Serena Williams Lobs Venture Funds to Enterprise Innovation Institute Client Lillii RNB

Barbara Jones-Brown headshot

Barbara Jones-Brown.

ATDC and Georgia MBDA Business Center client Barbara Jones-Brown has received $3 million in venture funding, led by tennis great Serena Williams’ early-stage venture fund. The investment in Jones-Brown’s company, Lillii RNB Inc., will support Freeing Returns, a platform that analyzes product return data to detect fraud.

 

Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, home to ATDC and the Georgia MBDA Business Center, first met Jones-Brown in 2015, when she and her team were the grand prize winners of the ATDC FinTech Hack Competition, sponsored by payment processing provider Worldpay.

 

“I think at least four or five of the problems they wanted to solve during that hackathon were related to [retail] returns. We knew that space very well,” Jones-Brown said. “We took on all of the challenges they had around returns, we built all of that into the application that is now Freeing Returns, and that has gotten us this $3 million investment.”

 

The hackathon was the beginning of a fruitful relationship with Georgia Tech. She has also worked with the Opportunity Hub at its home in Tech Square, received support from the ATDC following the hackathon win, hired Georgia Tech students as interns and employees, and now is a client of the Georgia MBDA Business Center. “We’ve taken full advantage of having Georgia Tech in the backyard,” she said.

 

And while the resources Georgia Tech offers have been important – and were, in fact, the catalyst for the development of Freeing Returns – Jones-Brown has also participated in other entrepreneurial programs in Atlanta.

 

“One of the great values of the Enterprise Innovation Institute is we engage in hand-offs — from external partners and to external partners, as well as within Georgia Tech,” said Enterprise Innovation Institute Vice President David Bridges. “We are a valued connector and capacity builder within the Atlanta and Georgia ecosystem.”

 

That ecosystem came full circle in 2020. Jones-Brown was graduating from the Morehouse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center’s Ascend Atlanta program, a small business support program for minority and women-owned companies funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Georgia MBDA Business Center Director Donna Ennis spoke at the graduation. Jones-Brown reached out to Ennis and became a client.

 

“We’re really helping her with capacity building,” Ennis said about the work her program is doing with Jones-Brown. “That’s the coaching that she’s getting and connecting her into different networks. We’ll continue to work with her to try to identify opportunities for her product.”

 

Meanwhile, Jones-Brown has $3 million to spend. Part of it will support work her company is doing with Salesforce. She’s also recruited new talent into the company, leaders in the retail loss prevention arena, to work on predicting fraud rather than responding to it, she said. “We’re adding artificial intelligence and machine learning to the data analytics that we’re collecting. We will start getting better at predicting the fraud before it happens, so that we can alert retailers to potential fraudulent transactions.”

 

And it all started with a hackathon at the ATDC.

Georgia MBDA Business Center and Siemens USA Announce Winners of Siemens Entrepreneurship Grants

Gavin Ireland, founder of Georgia Green Energy Services, gives a presentation to Siemens and Georgia Tech leaders. (Photo: Allison L. Carter)

Georgia Green Energy Services, an Atlanta-based firm in the electrical construction industry, was recently awarded $20,000 from Siemens USA as part of the technology company’s ongoing commitment to expanding vendor diversity in the supply chain.

 

Founded by Gavin Ireland in 2007, Georgia Green Energy Services is one of nine Black-owned businesses across the country awarded the $20,000 Siemens Entrepreneurship Grant. The companies will join Siemens’ supplier database, which is comprised of more than 3,700 small and diverse businesses. That business segment represents more than a quarter of Siemens’ entire supplier base.

 

“What Siemens is doing is important because it’s impactful for the community and for business owners to be able to see that large corporations are making make these investments,” Ireland said. “It means a lot to me. A lot of times, as minority businesses, we have to work with limited resources, so this investment in us is very important.”

 

Siemens’ announcement was in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech.

 

The nine winning recipient businesses were selected from U.S. cities where Siemens has a significant footprint: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and Sacramento. These grants, now totaling $320,000 over the past two years, complement the nearly $1 billion that Siemens USA spends annually doing business with small and diverse-owned firms.

 

“What we’re seeking are those minority enterprises that deserve to be highlighted within the whole network — the people who are really making a difference and showing the way and working on things that are absolutely essential to our future,” said Siemens CEO Barbara Humpton during a recent visit to Georgia Tech’s campus, where the announcement was made. “This is about being in a network

From left, Gavin Ireland, 2022 Atlanta Siemens Grant recipient; Leonard Wright, 2021 Atlanta recipient; Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton; Donna M. Ennis, director of the Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech’s ’s Enterprise Innovation Institute; Patric Stadtfeld, Siemens USA head of Supply Chain Management for the Americas; David Bridges, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, and Jennifer Pasley Georgia MBDA Business Center program manager. (Photo: Allison L. Carter)

together and working together to create change.”

 

In January 2022, MBDA Business Centers in those cities nominated 37 Black-owned businesses to apply for the Siemens grants. Nominees were selected based on criteria and specialties that aligned with industry demand: preventative and predictive maintenance, fire and security, electrical, construction, rail and transport, mobility solutions, and facilities and project management. The Georgia MBDA Business Center evaluated and selected the winners.

 

In addition to Georgia Green Energy Services, the other selected businesses are:

 

  • Maven Construction – Boston
  • E-Fix Housing Solutions – Charlotte
  • GCC Enterprises, LLC – Dallas
  • Onyx Enterprise, Inc. – Detroit
  • Arbor Electrical Service, Inc. – Miami
  • Evans Electrical Services, Inc. – New York
  • A M Electric, Inc. – Philadelphia
  • AHI Construction, Inc. – Sacramento

 

“Siemens continues to show its commitment to Black-owned businesses through the Siemens Entrepreneurship Grant,” said Donna M. Ennis, C.P.F., director of the Georgia MBDA Business Center and director of Diversity Engagement and Program Development at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “The business community recognizes the importance of diversity and its economic impact on communities,” she said, noting that Georgia Green Energy Services is among the Georgia MBDA Business Center’s roster of clients.

 

“Grants and commitments like these not only provide a critical mechanism to enhance businesses’ viability through these challenging times, but to grow and thrive.”

Siemens Expands Supply Chain Diversity Through $140K in Grants to Small, Black-Owned Businesses

Collaboration with the Georgia Minority Business Development Agency Business Center at Georgia Tech supports diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship

 

WASHINGTON — Siemens USA today announced it will award $140,000 in grants to small, Black-owned businesses for the second consecutive year to support diversity, equity and inclusion in business development and entrepreneurship.

 

Siemens and the Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech will select the winning recipient businesses in seven U.S. cities where Siemens has a significant footprint: Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, and Sacramento. These grants, now totaling $280,000 over the past two years, contribute to Siemens USA’s annual investment of nearly $1 billion in small and diverse-owned businesses that comprise nearly a quarter of the company’s entire supplier base.

 

“At Siemens, we’ve made it a priority to do our part to help build a more resilient America, one that’s more equitable and inclusive,” said Nichelle Grant, head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Siemens USA. “This is why we want to make significant investments, such as this one, in businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, and people with disabilities, among other diverse owners.”

 

The national network of 60-plus MBDA Business Centers and special projects — including the one housed at Georgia Tech — is funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency.

 

The MBDA Business Centers will nominate up to five finalist businesses for the grants in each city based on criteria that aligns with industry demand, including preventative and predictive maintenance, fire and security, electrical, construction, and facilities and project management. The Georgia MBDA Business Center at Georgia Tech will evaluate and select the winning recipient in each city. The winners will be announced in late February 2022, and each will receive a $20,000 grant.

 

“As we work to build and strengthen America’s economic resiliency, it’s critical that all sectors of the economy share in that,” said Donna Ennis, director of the Georgia MBDA Business Center. “Collaborative initiatives such as this effort with Siemens helps us achieve that mission.”

 

A 2021 White House Council of Economic Advisers report shows “differences in business ownership account for 20 percent of the wealth gap between average white and Black households.” In response to this analysis, President Biden recently announced a goal of increasing the share of contracts going to small and disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent by 2025. Grants such as these will help contribute to the administration’s goal of increasing opportunity for all underserved businesses.

 

“In order to remain resilient as a company, we must be diverse and equitable, which requires us to proactively help to close the representation gap in the supply chain,” said Patric Stadtfeld, head of Supply Chain Management for the Americas, Siemens USA. “We’re proud of our growing supplier database of more than 3,700 small and diverse businesses and will continue to support business development in underserved communities and cities across the country.”

 

Siemens USA is committed to giving businesses owned by minorities, women, the disadvantaged, the disabled, veterans, and other diverse suppliers maximum opportunity to participate in its competitive contracting and procurement processes. Supplier diversity contributes to excellence in the supply chain, leading to growth for Siemens and its suppliers in the marketplace, as well as helping to create social impacts on the changing demographic landscape of the United States. To learn more about Siemens USA’s Supplier Diversity Program, visit here.

 

Learn more about Siemens USA’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at usa.siemens.com/diversity.

 

About Siemens Corp.
Siemens Corp.
 is a U.S. subsidiary of Siemens AG, a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability, and internationality for more than 170 years. Active around the world, the company focuses on intelligent infrastructure for buildings and distributed energy systems and on automation and digitalization in the process and manufacturing industries. Siemens brings together the digital and physical worlds to benefit customers and society. Through Mobility, a leading supplier of intelligent mobility solutions for rail and road transport, Siemens is helping to shape the world market for passenger and freight services. Via its majority stake in the publicly listed company Siemens Healthineers, Siemens is also a world-leading supplier of medical technology and digital health services. In addition, Siemens holds a minority stake in Siemens Energy, a global leader in the transmission and generation of electrical power that has been listed on the stock exchange since Sept. 28, 2020. In fiscal 2020, Siemens Group USA generated revenue of $17 billion and employs approximately 40,000 people serving customers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

 

About the Minority Business Development Agency
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is the only federal program solely dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises. MBDA invests in a national network of more than 60 business centers, specialty centers, and grantees. Our programs offer customized business development and industry-focused services to provide greater access to capital, contracts, and markets. With a vision of economic prosperity for all American business enterprises, MBDA programs, services, and initiatives focus on helping MBEs grow today, while preparing them to meet the industry needs of tomorrow. To learn more about the MBDA and its business center network, visit www.mbda.gov.

 

About the Georgia MBDA Business Center
As part of a national network of 60-plus centers, the Georgia MBDA Center helps minority business enterprises (MBEs) access capital, increase profitability, scale, and grow their businesses. Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Georgia MBDA Business Center is a program of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive university-based program of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization, and economic development. To learn more, please visit: georgiambdabusinesscenter.org.