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Cornerstone 2.0: Changing the game

When we think of game-changers in business, who do we think of? Richard Branson. Bill Gates. Donald Trump? (We hope not the latter!).

When it comes to business, most times in black and brown communities we don’t have our own game-changers. Recent statistics show that only 5% of VC funding goes to teams with women, and under 1% of funding goes to minorities.

Last week, Cornerstone in partnership with Foundervine looked to change all that. Through their inaugural Cornerstone 2.0 Accelerator program their motto was #ChangingTheGame and change the game they certainly did!

On the 3rd December at Level 39, hundreds attended the Cornerstone Demo Day as a finale to a fantastic 9-week accelerator program. Hailed as the first black accelerator program in Europe, the event saw a culmination of 9 weeks of program efforts made by the Foundervine and Cornerstone team in a jaw-dropping pitch event that blew the crowd away.

Flying in the face of industry comparatives, this program saw over 20 black founders pitch their business across a multitude of industries. With such a diverse range of founders and ideas, we heard from an amazing set of businesses including those in industries such as Virtual Reality, Hair & Beauty, children’s puzzles and even honey?!

Over the 9 weeks, our cohort members were taken through a rigorous set of classes headed up by world-class speakers and mentors. The cohort had the pleasure of hearing from successful and exited entrepreneurs such as Tom Adeyoola (Metail), Daniel Land (Coco di mama), Antony Pink (Laundrapp), Rachel Corson (Afrocenchix), Mark Maciver (SliderCuts).

As well as industry experts such as Troy Norcross (Oracle), Dan Walters (KPMG), Nik Kassis (Ernest Hathaway Associates), Dan Morris (Audience2Media), Alex Alleyne (Twilio), Flavilla Fongang (3 Colors Rule),

And Investors such as Rodney Appiah (Cornerstone Partners), Andy Davis (Backstage Capital), Ezechi Britton (Impact X Capital)

Rodney Appiah, Partner of Cornerstone said “There are so many accelerators out there already doing great work but we wanted to break the model by focusing on what prevents businesses from scaling.  Foundervine were a pleasure to work with. Their insight into the startup landscape and established network of mentors and experts really enhanced the programme.”

Caroline Komuhangi, Program Manager of Foundervine said "What made the programme unique was the first-hand insight from successful black entrepreneurs that we were able to offer the cohort.  Lack of representation through role models is a big problem in the black entrepreneurial community and getting to see this representation whilst also getting applicable business advice was key to our offering."

At Foundervine, we were welcome to see the blossoming of Founders to CEO’s under the Cornerstone programme and witness businesses who impressed the entire Foundervine and Cornerstone Team.

Our winner of the evening, Jess and the Beanstalk, epitomised this perfectly. She grew from a shaky start to delivering one of the best presentations of the evening on demo-day. Jess said “Being part of the Cornerstone 2.0 cohort has transformed my business with potential into an attractive investment proposition which is exactly what I needed. The programme challenged and encouraged me and helped me refine my offering. I am excited about the future of Jess and the beanstalk and am proud to say that Cornerstone played a huge role in our success.”

The entire Foundervine Team was honoured to have been a part of such a program, and we look forward to seeing our Cohort alumni continue to grow as we support them on their business journey! We hope to continue #ChangingTheGame in this and through all the work we do.

Congratulations Cornerstone 2.0, we may just have the next black Bill Gates in the making...

Meet the inaugural cohort of the Cornerstone 2.0 Scale Up programme 

UV Talent: A premier talent and casting agency based in London, UK.UV Talent began as the booking agents for University Gospel Choir of the Year (UGCY) choirs, and for the best part of a decade, they have been the go-to agency for professional choirs, musicians and vocalists for TV, radio, stage and studio performers from all genres. Clients include Britain's Got Talent, The Voice, X-Factor, Mariah Carey and more. 

Word on the Curb: An insight and content agency which gives brands and organisations a place at the heart of youth culture. 

London Virgin Hair: An online health and beauty business focused on improving the customer journey, specifically for women of colour, using emerging technology and industry best practice.

Very Puzzled: Puzzle maker whose mission is to provide children and young adults with a platform that allows them to explore and learn about the richness of the African continent.

The Renatural: A business re-envisioning the complacent wig industry by inventing and introducing new products to the market focusing on design, functionality and the customer experience.

The Afro Beauty Company: A retailer that aims to reshape the perceptions, lack of knowledge and poor experiences currently available to men, women and children with curly and textured hair types. They work with high-quality brands who care about the ingredients they use to facilitate healthy hair.  Their aim is to advise and teach their customers the best way to care for their hair whilst providing them with the best products to do so.

DTB Carbyne: A mobile-first digital product agency focused on making products to serve the sub-Saharan African market. Their chief goal is to prop up the tech talent pipeline, the tech ecosystem and ultimately the socio-economic landscape in those regions by creating jobs, training engineers/designers and creating impactful products for the benefit of their clients' end-users.

Gusoma Technology Company: A “Product Development as a Service” platform for the product team. It helps companies serving large volumes of end-users in Africa, to reduce the cost, risk and time needed to adapt or create customer-centred solutions that fit the end-user abilities.

The Equal Group: An innovative organisation focused on using the power of data to help organisations maximise the impact of equality, diversity and inclusion within their businesses. They focus on ensuring that all activities and initiatives are data-driven and focused on ensuring a return on investment. The Equal Group aims to improve EDI visibility and embed EDI analytics into the fabric of organisations.

Eloise beauty: A startup whose mission is to produce forward-thinking, state of the art beauty products that are 100% cruelty-free, inclusive, exceptional quality, innovative and UNIQUE, that defines beauty in every single way.

Entitled Online An emerging London-based workwear label #forthewomentakingover. It houses a range of corporate and classy wardrobe staples to suit every working day and that takes you beyond the 9 to 5.

Crown Rose: One of the leading swimwear & loungewear brands in the UK. They specialise in providing traditional African prints on swimproof fabric to produce alluring and eye-catching swimwear pieces that are instantly recognisable.

Immerse Nation: A virtual reality entertainment and education company creating large scale venues housing premium VR and social experiences. Immerse Nation is helping retail landlords and entertainment operators increase their footfall, dwell time and ancillary revenues during challenging retail conditions.

Jess and the beanstalk:  A local family-focused coffee shop with a children’s play corner to help customers enjoy great food and drink while the little ones play. They serve sandwiches, breakfasts, hot foods, cakes, salads, smoothies, milkshakes, gluten-free and vegan options, as well as a selection of dairy-free alternatives. They also have a kids menu complete with baby weaning options and encourage breastfeeding.

RAC Management ConsultancyA firm of highly experienced Certified Chartered Accountants and Business Coach/Consultants that helps business owners and key decision-makers to make more profits in their companies. They also provide training and ongoing coaching for businesses to grow and optimise their income and understand the numbers behind their business via a 3-day masterclass and 1-year mastermind group.

Evritfilms: A progressive film distribution company in the UK which specialises in the distribution of movies to all major cinema chains within the UK and Europe. The company was originally established in 2008, named Evritfilms Production, with the aim to distribute and premiere films in UK cinemas that would not normally make it to the big screen. They distribute, assist, advise and support titles with the aim to help them to reach the market that they deserve.

Cassava Republic: A publisher specialising in books by writers of African descent. They are focused on publishing stories that centre the Black/African experience unmediated by White/European expectations and notions of what Black/African story should look like. By existing, they are making sure that Black/African authors have a home for their stories and for readers, to have a plurality of stories to consume.

Dove Dental Spa: A private Dental & Aesthetic Practice that focuses on the dental health and overall wellbeing of their patients. They place a great emphasis on having a positive patient journey and experience like no other healthcare facility.

Positive Deviant: An organisational development consultancy that partners with its clients to achieve measurable improvements in business performance. They specialize in building capacity of organisations by giving them tools that ensure strategy gets implemented and great ideas happen.

The Local Honey Man: A one-stop shop for all things honey.  As champions of the bee saving community and London's largest bee farmer, their aim is to shine a bright and delicious light on the natural health benefits of raw local honey. They offer a wide range of different products including over 8 variations of raw honey jar products, honeycomb frames, candles and beeswax. They also run Beekeeping courses, taster sessions and breed and sell the bees to start up beekeepers as well as commercial setups trying to expand.

For more information on Cornerstone Partners Scale-Up check out their website


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