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Pierre Laguerre makes history by being the first Black man to raise max crowdfunding amount

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Pierre Laguerre, CEO of Fleeting, is the first Black man to raise $1.07 million SEC max from regulation crowd funding.

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Fleeting drivers

Pierre Laguerre is the first Black man to raise the $1.07 million Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) maximum from regulation crowd funding.

Let that sink in.

Laguerre’s company Fleeting is a network connecting motor carriers and shippers with qualified Commercial Drivers License (CDL) drivers on demand. Shippers can use Fleeting to book and manage reliable, vetted drivers 24/7. Fleeting reached its fundraising goal ahead of schedule on the online crowd funding platform Republic. The fundraising campaign officially ended July 10.

Laguerre moved from Haiti to Brooklyn when he was 15, with hopes of being a doctor. Life in Brooklyn was not what he expected, and he got his CDL to begin trucking. An inspirational conversation with a college professor ignited his entrepreneurial spirit. He soon became an owner-operator of his own truck before going on to build his own staffing agency.

Over time, he began to experience burn out, common for many truck drivers (and entrepreneurs.) The schedule is grueling and the constant movement keeps drivers away from their homes and families for long periods of time. Furthermore, according the American Trucking Association, the United States trucking industry is on track to be short 100,000 drivers by 2024. That’s in 4 years!

Then, Laguerre experienced a healthy dose of life that put things in perspective. His newborn son had two heart surgeries in the spring of 2018. During the second surgery, Laguerre was mugged while picking up food for his mother who was in town to visit his son. Being bedridden beside his child gave him the fire and energy to create the life he wanted for his son, himself, and so many other hard working, qualified drivers.

And thus, Fleeting was born. Two years later, Fleeting has prominent investors like Chamillionaire and E-40, won the Grand Prize at Harvard’s Black New Venture Competition, and gained nearly 5,000 investors on their Republic campaign.

Fleeting raised 100% of its goal just one week after the launch of the campaign in February. As soon as the coronavirus pandemic began to impact the United States profoundly in mid-March, Fleeting was working on across-the-board solutions to support impacted shippers, brokers, motor carriers, owner operators, and drivers. On April 5, they announced they would be waiving all booking fees for medical producers and suppliers working to transport essential supplies nationwide.

Thanks to Laguerre’s hard work and vision, Fleeting raised 400% of its goal by April 7 and reached the $1.07 million max by early July. Pierre Laguerre is paving the way for Black entrepreneurs. Furthermore, he is setting an important example for how to create tech solutions with a conscience that put hard working Americans and their families first. It is fortitudinous leadership like Laguerre’s that America should seek at all levels to transform the way business shapes society.

Heather Buffo is a Cleveland native, a recovering Bostonian, and an Austin newbie. Heather is the Venture Growth & Partnerships Lead at Republic where she works with partners in private investing to democratize access to capital for entrepreneurs. Heather studied neurobiology at Harvard University, and is a City Year Boston AmeriCorps alum. She likes to write for AG, drink Austin beer, and ride around town on her road bicycle. His name is Pippin. Say hello if you see them.

Business Entrepreneur

This startup makes managing remote internships easier for all

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Internships during COVID are tough to manage for many employers, but Symba aims to present a unique solution.

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Internships could be becoming easier to facilitate remotely, wherever you are.

Internships are among the innumerable practices disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some might argue that the loss of the corporate version of hazing that defines many internships is not something to be mourned. But the fact remains that internships are crucial for both employers and employees. Fortunately, a company called Symba might have a solution: Remote internships.

It’s a simple, intuitive solution for the times. That’s why big-name industries like Robinhood and Genentech are turning to Symba for help in constructing their own digital internship platforms.

Symba is, in and of itself, akin to any employee management system. Prospective employees sign into their Symba account via the landing page of the company for whom they are interning, after which point they are able to review their workload for the day. They can also see communications, feedback, other profiles, group projects, and more; they can even access onboarding resources and tutorials for the company in case they get lost along the way.

The key difference between Symba and other management tools—such as Slack—is that Symba was built from the ground up to facilitate actionable experience for interns at little to no detriment to the company in question. This means that interns have a consistent onboarding, collaborative, and working experience across the board—regardless of which company they’re representing at the time.

Symba even has a five-star ranking system that allows employers to create and quantify areas of proficiency at their discretion. For example, if an intern’s roles include following up with clients via email or scheduling meetings, an employer could quickly create categories for these tasks and rate the intern’s work on the aforementioned scale. Interns are also able to ask for feedback if they aren’t receiving it.

While Symba doesn’t facilitate communications between interns, it does include Slack integration for the purposes of collaboration and correspondence as needed.

On the managerial side, employers can do everything from the previously mentioned rating to delegating tasks and reviewing reports. All data is saved in Symba’s interface so that employers have equal access to information that might inspire a hiring.

While it’s possible that Symba will struggle to maintain relevance during non-internship months, the fact remains that it is an exceptionally viable solution to an otherwise finicky problem during these trying times—and some employers may even find it viable enough to continue using it post-pandemic.

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Business Entrepreneur

Zen, please: Demand for mental health services surges during pandemic

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) 2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for many on a mental front. How has COVID-19 changed the mental health landscape?

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Man leaning against tree, affected by mental health.

As the pandemic stretches on, it continues to affect everything from jobs to plastic bags, but one major shift has come with mental health. According to the National Council for Mental Health, while demand for mental health services is up 52%, the capacity of mental health organizations have actually diminished. So…what does this mean?

Mental health startups get a boost

From tele-health to mindfulness apps, venture capital investments for mental health startups have already surpassed what was earned in 2019. And it makes sense; as more people are isolated for long stretches of time, there has become a greater demand for digital mental wellness services.

With COVID-19 predicted to spike again in the coming months, combined with shorter spans of daylight and less welcoming weather, the desire for these sorts of businesses isn’t likely to fade. If you have an idea for a neat app or website to help with mental well-being in some way, now is prime time to release it.

Companies increase mental health options

As the pandemic rages on, many companies have started to partner with mental health solutions for their employees. For instance, Starbucks has started offering free therapy sessions to employees through the mental wellness provider Lyra, and Zoom began to offer mental health seminars.

Of course, while smaller companies might not have the means to provide specific therapy, many companies have gotten creative with how they’re looking out for employees’ mental and emotional well-being. From providing virtual meditation sessions, to increasing self-managed leave, to connecting employees through book clubs or happy hours, there are a variety of ways that any company can help employees manage their psyche during these difficult times.

Resources are more accessible

Although therapy and similar apps do cost money (many apps include a monthly fee for the services provided), there are plenty of low cost alternatives available for those having a hard time. For example, many sites are offering free trials to services. There are also plenty of free or low-cost apps available to help you do anything from track your moods to manage your breathing. Or check out YouTube for videos to help with yoga or meditation.

While these resources are not a replacement for medication or talk therapy, they can help mediate some of the increased strain on our mental state that many of us are feeling right now.

In case of an emergency, there is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available by phone call or chat 24 hours a day. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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Business Entrepreneur

What entrepreneurs should know about new federal regulation leadership

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) New appointments indicate that federal regulation is about to change. Here’s what entrepreneurs be prepared for in the coming months.

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Entrepreneurs reading over documents, which will be impacted by new leadership in federal regulation.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau underwent some leadership updates as of January, and Rohit Chopra—a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission—is currently in line for the director slot. Gary Gensler, formerly a banker, was also nominated to become the next chair of the SEC. These two will spearhead the current administration’s federal regulation efforts, making their introduction pivotal to entrepreneurs across the board.

This pick makes a strong opening statement for the administration’s regulatory tone, with a clear emphasis on what some call “protecting unsophisticated investors” in the coming years. Between Chopra focusing on reprioritizing the protection and safety of consumers via CFPB reform and Gensler tightening back up SEC regulations in the wake of the prior administration’s regulatory stance, entrepreneurs can expect some substantial changes.

Those changes will stretch to include anything from fundraising to the way corporations advertise and distribute things like credit services and student loans.

Additionally, the new regulatory team will address the way that large corporations—specifically Facebook—operate regarding privacy and other sensitive issues attributed to social media. Chopra has a personal record of criticizing the FTC for their perceptibly lenient actions against Facebook, so it seems reasonable to expect that his position will involve increasing regulations for how Facebook—and similar companies—advertise and treat consumers.

And that attitude isn’t restricted to social media giants. A very clear focus of this regulatory team is preventing corporations from taking advantage of consumers, be that via predatory loans, unclear terms of use, or even manipulative advertising.

Obviously, there’s a lot to address whenever a new team enters the federal landscape, and it can take some time for the ramifications of such a transition to become clear. However, entrepreneurs across the board can expect stricter advertising guidelines and the potential for tightened restrictions on web-based outreach—something that, when paired with Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies, could make for a tough environment.

Business owners can also probably expect more regulatory scrutiny regarding things like fundraising and day-to-day operations. While it can be difficult to plan for the exact kind of scrutiny these corporations will face, now would be a good time for those owners to speak with their HR departments to ensure that all of the necessary documents are in order to expedite any forthcoming demands.

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