Only 11 startups founded by black women have raised over one million dollars from outside investment, but Star Cunningham is on her way to becoming number 12. She’s managed to raise $710,000 for her digital startup, 4D Healthware.
Cunningham launched 4D Healthware to help keep track of patients with chronic conditions virtually, helping them adhere to care plans and make the best lifestyle decisions for their health. They capture the patient’s most relevant health history and upload real time data from activity trackers, wireless scales and wearable biometric sensors, 24 hours a day. The platform uses this data to deliver care plan recommendations for each patient, which you can modify accordingly through the physician dashboard. You have access to a record of adherence and progress as well as exception reports when a patient needs intervention.
Cunningham dealt with chronic illness as a teen and explained that the job of 4D Healthware is “getting data from devices into the platform so consumers don’t have to diary or take notes or keep track.” Once the information is received, it is then analyzed and sent back to the individual so that they can see what they need to do from there.
Cunningham originally started building the platform in 2011 and sought seed funding, which she described as “quite the rollercoaster ride,” to get 4D Healthware off the ground. She was able to raise $67,000 from friends and family. She said building and maintaining those personal relationships were key.
The remainder of the funds she raised through outside investment, which was no small feat. Black women-led startups – despite being the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs in the U.S. – have less access to capital which makes it hard to raise the funds to scale their businesses. According to the #ProjectDiane research study released earlier this year by digitalundivided, only 11 startups founded by black women have raised over $1 million dollars and Cunningham understands the challenge of being in the thick of it. She described fundraising to be challenging in two unique ways: “being females because we are not males” and “being African American because we are not white … It’s not a secret that the majority of individuals that are investing in companies are individuals who are Caucasian males.”
When Esther Dyson, one of Cunningham’s mentors, saw the trouble that she was having raising seed money, Dyson actually flew out to Chicago (where Cunningham lives) to help her achieve her goal. “I decided just don’t stop, don’t quit, keep going and find another way,” she added.
Cunningham had mixed emotions when she talked about becoming the next Black woman in line to raise over $1 million. “Well, I’m excited and saddened at the same time. Excited to join that elite group of individuals who have reached that milestone, but saddened that the numbers are so low that it is actually a milestone to reach,” Cunningham explained.
With an anticipated 2016 revenue of $3 million, Cunningham has large visions for her startup’s future. She encourages other women who are interested in the entrepreneurial world to “do whatever you can do to make it happen.” She added, “Dig deeper into yourself, know who you are as a person then dig deeper into your network.”
Evelyn Fiske is a junior, English major, at Western New England University. She loves tackling each day with a positive attitude and lots of coffee. Evelyn hopes to one day teach English in another country, with her biggest goal being to positively effect everyone she meets.