. BlackStartup is a platform designed to market and serve the African-American community specifically.

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