Brian Alvarez-Bailey, founder of fintech firm Allison, will represent Tampa Bay in Miami after winning the Black Founders Demo Day regional pitch competition.
Networking platform Plain Sight is hosting the inaugural Black Founders Demo Day in Miami Dec. 1 to increase exposure and mitigate some of the challenges that minority startup founders regularly face. According to its website, the event will feature entrepreneurs hand-selected by tech, venture and entertainment leaders from across the country as they showcase their companies to potential customers and investors.
Tampa’s Embarc Collective, in collaboration with PS27 Ventures and Florida Funders, hosted area startups for the regional competition on July 26. With his winning pitch, Alvarez-Bailey received a guaranteed spot in the Miami competition, a $3,000 travel stipend, the chance to compete for over $1 million in investment opportunities and priceless exposure.
“Whether I won or whether I didn’t – it was a great success because of all the folks that I got to connect with,” said Alvarez-Bailey. “The people that are like, ‘hey, however I can support you, just let me know.’ That stuff is better than money.”
Alvarez-Bailey said he was initially skeptical of the regional competition after participating in the pitch “circuit” with mixed results. He believes founders should focus on building their businesses rather than pitching concepts at various events.
However, after reading the list of fellow founders, judges and supporting companies, he “had a change of heart.”
The event’s hosts and sponsors, said Alvarez-Bailey, made a concerted and sincere effort to highlight Black founders and their companies. He called the regional Demo Day an opportunity for founders to showcase the fruits of their labor and said it exceeded all expectations.
While winning played a part in that sentiment, he said he would have walked away with the same “zeal” regardless. “The feeling in the room was infectious,” he added.
Alvarez-Bailey launched Tampa-based Allison in September 2021 to match fintech companies with “Middle-America community banks.” He said the platform allows small financial institutions to increase potential depository revenue by augmenting and improving existing technology.
He explained that Allison is an add-on service to existing banking infrastructure that allows the utilization of non-traditional merchants in fintech and Web3 to increase financial depository opportunities. According to its website, the platform facilitates those products and services while alleviating the need to write a significant amount of code.
Alvarez-Bailey named his startup after Alice Allison Dunnigan, the first African-American female journalist to receive White House credentials.
He expressed that “on a human level,” it is difficult for anyone to build an innovative product, “to create something today that did not exist yesterday.”
“That being said, being a Black founder offers an additional set of challenges,” said Alvarez-Bailey. “It doesn’t mean that the journey is any easier for non-Black founders – it just means that journey can get more complex when you are a Black founder.”
However, he noted a bright side to that sentiment is that fellow entrepreneurs and founders realize those difficulties and are typically empathetic to those complexities and want to help.
That is why Tuesday night’s event was such a success for Alvarez-Bailey, who is trying to build and strengthen relationships with as many community banks and credit unions as possible. “The connections will be huge,” he said. “We feel that Black Founders Demo Day enabled us to broadcast a wide net to the folks that work for, and with, these types of banks.”
Alvarez-Bailey said he splits time between Florida and Michigan but has called Tampa home and the base of Allison’s operations for the last two years. He called the Tampa Bay community “ridiculously supportive and kind” to him and his team.
He added that support is a testament to the tech and startup ecosystem established before he moved to the region and said he hopes to help its continued cultivation.
Winning in Miami, said Alvarez-Bailey, would provide an even higher level of visibility for Allison due to its notoriety as a leader in the fintech, Web3 and blockchain industries.
“But, just in general, it will be a continued validation that what we’re doing isn’t so crazy, right?” he said. “What I’m doing is sound enough to keep continuing, and I think a win in Miami would be that next notch in our belt.”