Afrotech Future List Honors Two Dallas Entrepreneurs as National ‘Founders of the Year’

The list honors the achievements and performances of people of color in technology and innovation and recognizes individuals or groups that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through their career endeavors.

Two Dallas entrepreneurs have been recognized by Afrotech’s Future List as founders of the year.

Dennis Cail is co-founder and CEO of the fintech startup Zirtue and Mandy Price is co-founder and CEO of the diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging startup Kanarys.

The list honors the achievements and performances of people of color in technology and innovation, and also recognizes individuals or groups that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through their career endeavors.

Helping companies overcome DEIB challenges

Kanarys is a technology company that provides tools that organizations need to create long-term systemic change around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) challenges.

It works alongside mid-size enterprises and Fortune 500 companies by transforming DEIB work with data by providing the framework, benchmarking, and solutions companies need to incorporate best-in-class DEIB into every area of the organization.

Price was named an Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 Southwest Award finalist by Ernst & Young.

Despite Black women receiving .06% of venture capital funding, Price has been able to raise more than $10.5 million in venture capital funding to help companies advance and measure DEIB within their organization.

With Kanarys’ closing of a Series A round in February, Price joined fewer than 20 Black female founders who have raised more than $10 million. Kanarys is now the first Black and female-founded company based in Texas that has raised $10 million.

In four years, Kanarys has grown to a category industry leader in DEI that serves major customers such as Yum! Brands, Silicon Labs, the Chuck E. Cheese Corp., 7-Eleven, Neiman Marcus, and several Fortune 500 companies. It has established strategic partnerships with leading national advocacy groups such as Prospanica and the National Urban League.

Kanarys was selected for the HubSpot for Startups and Linkedin’s short film documentary series called “Spiraling Up: The Journey to Become a Unicorn.” The three-season series of short films follows and recounts the stories of startup founders at every stage of funding.

Simplifying loans in trusted relationships

Founded by Cail, Zirtue is the world’s first relationship-based, peer-to-peer lending app with direct payment to creditors.

Zirtue said it has a mission to drive financial inclusion one relationship at a time.

Zirtue simplifies loans between friends, family, and trusted relationships by turning informal promises into structured agreements with an automated repayment process.

Corporate partners use Zirtue as an alternative embedded bill payment solution that allows customers to request loans from friends or family members in order to pay their bills.

The startup has raised $6.6 million in venture capital funding since its launch in March 2018 from notable investors such as Capital Factory, Google for Startups, Morgan Stanley, Northwestern Mutual, and Rise of the Rest.

More than $50 million in loans for bills and personalized IOUs have been processed on the platform, Zirtue said.

Zirtue reported 400% growth in the last fiscal year, and in March, Zirtue expanded its product to include Repayment Request, a feature that allows lenders and borrowers to move pre-existing nondigital loans to Zirtue.

Last year, Zirtue rolled out its innovative payday lender geofencing feature that the company said is putting an end to predatory lending. When a potential customer is near a payday lender, this new feature will alert them of an alternative loan option with Zirtue.

Zirtue has participated in several accelerator programs including Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab and was accepted into Google for Startups Black Founders 2021 Class and the Techstars and Western Union’s 2021 Accelerator Class.

Cail was named a 2021 EY Entrepreneur of the Year honoree for the Southwest region and featured as a Forbes Next 1000 2021 winner.

In 2022, Zirtue won Money 20/20’s America’s Got Access pitch competition.

Zirtue also was named in Business Insider’s list of the most promising FinTechs changing the world of banking, trading, and investing.

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