Meet the Graduates of Founder Gym’s Cohort 8 [Pre-Seed]

Mandela SH Dixon
Published in
16 min readJun 13, 2019


“Thanks to Founder Gym, I was able to connect with some of the greatest, emerging startup leaders that I would have never met otherwise. My Gymmates are building amazing companies that I know will change the world one day.”

~ Brittani Hunter, Founder of Mogul Millennial

“Honestly, I didn’t know much about how to properly raise venture capital prior to this cohort. This program completely demystifies a world that I don’t think I would have had access to otherwise!”

~ Baiyinah Brookins, Founder of Frank and Myrhh

“I now feel confident raising capital because I understand what investors expect of me. I couldn’t honestly say that before FG.”

~ Ronald Cuello, Founder of Granudo

It is time for another FG Cohort Graduation! From April 22nd to May 31st, we trained 27 founders from 2 continents, 2 countries, 13 states, and 25 cities how to prepare their fundraising toolkit and deliver a strong two-minute pitch. It was the first time we hosted separate cohorts for founders at the pre-seed and seed fundraising stages, and the first time we trained three cohorts at once. With these graduating cohorts, the total number of Founder Gym Graduates is now 329.

Since graduating our first cohort in January 2018, Founder Gym’s alumni has grown by 1165%.

This growth is made possible with the support of our partners. In February 2019, we announced our flagship partnership with Google for Startups (GFS) and offered scholarships to founders across the global GFS Partner Network. Our partners at the Kapor Center provided several scholarships to founders who are part of the Oakland Startup Network and iLab Program. We sincerely appreciate their commitment to serving underrepresented founders and enjoyed training their community members.

FG Founders are building world-class companies.

They are developing startups that strive to diversify the video game industry, empower women to be the experts of their health, connect beauty professionals seeking employment with the right employer, create smart bags for busy professionals, make it easy to lease premium cars, help senior citizens stay connected to their communities and so much more.

They face unique challenges as underrepresented founders.

In a recent study, it was reported that only:

  • 1% of venture-backed founders were Black
  • 1.8% of venture-backed founders were Latinx
  • 2.4% of venture-backed founders were Middle Easterners

Another report revealed that women received only 2.2% of venture capital

Cue Founder Gym.

For six weeks, we provided an intense virtual training experience for select founders, led by some of the most experienced investors, founders, and startup lawyers in Silicon Valley and New York. Now, after completing the rigorous graduation requirements, we are excited to officially introduce the graduates of FG Cohort 8 [Pre-Seed]. But before you meet the founders…

Take a look at the numbers.

Meet the Cohort 8 [Pre-Seed] Graduates!

Amanda Figueroa

“The sense of community among founders at a similar stage, with similar goals, really helped me build a community and push myself further.”

  • Company: Brown Art Ink
  • Description: Brown Art Ink provides professional development education to underrepresented artists.
  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Baiyinah Brookins

“If you want to fundraise you have to master storytelling and learn how to ‘sell’ your idea.

  • Company: Frank and Myrhh
  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Description: Frank and Myrhh is an eCommerce market offering a variety of small batch hair products, handmade goods, and body care items to African American millennials.
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Brittani Hunter

“I am more confident about pitching my startup, and I am more equipped with the resources that I need to be successful.”

  • Company: Mogul Millennial
  • Description: Mogul Millennial is a digital media platform for Black millennial entrepreneurs and corporate bosses.
  • Location: Dallas, TX
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Carmena Woodward

“Keeping going no matter how many “no’s” you receive.”

  • Company: Women Sound Off
  • Description: Women Sound Off is a platform celebrating creative women from all industries and walks of life.
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Cheryl Ingram

“Because of Founder Gym, I am a better CEO and founder. I know that there are other founders like me working just as hard and we all need each other.”

  • Company: Inclusology
  • Description: Inclusology is a SaaS platform working to automate diversity, equity, and inclusion assessments and empower DEI Champions.
  • Location: Woodland Hills, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Daniel McKegney

“Because of Founder Gym, I am ready to engage with investor groups by asking great questions and competently expressing my company’s alignment with their funding philosophies.”

  • Company: Intermission
  • Description: Intermission is the premier career development platform exclusively for elite athletes.
  • Location: Westchester, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Evgeniya Yesipava

“Use every single chance to learn that FG gives you. You’ll see the results and make connections with your amazing cohort.”

  • Company: Wantshes
  • Description: Wantshes treats loneliness with productivity and fun.
  • Location: Mountain View, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Halleemah Nash

“I am much more confident as an entrepreneur — in both my idea and what it will take to implement it.”

  • Company: Rosecrans Ventures
  • Description: Rosecrans Ventures is an online coaching platform that will help Generation Z’s underrepresented talent build skills to navigate expertly in any industry context.
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Hanadi Abu Muaileq

It was great getting to know people from different backgrounds and different age groups working on creating something impactful”

  • Company: Actiovat
  • Description: Actiovat is an affordable way to book amazing activities and tours in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Location: United Arab Emirates
  • Get Connected: Linkedin

Isaiah Johnson

“During the cohort, I gained such a positively stimulating amount of information about fundraising, investors, legal prep, pitching, networking, nationwide communities, and more!”

  • Company: Project Beanstalk
  • Description: Project Beanstalk is a video game company working to diversify the video game industry.
  • Location: Pittsburg, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Ish Ganda

“My vision for the company has become clearer. Before the FG Cohort, I was not confident about my “why.” But now, I know for certain that I was meant to build this company.”

  • Company: Black Men Who Blog
  • Description: Black Men Who Blog is a platform built by Black men for Black men to fill the decades-old lifestyle gap in how Black men are represented.
  • Location: Jessup, MD
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Jordan Little

“Make sure you give the program the time it deserves to be able to get the most out of the experience.”

  • Company: Sound Scale
  • Description: Sound Scale makes it easy for music industry professionals to analyze how fans consume music.
  • Location: Fort Washington, MD
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Kaitlin Christine

“I am more confident in myself as a CEO and founder. I have solidified my company, business model and I am preparing to fundraise!”

  • Company: Gabbi
  • Description: Gabbi is an app that makes women experts of their bodies and their health.
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Karen Chan

Take this program as serious as you would if you were in an intense grad school program. You truly get out what you put in. Form friendships with your cohort members, the support system you give each other is invaluable and priceless.”

  • Company: Stay Smitten
  • Description: Stay Smitten is a wellness app that rewards couples in relationships who do things together.
  • Location: Hawthorne, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Karrie Brandau

“You are the expert of your business. Tell your story and share your unique insight.”

  • Company: Salonch
  • Description: Salonch is a mobile app that connects beauty professionals seeking employment with the right salon, spa, or barbershop
  • Location: San Jose, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Kimone Gooden

“To get the most out of this extraordinary experience, you must be ready to fully commit and stay engaged. The rewards will be more than you imagined.”

  • Company: Yardie Hub
  • Description: Yardie Hub is an affinity-based social and collaboration platform for diasporas.
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Lakisha Greenwade

“Create a target fundraising number that is more than you think you will need.”

  • Company: Wearable Tech Ventures
  • Description: Wearable Tech Ventures is the ecosystem dedicated to developing and promoting wearables with a focus on urban innovation.
  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Liyani Rodriguez

“Because of Founder Gym, I am more confident than ever to raise with a community of support behind me”

  • Company: Brainstorm Quicky
  • Description: Brainstorm Quicky matches 3 ambitious people for fun, fast and effective brainstorming conversations.
  • Location: Pacifica, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Emma Mirna Perez

I am transformed because I am more confident in my abilities as a founder. Since I started the FG Cohort, I am a stronger person.”

  • Company: Mi Padrinos
  • Description: Mi Padrinos is a crowdfunding platform for the Hispanic Community.
  • Location: Soquel, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Nitha Nagubadi

“Because of Founder Gym, I am ready and more confident to proceed as a CEO and Founder.”

  • Company: Mango Networx
  • Description: Mango Networx and Ethnic Events focus on fostering global mindset and experiences through an up and coming service and app that connects you with curated ethnic events and experiences in your city.
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Quiana Lloyd Cloud

“Founder Gym was a great opportunity to connect with other founders from around the globe. Throughout the experience, we were able to learn, grow, and share valuable insights. It’s jam-packed with information and resources that are sure to transform you and your business!”

  • Company: Barazzo Bags
  • Description: Barazzo® is the all-in-one smart bag for everyday life.
  • Location: Atlanta, GA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Randall Harris

“Because of Founder Gym, I feel better equipped to navigate the rules of fundraising in the venture capital world.”

  • Company: Otto
  • Description: OTTO is a car-sharing marketplace making it easier for young professionals to switch premium cars on a quarterly basis through pre-selected lease transfers.
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Ronald Cuello

The best thing about FG was the relationships I formed with other founders. I now have a network of founders to share ideas and experiences with. “

  • Company: Granudo
  • Description: Granudo is an in-game advertising company.
  • Location: Passaic, NJ
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Sara LeMesh

“Because of Founder Gym, I feel like I have a map rather than a faulty compass to navigate the fundraising process.”

  • Company: Owly
  • Description: Owly lets older adults discover local senior discounts and activities in an easy-to-use mobile app
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Stephen Ajayi

“You get out of FG what you put into it, so take the opportunity seriously.”

  • Company: ScoutFor
  • Description: ScoutFor is a platform where companies can source underrepresented talent through professional groups.
  • Location: Clackamas, OR
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Tiffani Crenshaw

I absolutely loved the expert training sessions from actual VCs. This gave me an opportunity to learn how the mind of a VC works and how to approach them.”

  • Company: Encourage Millions
  • Description: Encourage Millions is the on-demand real estate investing education technology platform for underrepresented investors.
  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Tonia Osby

“I’m more focused and optimistic now than I ever was. Having access to FG resources and a new community has meant everything!”

  • Company: LUCYPOP
  • Description: LUCYPOP is the first material science company aimed at engineering high quality and non-toxic products within the nail care industry.
  • Location: Detroit, MI
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Congratulations to the FG Cohort 8 [Pre-Seed] Graduation Day Winners

After pitching at Graduation Day, the FG Cohort Members voted for their top three pitches based on the effectiveness of their pitch and the strength of their deck. Cheryl Ingram, Karen KC Chan Haimes, and Randall Harris were selected as the winners.

Meet the FG Cohort 8 [Pre-Seed] Trainers

Justin Hovey has over 20 years of experience providing legal counsel to hundreds of tech startups at one of the industry’s leading law firms, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. His legal practices focus on startup formation, venture and seed financings, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance matters. One founder recently said of Justin: “Justin is one of the best in my book! He’s there for you, keeps it real with you, and truly has a passion and heart for us little startups! His insights are deep and wise! I love me some Hovey Hov!!”

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn

Tanya Soman is a Venture Partner at 500 Startups, one of the largest venture capital seed funds and global accelerator programs. With over $300MM in committed capital, 500 Startups has invested in 1,600 technology startups including Twilio, Credit Karma, Grab, and Udemy. Tanya focuses on seed stage investment opportunities in the consumer space, with an emphasis on beauty and fashion. When she’s not leading the beauty and fashion specialty track at 500 Startups’ Mountain View Accelerator, she spends her time scouting companies all over the world. Previously, Tanya worked in the AdTech industry in New York and graduated from Babson College.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Brian Rothenberg has been a founder, operator, and executive through all stages of startup growth, from bootstrapping through IPO. Over the last 6 years, he has played a key role in scaling Eventbrite’s core metrics more than 10x globally as VP of Growth and VP/GM of the company’s largest segment of revenue. Brian is an industry-recognized startup growth and marketplaces expert, who both advises and invests in startups as a member of First Round Capital’s Angel Track, Sequoia Capital’s Scout program, and Y Combinator’s Growth Advisory Council. Prior to angel investing, Brian co-founded two tech startups and understands what it takes to fundraise.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Mandela SH Dixon has helped hundreds of founders raise startup capital and build successful businesses. She was the founding Portfolio Services Director at Kapor Capital, the Global Director of Startup Weekend Education, and a tech startup founder backed by Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, and Imagine K12 (acq. by Y Combinator). Mandela is a member of First Round Capital’s prestigious Angel Track program. She is a sought-after speaker and has shared her frameworks on over 80 stages. Mandela has also received various recognitions, including being named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List and LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Venture Capital and Startups.

Location: Oakland, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Charles Hudson began his investment career at SoftTech VC as one of the first African-American venture capitalists. Today he operates his own VC firm called Precursor Ventures, which is one of the only funds to focus on pre-seed investing. To-date, Charles has invested in over 300 companies and in March 2019 he announced Precursor’s second $31MM fund. Prior to investing, Charles worked at Serious Business (acquired by Zynga), Gaia Interactive, Google, and IronPort Systems (acquired by Cisco Systems). Charles was also the Co-founder and CEO of Bionic Panda Games.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: Twitter and LinkedIn

Nashilu Mouen is an investor and writer, currently investing as an Associate at First Round Capital, one of the most active seed-stage venture funds in the country. Before joining First Round, she spent time with founders and investors across New York as an Investing Partner at First Round-backed Dorm Room Fund, Co-President at student-run startup advisors InSITE Fellows, and a Senior Management Associate at Bridgewater Associates. Nash earned her MBA at NYU Stern and her Bachelor at UC Berkeley, spending a number of years in the Bay Area working at the intersection of people and economic opportunity in international development, urban development and edtech.

Location: New York, NY

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

David J. Phillips is an entrepreneur and angel investor. He is the co-founder of BloomJoy, a media tech startup that helps influencers build media companies. He is an early investor in technology startups including Flexport, Starsky Robotics, The Flex Company, Rippling, Upcall, Armory, Superphone, and others. Prior to BloomJoy, David was the co-founder, CEO & Chairman of Hackbright Academy where he bootstrapped the ed tech business until it was acquired by Capella Education ($CPLA) for $18m in 2016. He was also the co-founder of Banjo, the world’s first Live-Time Intelligence platform that gives decision makers the ability to understand what is happening live, anywhere. Banjo has raised $121m to date. David is an alumnus of Y Combinator and the UC Santa Barbara.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter


Paige Hendrix Buckner, FG Program Director

Location: Portland, OR

Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“As a former founder, I know how hard it is to start, run and grow a company. I am passionate about connecting founders with the tools, skills, knowledge, and network they need to build strong, sustainable startups. It is exciting to think about how many dreams we are supporting with each new cohort. I’m incredibly proud of our graduates and can’t wait to see what they do next.”

Cord Brown, Digital Engagement Associate

Location: Tuscaloosa, AL

Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to support underrepresented founders from all walks of life. These founders will go on to build companies that will change the world and I am proud to know that FG contributed to that journey.”

Karen Rodriquez-Ponciano, FG Cohort Operations Associate

Location: San Diego, CA

Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“It’s a blessing to be able to work with the Founder Gym team and this brilliant group of founders. I’m so proud of every single one of them and I can’t wait to see what they do next. These people are the disruptors and innovators who are changing their communities and entire industries. This community is exceptional, resilient and hungry for more. Watch out, world!”

Are you ready to join a global network of accomplished and inspiring founders? Great, because we are ready for you!

We are now accepting applications for FG Cohort 10.

This is a 6-week virtual program designed for underrepresented founders who want to raise capital to scale their startup. The entire cohort experience is 100% virtual, so founders can participate from anywhere in the world. FG Cohort 10 operates from July 22 — August 30, 2019.

Deadline to Apply: July 10, 2019


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Mandela SH Dixon

CEO of Founder Gym | Bringing Silicon Valley to the streets since 2011