By Riley Kaminer and Nancy Dahlberg
Miami-based Bootup created a marketplace for tech talent. The startup’s main customers are large enterprises that want to build out more robust tech talent pipelines. Users can come onto the platform even with no experience and determine which tech roles are best for them. Bootup also works closely with tech bootcamps to help place their students.
Bootup has raised a $2.1 million seed round to develop its tech job marketplace. The round was led by Oakland-based Kapor Capital, with participation from other investors including Lightship Capital, founded by Candice and and Brian Brackeen. This marks the first Miami investment for Lightship Capital.
Chandler Malone, Bootup’s founder and CEO [pictured above], told Refresh Miami that their seed round was entirely raised from Black-led funds and angel investors.
“Since the Civil Rights Movement, Black folks have gotten more educated and begun to earn more income, but the wealth gap has actually increased,” he explained. “It’s a win-win for us to return capital to investors who are trying to solve some of the largest structural problems in the country and the world.”
Malone also said that he was pleased to find investors who understand him on a more fundamental level. “That makes it easier to just focus on the journey ahead and not just on managing relationships,” he commented.
For Malone, raising from Black investors was important because it makes a strong statement. “It shows anyone that you have what you need to be sufficient and do what you need to do. You don’t really have to go outside of yourself.”
Raising these funds was “really seamless,” said Malone. “We didn’t even talk to 20 funds to raise the money because we had the numbers to back it up.” After launching the initial product last July, Bootup doubled its revenue from July to August, and then doubled it again from August to September. In September, they had a contract coming in that would double revenue once again.
“At that point, I determined that we should take advantage of the sustained growth and start talking to folks about fundraising,” said Malone.
Bootup plans to use these funds to hire engineers who can help further develop the platform and enable the launch of new features. Malone also signaled his interest in expanding into the Latin American market. “We’ve found a lot of attractive talent there, and a lot of funding is going towards Latin American startups,” he explained, noting that some of Bootup’s key partners, including Ironhack and Holberton School, already have a presence in the region.
Fundraising came naturally to Malone, who previously worked as a VC investor. “Having seen so many pitch meetings, I was able to be confident when I pitched. I knew exactly what we could ask for when we hit certain metrics.” He also said that having a network of VC contacts was helpful when it came time for outreach.
“To date, one out of every nine of our applicants gets hired, whereas in the tech industry in general, one out of over 120 candidates gets hired,” Malone asserted. The platform is free for talent. Companies and bootcamps pay a 10% commission to use the platform.
Last December, Malone moved to Miami, where the team’s executives will be based. Previously, he spent two years in Tulsa, where the startup’s customer service team will remain.
Malone’s advice for young founders hoping to follow in his footsteps? First: focus on doing the work and getting the result, rather than amassing a large online presence. Second: have a bias for action. “Keep your feet moving forward,” he said, noting that early problems with their product’s algorithm didn’t stop him from setting up a Wix landing page and Airtable backend, which was all the company needed to land their first enterprise client.
Commenting on Bootup, Miami founder-turned-funder Brian Brackeen said, “Being an investor is way easier than being an entrepreneur, and it’s because the entrepreneurs do all the hard work. Chandler’s had crazy numbers of people impacted with millions of dollars in salaries paid.”
Brackeen also said the need for Bootup’s marketplace is huge. “As a proud college dropout, I definitely see that there’s going to be a larger and larger need for alternative workforce development. Boot camps are going to play a big role in helping us get to where we need to be in the US and internationally.” Indeed, in a recent Twitter thread, Malone wrote that the tech industry is experiencing a 3 million+ person talent gap that’s projected to grow to over 85 million by 2030, just as income inequality continues to rise. The accessibility of boot camps, online certifications and other alternative talent development programs helps to close both the talent and opportunity gaps, Malone said.
So far, Lightship Capital, which invests in underrepresented founders in regions of the country VCs have typically ignored, has deployed a little over $8 million of its $50 million fund, into 14 investments, and expects to invest in 35 companies with the first fund. Other recent investments by Lightship include: Femi Secrets, led by a Black woman founder and generating millions in revenue; Healthy Roots, which makes Black dolls sold in Target and Walmart; and Kare, a mobile dentistry that is coming to Miami this year. “One challenge we are having across all of our Black-led businesses is it’s been difficult to get lines of credit,” said Brackeen, a #MiamiTech OG and booster known for his “Miami Tours.”
He sees a trend emerging among Black founders seeking out Black investors as Chandler did. “We all have read a lot about the issues of venture capital over the years, and I think founders that are doing well don’t want to subject themselves to some of those stories,” Brackeen said. “They’re also looking to give back — they want to make sure that as they succeed they are helping black fund managers and black investors as well.”
Brackeen says a larger Lightship Capital Fund 2 is in the plans. Stay tuned.
READ MORE ON REFRESH MIAMI:
- Miami-born cybersecurity startup ByteChek lands $3M seed round
- How to give a ‘Miami Tour’: Brian Brackeen spills his secrets of success
- Opción YO creates mental health counseling platform tailored to the Hispanic market
- Education saved these Cuban founders’ lives. Now they’re building an EdTech startup to give back
- Boca-born Reachlink makes behavioral health services available to all
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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