Meet the Black Angeleno Entrepreneurs Featured in Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z's New Video

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Meet the Black Angeleno Entrepreneurs Featured in Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z's New Video

"I am Black ambition, I am always whisperin'," begins the new Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z collaboration, "Entrepreneur."

The song, released on Thursday to coincide with a Time magazine cover package on "The New American Revolution," is a tribute to the Black entrepreneurs across the world who push on in the face of systematic disadvantages.

Williams and Jay-Z, both entrepreneurs and investors themselves, use the video to highlight Black founders and their hustle from Adé Neff, owner of Ride On in Leimert Park, to Denise Woodward, the founder of Partake Food, which Jay-Z's Marcy Venture Partners help lead a $1 million investment.


"They keep telling me I will not," the lyrics continue. "But my will won't listen."

Directed by L.A.-based Calmatic, who produced Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" video as well as commercials for companies like Uber and Sprite, the video spotlights several Los Angeles startups, founders and entrepreneurs that have created opportunities and upended typical media narratives of Black men and women.

There's actress Issa Rae, who filmed her first web series on the streets of L.A. and is "literally building her empire on those same blocks."

There's Debbie Allen, the founder of Tribe Midwifery that provides home births for Black women, who are more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. There's the Compton Cowboys, whose South L.A. group mentors youth and rescues horses. There's Six Sev, a Los Angeles artist, designer and entrepreneur. And there's also a tribute to slain rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle, who spent his investment dollars in South Los Angeles.

Then there's Sole Folks, the South L.A. retail incubator for young designers, part of accelerator Grid110's South L.A. 2020 cohort. The outfit offers a program for young designers and artists in nearby communities and operates under the nonprofit Back Owned and Operated Community Land Trust. It runs a 12-week program for millennial entrepreneurs to source, brand and launch their own designs at pop-up shows.

The music video comes amid a push to create more capital for Black-owned businesses in the wake of the George Floyd protests that forced a conversation on longstanding inequities.

Black Americans make up nearly 13% of the U.S. population, but account for only 3% of its wealth. There are only three Black CEOs in the Fortune 500, and just 1% of venture-funded startup founders are Black.

The song and its chorus, "Black Man, Black Man," is a call for more ownership and in turn more wealth creation.

The over five-minute video gives a panorama view of Black entrepreneurs around the world and those who excel in their field with captioned clips of their stories: Princeton's first Black valedictorian, creators of the first Black anime studio in Japan, a woman who started her own line of household cleaning products and a Broadway star who bought the plantation where his ancestors were once enslaved.

Adé Neff, whose bike shop Ride On opened in 2017, walked by the "Entrepreneur" filming crew two weeks ago, right after they finished shooting the clip of Sole Folks next door.

"How come I'm not in the video?," he said to the crew.

That's all it took.

Adé E. Neff, founder of Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op in Leimert Park.

"Well you're right, let's do it," they told him. "It was right on time," Neff reflected, "because they hadn't put away their equipment."

Neff didn't know whose project it was, or even when the video would be released. He asked anyway. "A closed mouth doesn't get fed," he quipped. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.

On Thursday, a friend sent Neff the clip. In the video, he raises his right fist above his head just like the store's logo behind him. "I was just being me," he told dot.LA. The gesture is a nod to the Black Power movement.

Adé E. Neff, founder of Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op in Leimert Park.

His friends are still texting him about it. In Leimert Park, people who know Neff's shop stop him on the street saying "I saw you in the video."

"It looks like it's getting a lot of talk behind it. It's doing its thing," Neff said. "It's letting people know that we're out here, we're doing stuff. We don't have to wait for anyone to come to us. We're out here doing it."

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🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

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Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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  • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110

Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab

Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo


Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


KidsX

The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health


Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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