This Woman Wants to Run Harlem’s First Billion-Dollar Tech Company | Next City

By Oscar Perry Abello

Jessica O. Matthews

Jessica O. Matthews

It was about a year ago this month that a group of venture capital investors first walked into the doors of Uncharted Play, expecting to hear a pitch.

The company creates innovative energy-generating play products that provide a source of clean energy to communities around the world: a soccer ball that harnesses energy from getting kicked around, a jump rope that does the same with activity. But the odds were stacked against Uncharted Play and its founder and CEO, Jessica O. Matthews. According to research from Project Diane, of all venture deals from 2012 to 2014, only 24 out of 10,238 went to black female founders like Matthews. On average, black female-led startups raise just $36,000 of outside funding. There are only 11 startups founded by black women that have raised more than $1 million in VC funding.

The investors were friends of a friend, who didn’t tell Matthews who she was bringing in. That very day, the office happened to be celebrating Halloween.

“I delivered that pitch in costume,” Matthews remembers. “I was not concerned, being dressed as Serena Williams, who is everything. Can’t say the same for other members of the team.”

Things went well. It took a few more visits and a few months of due diligence (typical), but that first group of investors eventually helped to take Uncharted Play to a successful, $7 million round of venture capital investment.

Read more: This Woman Wants to Run Harlem’s First Billion-Dollar Tech Company | Next City


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