The founder of a Minnesota startup has been named as COCO’s second annual Entrepreneur-In-Residence, an award that promises to bring his business both attention and an influx of capital.
Damola Ogundipe, the 28-year-old founder and CEO of Civic Eagle, was selected for the honor. He will receive a stipend of $40,000, membership to COCO, and the opportunity to attend a retreat at the Googleplex in Silicon Valley for training and networking.
“The capital infusion is nice and I look forward to tapping into the Google network of mentors and advisors,” Ogundipe says.
His company Civic Eagle won the social division of the MN Cup in 2015. The startup now employs seven and plans to add four more employees by the end of the year.
Ogundipe describes Civic Eagle as a platform that helps voters learn about candidates and also creates software for elected officials and governmental agencies to manage their constituent relationships.
“A lot of enterprise companies have consumer relationship products that enhance engagement with their customers. We do the same thing on the government side. We’ve developed tools that help government agencies send out information to constituents. That’s valuable because they all need continuous feedback,” he says.
Ogundipe sees potential in the government sector—a large niche market that will never go out of business.
“It’s a $50 billion dollar market that is hugely underserved. Civic and government technology can be incubated and thrive. I’d like to see more net worth individuals step up and look at this,” he says.
COCO, the Twin Cities co-working space that caters to small business, entrepreneurs and startups, offers fellowships for entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities. It awards one Entrepreneur-in-Residence position as part of the company’s partnership with Code 2040, a nonprofit that creates programs to increase the representation of African-Americans and Latinos in the innovation economy.
According to Code 2040, blacks and Latinos earn nearly 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees issued in the US but make up only around 5% of the technical workforce at top tech companies. The nonprofit’s research finds that only 1% of venture backed tech companies have a black founder.
Ogundipe hopes his success as a founder will inspire others. The Carlson School grad is active in several Twin Cities grassroots organizations that promote people of color who are working in tech careers and with startups.
”Traditionally white entrepreneurs can get funded based on their potential; entrepreneurs of color are funded based on proof,” he says.