The NAACP doesn’t typically tango with the venture capital world, but in an “unprecedented move,” it’s taking an ownership stake in machine learning-powered startup Hello Alice.
Founded in 2016, Hello Alice is a data-driven platform that serves as a small business helper by connecting aspiring entrepreneurs with personalized resources and opportunities. In recent years, it has raised and disbursed nearly $20 million in emergency funding grants during the COVID-19 pandemic, and featured virtual mentorship series with famous businesswomen like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kristen Bell, and Rebecca Minkoff. But notably, Hello Alice focuses uniquely on empowering underrepresented business leaders—in 2018, more than 50% of its users were people of color, and more than 70% were female.
In that sense, it’s a fitting investment for the NAACP. “To champion true racial equity, we need to address the long-standing economic inequality that has left Black communities underfunded and undervalued for centuries,” the organization’s president, Derrick Johnson, said in a statement. “According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, today there are an estimated 2.6 million Black-owned businesses, and this first-of-its-kind partnership is a pivotal step towards putting Black business at the forefront of our economy, and as a result, building generational wealth and economic power for Black communities.”
While the NAACP has partnered with Hello Alice in the past, this move grants the organization equity and voting rights, fusing the company’s financial success with generated revenue for the NAACP. “We felt strongly that if they became a fully vested part-owner, they could dig even deeper into our model to ensure our diverse business owners are supported,” Hello Alice cofounder Elizabeth Gore told Fast Company in an email.
Hello Alice currently boasts a community of nearly 500,000 business owners, in all 50 states and across the globe.