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Dec. 17, 2021 3:59 pm
You know Garry Johnson III as the founder of First Founders Accelerator and a stalwart of Delaware’s entrepreneur ecosystem. But more recently, the University of Delaware alum is also a Howard University MBA candidate working on a new venture called Bison Venture Partners. And, he’s leading a crowdfunding-focused First Founders-WeFunder collaboration as an early adopter of the Wefunder City Partners program. This initiative to boost funding for underrepresented founders goes by the name PhilaDelaware.
Johnson came by Technical.ly’s public Slack this week for a lunchtime AMA. We talked crowdfunding, equity in entrepreneurship, and advice for people with an idea and little to no money.
Bison Venture Partners is a management consultant firm working with underrepresented founders. Johnson is launching it alongside Howard classmates.
“We’ve come together to take insights gained from running nonprofits like First Founders to now create an impact in our HBCU ecosystem,” Johnson said via Slack. “This is a for-profit company working to disrupt the trillion dollar blind spot where investors are missing out by not investing in multicultural and women business owners.”
To start, Bison Venture Partners is gauging investor interest with its own Wefunder campaign to raise $250,000 via Regulation Crowdfunding, or Reg CF. That’s the SEC rule change allows companies to raise up to $5 million from investors on crowdfunding sites where anyone can participate, up from the previous $1.07 million cap. It was established in response to use of platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
In this stage of Bison’s development, no money is changing hands via the Wefunder campaign — it’s simply a measurement of interest in investment, sans commitment.
“We have a goal to source $100 [million] to Black-owned businesses, support 1,000 women-owned businesses, and enable 10,000 new angel investments over the next decade,” Johnson said. “Helping other businesses get set up and running successful Reg CF campaigns is what will help us reach those lofty goals, and we’re just practicing what we preach by running our own campaign as well! The initial interest and support has been amazing.”
One of the things Bison Venture Partners plans to do with the investment funding is acquire a PopShop robotic storefront, which “serves as a physical distribution channel for product-based businesses.”
A post shared by PopCom (@popcomtech)
“The PopShop is a beautiful machine. It was also invented by a Black woman named Dawn Dickson,” Johnson said. “She’s raised [more than $6 million] via equity crowdfunding, and I’m a proud investor in her company. We’ll be operating our machine on Howard University’s campus, and potentially taking [it] ‘on tour’ in a couple of different buildings.”
We asked Johnson, as someone who works with a lot of early-stage startup founders, what advice he would give someone who has a business idea but little to no money to launch it. Here are five things to know:
Entrepreneurs who are interested in learning more about Reg CF can get involved with PhilaDelaware on Wefunder, even if it’s just to see if it’s right for you. Johnson said he personally works with every founder in the ecosystem who comes through the page.
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