Equity Angels names first 4 startups for its advisory services

Equity Angels was launched in early 2024 by 2018 Inman Person of the Year Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, chief growth officer at NEO, and Katherine Winston, founding member and head of marketing at Plunk.

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Technology startup accelerator Equity Angels has selected its first cohort of companies for its strategic advisory services, according to a May 28 press release sent exclusively to Inman.

In early 2024, Equity Angels was launched by 2018 Inman Person of the Year Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, chief growth officer at NEO, and Katherine Winston, founding member and head of marketing at Plunk.

The two teamed up to build a program that provides professional mentorship, fractional executives and fundraising preparation for companies started by entrepreneurs from diverse demographics. Both women serve as managing partners of Equity Angels.

Four companies make up the cohort, each addressing a unique corner of the proptech space. It includes agent and broker financial services firm Upfront, home furnishing visualization solution The Studio Home, recruiting and retention company Maverick Systems, and Billions, a startup that strives to improve operations for high-performing teams.

The mission of Equity Angels is to prioritize those founders and missions that are less represented in the current proptech space, such as Maverick Systems’ Diana Zaya, whose father immigrated to the United States from Syria after being raised in a minimalist “mud hut” home.

EquitAngels cohort

Top row, from left: Upfront co-founders Mukund Venkatakrishnan and Pierre Calzadilla, Maverick Systems founder Diana Zaya Bottom row, from left: The Studio Home founder Nicole McGuire, Billions co-founders Amber Milks and Andrew Becker

Zaya was inspired by her father, who achieved a degree in engineering. Her company offers a way to better use data to understand how brokerages can benefit from strategic recruiting.

Mukund Venkatakrishnan co-founded Upfront with Pierre Calzadilla after starting his first company at 17 and a real estate brokerage at 20. Calzadilla boasts an impressive tenure building teams at Trulia, RealScout and Local Logic.

“With such a diverse and seasoned group of founders, we’re all learning so much from one another,” said Equity Angels founder Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, in a statement. “We’re honored to be working with such inspiring founders and look forward to helping grow their businesses through our accelerator program.”

Nicole McGuire’s company, The Studio Home, partners with builders to digitally envision interior spaces for buyers, a need she recognized while working in her family’s 80-year-old construction firm. Users can purchase the rendered packages after personalizing their space.

Billions’ Andrew Becker founded The MacDonald/Becker Real Estate Team more than 10 years ago and, from that experience, built a software solution to support and encourage increasing revenue, agent count and brand footprint.

Becker teamed up with enterprise technology leader Amber Milks to launch the company, which also brings into the fold methods for client communications and a better transaction experience.

Founders Winston and Burrell-VanWormer referenced a 2022 McKinsey report that found “in 2022, Black and Latino founders received only 1 percent and 1.5 percent respectively of total U.S. venture capital (VC) funding. Women-founded teams received 1.9 percent of VC funds, and only 0.1 percent of VC funds went to Black and Latino women founders.”

The Equity Angels program will also provide participants with access to fractional C-Suite leadership through high-level executives to “develop and scale their businesses at sustainable rates.”

Winston said in the press release that in addition to the year-long cohort participants, the accelerator has accepted “a few founders” into its fractional executive program.

“We’re impressed by the caliber of visionaries that have applied for our first-year programs,” she said, adding that the fractional executives are working with new companies “to provide guidance and advisory work for startups building new solutions to very big problems in the industry, including the housing affordability crisis.

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