An Atlanta-based tech startup recently received $100,000 plus access to training and resources through a national program designed to assist Black entrepreneurs.
Pruuvn (pronounced “proven”), a credentialing and data trust company co-founded by Bryan Hobbs and Marcus Shute, is one of five startups to be accepted into the Black Founder Accelerator program, an initiative of Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual and gener8tor.
The company leverages blockchain technology to provide a one-click platform to verify information during the hiring and onboarding process, specifically for independent contractors and those working in the gig economy, Hobbs said. Such workers today, for example, often have to track down such things as college transcripts, skills credentialing and previous job verification.
Pruuvn serves as a data trust to store users’ personal information such as Social Security, IP addresses, licensure, and other data they may need to get a job, a bank loan or acceptance into a school.
“Before, for every single job, opportunity, financial product service, or whatever it is that they want to obtain or want, they’d have to go into individual systems and obtain that same information over and over,” said Hobbs, whose full-time job is project manager at MARTA. “Our system eliminates that process.”
“We’re just a trustee. We are the ones verifying everything. And we’re holding it for them,” he said.
Hobbs, a civil engineer, came up with for Pruuvn in 2017 while trying to help his wife, a teacher, get a job in a new school district. Educators have to verify their previous work history every time they apply for a new job, he said. One year, she missed out on $6,000 because one system did not send the necessary information back.
“That didn’t make any sense to me considering technology is so advanced,” he said. “Why are you verifying information that’s been verified before by another organization?”
Hobbs said being accepted into the Black Founder Accelerator program is a “tremendous help” as the company tries to grow.
Black founders receive less than 1% of venture capital, according to Accenture, a global professional services company. The Black Founder Accelerator program provides those selected with a $100,000 investment, a 12-week business training program, access to venture capital partners and Northwestern Mutual mentors. The initiative is designed to help address the racial wealth gap in venture capital.
“It’s been difficult to raise money, particularly in the region. We’ve had more success just trying to go nationwide,” Hobbs said. “Without capital, it is difficult to grow and you lose a lot of ideas that way.”
“Seeing some of your peers who get funding who don’t look like you, who are not as far as long as you — you see that a lot. I think there is still a big need for there to be more focus on putting capital into Black founders or minority founders in general.”