With her feet on the ground, Morgan DeBaun is responding to the lack of Black representation in media through her multi-million dollar portfolio company, Blavity Inc.
After quitting her Silicon Valley job in 2014, DeBaun decided she wanted to devote her life to building a community for Black millennials that focuses on collaboration and economic empowerment. The name, Blavity, combines the words Black with Gravity, and originates from conversations DeBaun had during lunch with friends at her alma mater, Washington State University in St. Louis.
DeBaun with Blavity co-founders Aaron Samuels & Jeff Nelson
Innovation happens best when opportunity is limited, and in DeBaun’s case, she’s been able to build a successful portfolio of Black businesses despite the challenges Black female founders face in the world of venture capital.
Blavity Inc. currently has 7 portfolio companies, all of which serve and empower Black millennials and Gen Z in different fashions. DeBaun’s original idea, enabling Black millennials to tell their own stories, is now promoted through their flagship site, Blavity News. As a digital hub for news, politics, op-eds, entertainment, and more, Blavity News attracts millions of unique visitors every month. On the site you can also find a tab titled “Defend Black Lives”, which offers news and resources in partnership with The Movement For Black Lives.
Beyond Blavity News, DeBaun has also funded and acquired multiple companies under Blavity Inc., including Travel Noire, Shadow & Act, and 21Ninety. With each company, the focus stays the same – empower and defend Black lives. Travel Noire offers guidance and travel advice with the goal of making international travel more inclusive and representative for explorers of color. Shadow & Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. 21Ninety, a self-described playground for women of color, is a lifestyle platform with a focus on beauty, health, and wellness.
All brands currently part of the Blavity Inc. portfolio
DeBaun’s network of companies only continues to grow over time. Also under Blavity Inc. is AfroTech, a conference and web platform for Black-owned tech startups to collaborate and share business strategies. DeBaun has found ways to engage conversations among Black millenials both inside and outside of the business world. But even for someone so bold and innovative as DeBaun, these successes came with barriers to entry.
With a unique perspective working as a strategist for a Silicon Valley company prior to starting her own, DeBaun knew the difficulties women of color face when trying to secure venture capital. Studies show that less than 1% of VC funding goes toward businesses founded by women of color. Using her Silicon Valley mindset, DeBaun pitched Blavity as an opportunity for investors to disrupt the digital media industry.
Around 2014 when DeBaun first founded Blavity, much of the popular culture and content on Twitter, Vine, and Periscope was being created by Black millennials. This same demographic also happened to be the early adopters of these social media platforms. With this knowledge, DeBaun was able to pitch Blavity as a digital platform with both an engaged target audience, and endless opportunity for growth through content creation and collaboration. Soon after, DeBaun made history as one of the first Black female founders to earn over $1 million in seed funding. Today, that number sits at $9.4 million, with investments from the likes of GV, Comcast Ventures, and Plexo Capital.
With this money, Blavity Inc. has been able to lift young Black voices and create countless new jobs across its portfolio of companies. But for DeBaun, she doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
Speaking on the topic of the racial inequalities in the startup community with Alicia Sheares of CRWNMAG, DeBaun stated, “We’ve been oppressed in a racist America, stripped from our homes, and we’ve had to make do out of something that was impossible. We continue to defy the impossible. I look at that and I’m like, if you can think it, you can do it.” To have someone like DeBaun breaking barriers and taking strides for Black founders makes for a promising future. Years from now, DeBaun hopes to have Black women in her network exiting their companies with money that can be invested right back into new startups, creating a growing pool of cash for Black-owned businesses.
“I need women to exit for over $400 million, right, and then it’s a wrap; because then we have our own Mafia and I don’t need to go to them anymore. We have enough resources among us.”
– Morgan DeBaun ( in conversation with CRWNMAG)
Grounded with Blavity and millions of dollars already moving around, DeBaun’s goal of collaboration and economic empowerment for black entrepreneurs is being realized in real time. And it’s only a matter of continued innovation and networking before we hear about more stories just like hers.
Check out the entire Blavity Inc. network here!
[Note: This is part of an ongoing series of feature articles highlighting inspiring Black entrepreneurs during Black History Month. Be sure to follow Future Founders on social media to be notified each time a new article is released.]
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