Author: Jacinta Howard

(Watch sessions and talks from KINETIC-CON below.)

On April 10, KINETIC hosted its first annual conference, KINETIC-CON, drawing over 2,000 registrants and participants, from both across the United States and around the world.

Themed “Funding Matters,” the virtual conference aimed to facilitate educational discussions about funding to help entrepreneurs (particularly entrepreneurs of color) and how these founders could work with funders to create a better and more efficient entrepreneurial ecosystem. The free conference featured an all-star speaker lineup, including:

  • Kobie Fuller, general partner at Upfront Ventures
  • Philip Gaskin, vice president of entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
  • Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures
  • Brad Feld, co-founder of Foundry Group and TechStars, and
  • Bill Aulet, managing director at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

Sponsors included Microsoft, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Experian, Valence, the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund.

The impact of the conference exceeded my expectations and really jumpstarted the community needed to make KINETIC successful. The entrepreneurs are excited to use the platform to find funding, and funders—both grantors and investors—are eager to deploy capital via the platform, commented Kevin D. Johnson, founder of KINETIC and a graduating executive MBA at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Johnson is a serial tech entrepreneur and investor.

Johnson and his team launched KINETIC in 2021 with a mission to help entrepreneurs find, receive, and learn about funding. He says generally that “the biggest problem facing entrepreneurs is funding,” a claim supported by research published in May 2020 by the Kauffman Foundation, which found that for aspiring entrepreneurs “92% reported that [securing] funds to start the business was challenging and close to the same share, 86%, reported that funds to grow the business was challenging.” The problem is even more severe for entrepreneurs of color, which is why KINETIC-CON was timely and important.

Gregory D. Bunch, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, remarked that it was “one of the best” conferences on entrepreneurship that he had ever attended, while James Makawa, CEO of ROAR! Africa On Demand, said that KINETIC-CON “couldn’t have happened sooner.”

“The speakers were great,” stated Seth Levine, co-founder at Foundry Group and author of The New Builders. “The format was interesting. The platform worked really well. It was easily the best and most interesting virtual event that I’ve attended.”

Content from the conference is available at the KINETIC website:

Further showcasing KINETIC-CON’s impact, on April 14, the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship acknowledged KINETIC’s founder, Johnson, with the prestigious McGovern Award. The award and grant are given annually to an individual or team that, in working closely with the Trust Center, has made a significant impact on the quality and overall spirit of entrepreneurship at the Institute. Johnson invested the grant award in promising businesses founded by people of color and affiliated with KINETIC.

Moving forward, KINETIC will continue to provide top-notch programming for its community and launch the first version of its platform that matches entrepreneurs with funders in August of this year. In just one month, the KINETIC community has grown quickly to just over 16,000 entrepreneurs and funders.

“The tremendous success of KINETIC-CON and the rapid increase in the number of people on our email list are strong validation that my team and I are on the right path to solving a major problem and thus providing the KINETIC energy, as it were, that startups need to thrive. We are elated and eager to move to the next phase of KINETIC’s evolution,” stated Johnson. “All systems go!”

Progress Made in Deployment of Funds:
What the Research Tells Us

The Marion Kauffman Foundation explains funding trends and what the future holds.

  • Philip Gaskin – Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
  • Kevin D. Johnson – Founder, KINETIC (moderator)

How I Funded My Company:
From Bootstrapping to Pursuing Venture Capital

There are over 120 ways to fund a company, but we often focus on a few. Listen to entrepreneurs who have explored many different funding options and learn from their journey.

  • Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene – Founder and CEO, PopCom
  • Colin Webb and Nenye Anagbogu – Co-Founders of Sauce
  • Reginald Swift, Ph.D – Founder and CEO, Rubix Life Sciences
  • Xiomara Rosa-Tedla – Co-Founder and Owner, UnoEth
  • Jared Ray Johnson – Co-Founder, Season Three (moderator)

Where to Find Funding for Your Startup: Creative Options

Learn from experts who have the capital or platforms that can fund your company. They share creative options to help your company grow.

  • Regan Yeldell – The Comcast RISE Investment Fund
  • Vanessa Kuhlor – Senior Associate, Startup Banking at Silicon Valley Bank
  • Cheryl Campos – Head of Venture Growth and Partnerships, Republic
  • Abir Liben – Senior Associate, Serena Ventures
  • Bryndan Moore –Director of Member Engagement, Valence (moderator)

Economic Progress Through Entrepreneurship
and the Importance of Funding

Hear from two pioneers in the venture capital industry who are funding and supporting entrepreneurs of color to achieve economic progress.

  • Kobie Fuller – General Partner, Upfront Ventures; Co-Founder, Valence
  • James Andrews – Founder, Authenticated Ventures
  • Antonio Barnes – CEO of Fridgio (moderator)

Allies and Advocates Who Get It:
A Candid Ask Me Anything Session

When we work together, we accomplish so much more. Hear from those who acknowledge the funding gap and are helping to close it.

  • Leura Craig – General Partner at Outlander Labs
  • Joe Beverly – CEO of Cranium Incubator; former president of Atlanta Technology Angels
  • Bill Aulet – Managing Director, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship; Professor of the Practice, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Alice Loy – Founder, Creative Startups; Investor, DaVinci Ventures
  • Melissa Chapman – Senior Program Officer, Kauffman Foundation
  • Deirdra Glover – Chief Experience Officer at Conserte (moderator)

Generational Wealth through Entrepreneurship, Investing, and Financial Literacy

Learn new ways to enhance your professional development and grow your business to create generational wealth.

  • Jessica Myers – JAG Holdings Group, LLC
  • Ryan Wilson – CEO and Co-Founder, The Gathering Spot
  • Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson – Founder & CEO, VC Include
  • Brian Hollins – Founder & CEO, Takeoff Institute; Board Member, BLCKVC
  • Perry Flemming, Jr. – Director of Data, Analytics, and Fintech, Experian
  • Dominique Broadwell – Founder, Finances Demystified (moderator)

Where Do We Go From Here?
How to Ensure that Capitalism Works for Everyone

Two seasoned venture capitalists discuss what we need to do to ensure that capitalism works for everyone now and forever.

  • Melissa Bradley – Founder, 1863 Ventures and Co-Founder, Ureeka
  • Seth Levine – Co-Founder and Partner, Foundry Group
  • Nicholas Harris – Strategy, KINETIC (moderator)