Competition celebrates Black-led businesses and talent where everyone leaves feeling like a winner

Social Innovation

Temi Okesanya, founder of Road Aider receives first place prize at the Black Founders in Tech Pitch Competition

What do you get when you add partners working to nurture a robust ecosystem and fantastic entrepreneurs and talent into a new space dedicated to social innovation? Our Black Founders in Tech Pitch Competition on November 9 was an unforgettable evening, filled with energy, meaningful networking and a bright future for our tech industry here in Calgary.

“Building a strong network is essential for any business owner, inventor, or entrepreneur,” says Jerome Morgan, Senior Innovation Manager, Innovate Calgary. “Celebrating this community, and highlighting Black-owned businesses for investors in such a deliberate way is exciting.  Founders from diverse backgrounds have diverse perspectives and expertise that they bring to the table when they start businesses, and we think that investors should be paying attention to the value this adds to the business community.”

From the left: Sahr Saffa (judge), Temi Okesanya (first place pitcher), Jerome Morgan (Innovate Calgary’s Innovation Manager)

Temi Okesanya, founder of Road Aider named the champion

The night featured seven leading Black entrepreneurs from across Alberta out of the over 22 applicants received vying for cash prizes and free business support. The finalists pitched to a sold-out crowd of investors, tech founders and other ecosystem players cheering them on, while supporting local Black vendors with catering, AV support, photography, videography and much more.

In the end, Temi Okesanya, founder of Road Aider was named the first place and People’s Choice winner for his venture Road Aider, a digital platform that connects customers needing roadside assistance to the nearest available service provider. Temi received a $3000 cash prize, a 6 month Social Innovation hub membership and several in kind supports from event partners Innovate Calgary, Platform Calgary and Goodlawyer.

“Road Aider is more than just an auto tech company; we are a community-oriented platform dedicated to growing and developing small auto service businesses by giving them visibility, thereby increasing their revenue and market channels “ says Temi Okesanya.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have won both the First-Place Award and the People’s Choice Award last night at the Innovate Calgary Black Founders in Tech Pitch Competition. Personally, it is ecstatic to witness the growing niche of Black tech founders in Alberta, and I am glad to be part of this. I am grateful to all the companies supporting and sponsoring this movement. You are laying the foundation for a more inclusive tech community in Alberta” says Okesanya.

Congratulations to the other winners of the night

  • Second Place went to Kevin Mpunga, founder of Elev, which aims to make renting easy for students. Elev helps students find a home and build their credit scores just by paying rent on time.
  • Third Place went to Sean Hervo from PrePad which reduces well pad planning from months to minutes with the industry’s only drilling and completions simulator. When shale oil and gas operators drill and complete a new well pad, they want to maximize profitability sustainably and efficiently. They normally use in-house solutions, but unique excel spreadsheets and custom models take significant time and resources. PrePad helps oil and gas operators replicate in minutes what would typically take multiple employees several weeks or months.

All of the finalists received cash prizes, access to advising, additional business supports/programming and made connections they can call on as their businesses continue to grow and have an impact in Alberta and beyond. Other finalists include:

Finalist from left: Jefferson Roc, Margaret Adekunle, Ange Paye, Sean Hervo, Temi Okesanya, Lulu Mashonganyika, Kevin Mpunga

Competition aims to support BIPOC communities through collaboration

Innovate Calgary has a mandate to support the innovation ecosystem and all the actors in it. Our Inclusive innovation portfolio (BIPOC and Rural communities) supports entrepreneurs by helping them gain access to venture investment, programming, expert advice, business coaching, strategic referrals, network building and access into the larger Alberta Tech ecosystem.  The Black Founders in Tech Pitch Competition was the first of the BIPOC Founders event series. This series supports our mandate by working with partners in the tech ecosystem to widen access to innovation sector for BIPOC and rural founders so that they can continue to foster social impact, create jobs and fuel the economy.

“Supporting Black and underrepresented founders is imperative to Calgary’s growing tech sector. Cities with thriving tech communities welcome many perspectives and experiences which leads to more innovation and creativity across sectors,” says Terry Rock, President and CEO at Platform Calgary. “Collaborating to build a truly diverse and equitable space starts with identifying and dismantling barriers. Initiatives like this are part of our collective work to ensure every founder, including Black, underrepresented and rural entrepreneurs, have access to resources, programs, and mentorship they need to succeed at every stage of their startup journey.”

Thank you to the organizations that partnered with us on the Black Founders in Tech Pitch Competition: Black Business Ventures, Platform Calgary, BIPOC Foundation, Catapult Business Startup Solutions, Black Canadian Women in Action, Groupe 3737, Africa Centre, Calgary Innovation Coalition, Calgary Black Chamber, Mind Fuel, Alberta Black Stakeholders for Social Economy Collaborative, Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre.

If you are looking to partner with us on other initiatives in the BIPOC Founders event series, connect with Jerome Morgan, Senior Innovation Manager, Social Innovation.

Connect with Jerome Morgan

About the author

Chantal Palmer (as seen to the left) is the Marketing and Communications Lead at Innovate Calgary. In her spare time, she works on several initiatives aimed at supporting newcomers and BIPOC folks including, but not limited to: Research with the Werklund School of Education focused on supporting newcomer high school students in Brooks, Alberta; and supporting Calgary Arts Development as a member of the Cultural Instigators to envision and create an anti-racist Mohkinstsis.