2023 HBCU Futures Pitch:HBCU Selects ‘Monocle’ Business for $10,000 Grand Prize

Monocle CEO Leslie Winston III delivers the winning pitch at Pitch:HBCU during the HBCU Futures Conference to win $10,000.

Washington DC The 2023 Futures Conference pitch competition, Pitch:HBCU had an impressive turnout of numerous students and alumni showcasing their businesses for the $10,000 prize. Last year’s winner of Pitch:HBCU, Alston Clark, the founder and CEO Zion Roar, returned to talk about his success over the last year.

After careful deliberation, the judges selected Monocle as the 2023 Pitch:HBCU winner, with co-founder Leslie Winston III delivering the winning pitch. “First, I was honored to be able to pitch,” Winston said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity. Secondly, this is my first time at UDC which is an HBCU, so it was nice to be on campus surrounded by energy and history that is committed to the growth of Black communities.” Winston is planning to use the $10,000 grand prize to support the Monocle team and release a public beta so the platform can reach bigger audiences. 

The finalists for 2023 Pitch:HBCU were as follows: 

Lucretia Williams and Alanna Watkins, Cosign 

Cosign is an AI-powered platform for business searching by using an affinity-based recommendation system that connects customers with small e-commerce apparel brands while simplifying the review writing process and detecting false reviews.

Jace Watkins, Kouture Xpress

Kouture Xpress makes beauty and hair care products accessible and convenient on college campuses via vending machines.

Zion Melson, learnmutiny 

learnmutiny utilizes AI and data science to service startups by sourcing qualified, diverse, and reputable technical talent.

Kwame Terra, bEHR Health

bEHR is a community-based healthcare company using a comprehensive real-time health score algorithm to predict, prevent, and reverse chronic diseases from plaguing the Black community.

Leah Hernandez, Muse. 

Muse Inc. provides holistic resources for BIPOC writers, publishing culturally relevant adult fiction and nonfiction literature and providing curated support through distribution services and literary experiences.

Chineme Elobuike, Deeper Skin 

Deeper is a body coverage brand that’s good for your skin and upgrading self-care.

Sarah Noel, Nasci 

Nasci is a digital skin consultant and an e-commerce platform, to deliver POC-friendly skincare and advice to those who need it most.

Leslie Winston III, Monocle  

Monocle is a social reading platform that merges the joy of reading with the power of community. Reading is made social by allowing notes to be shareable directly within your e-book, presenting opportunities for readers to organically connect while reading.

Janae Walker, DataPro

DataPro is an innovative data interpretation software designed to empower users of all backgrounds to harness the power of data.

Destiny Wesley, Measure Me

A seamless 3D body scan platform that converts consumers’ measurements across brands and deploys Black & Latino tailors to make customized adjustments.

“I had an amazing time at the HBCU futures pitch competition…” said Lucretia Willams, HBCU conference pitch competition participant. “It was so nice to see the HBCU alumni pitching ideas and it was great to be in the space of such a communal environment.” 

“Since we ramped up Pitch: HBCU virtually in 2020, during the pandemic, we have seen the competition become more serious,” said Angela Jones, founder of The HBCU Advocate and Pitch: HBCU. “HBCU students and alumni are now realizing that they can have it all; they can graduate from an HBCU, start a business after graduation or while they are still enrolled in their university, and even have a corporate career, if they chose that route. I think it is great that students and recent college graduates are not simply sitting around waiting for a corporation to recognize their talent. Today’s HBCU students and alumni are taking their futures into their own hands and making the best of the cards they are being dealt.

For information about the 2024 HBCU Futures Conference and Pitch:HBCU, visit hbcufuturesnow.com.

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