Out of the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic, young Black founders Valentine Osakwe and Zerryn Gines found opportunity. The team launched Peep Connect, a customer insight and analytics platform for small businesses.
Peep Connect takes advantage of the Tech For Black Founders (T4BF) initiative, a coalition of tech companies that have vowed to provide free technology and services to startups run by Black founders. Osakwe, 26 and Gines, 21 are bootstrapping the company and say without the initiative there would be no launch.
“Just for an analytics feature, we were looking at paying a couple thousand dollars a month, Gines said in an interview” Now Foursquare is providing us tools, free for a year. It put us in a position to be six to eight months ahead of where we would have been without them.”
While the largest tech companies Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have given upwards of $552 million in the name of combating racial injustice, smaller tech companies are approaching the issue differently. To date, 30 tech companies including Foursquare and Notion have joined the T4B4 initiative.
“Black founders are over mentored but underfunded and the underfunding isn’t just in terms of money but in terms of network and connection. If you don’t have a connection in the VC world the doors will be closed,” Osakwe said. “Social capital is important, having access to the resources of people, networks, and technology, those tools are important.”
Peep Connect will provide its services free to small businesses for the rest of 2020. In addition to a customer rewards system and tools for hiring, the platform will allow small businesses to indicate if the owners are Black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC), helping customers more easily support minority-owned businesses.
“We want businesses to say who they are and why they started because these stories connect everyday people,” Oswake said. “These stories define mom and pop businesses and our stories are not too different from theirs.”