Google’s Black Founders Fund Awards Three Austin Startups $200,000 in Cash

Don Ward, CEO and Founder of Laundris Corp. Photographed by Sara Jordan Photography

Three Austin-based startups received a total of $200,000 in cash awards from Google for Startups’s Black Founders Fund.

The Austin startups are Laundris Corp., Tankee and Varuna Tech.

Google announced Tuesday that 76 startups led by black founders received a total of $5 million nationwide.

In addition to the money, the startup founders also receive technical resources, mentorship and more through Google for Startups programming. Google first announced the Black Founders Fund in June as part of its company-wide racial equality commitments.

“We are committed to helping Black founders who have been deeply impacted by COVID-19 and who are disproportionately locked out of access to the funding they need to succeed,” Jewel Burks Solomon, Head of Google for Startups US, said in a news statement. “By combining cash awards with Google for Startups mentorship and programming, we hope to help create a more level playing field for these founders, who are building amazing companies and making an impact on their communities.”

Laundris Corporation, a digital linen inventory and assert platform for hotels, hospitals and other businesses. Don Ward founded the company in 2017 and serves as its CEO. He was named one of 30 U.S. black founders to watch in 2021 by Google. The company operates a smart factory in Manor and has patents pending on its technology.

“The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund will have a considerable impact on the growth of Laundris Corporation” Ward said in a statement. “This capital and support comes at a critical time and will be used to add resources (technical, sales, and operations) that will enable our team to scale in Austin and beyond.”

Gerald Youngblood, Founder, and CEO of Tankee, courtesy photo

Tankee is a media company founded by Gerald Youngblood. He created an on-demand mobile entertainment platform for gaming content for kids and their parents. The company, founded in 2017, is a member of Capital Factory, a Google for Startups partner.

“Tankee will build on the 700 percent growth experienced since the COVID-19 lockdown with support from the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund,” Youngblood, Founder of Tankee, said in a news release. “This capital and support comes at a time when many parents need safe, high-quality, family-friendly entertainment and will be used to launch our redesigned Tankee.com website, extend distribution on mobile and Connected TV platforms, and increase our portfolio of Tankee Original shows.”

Varuna Tech Inc, is a software platform that helps cities measure and analyze water quality that Seyi Fabode after his son faced health issues from drinking contaminated tap water. The company has contracts in New Jersey and Louisiana. It is also a member of Capital Factory.

“The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund is coming at a critical and important time for Varuna,” said Fabode, cofounder, CEO, said in a statement. “We have a few critical deployments of our water quality monitoring, insights, and analytics platform. The funding will enable us to add the required resources, especially as water quality issues are gaining more importance across the U.S.”

In addition to the three companies from Austin, Google also awarded four companies in the Dallas area a total of $300,000.

Correction: Headline updated with the correct award amount of $200,000