Tech & Innovation December 07, 2021 at 12:00 pm

How founder Clarence Wooten is shaking up Silicon Valley after selling his 1st startup at $23M in 1999

Abu Mubarik December 07, 2021 at 12:00 pm

December 07, 2021 at 12:00 pm | Tech & Innovation

Clarence Wooten is a serial tech entrepreneur who creates and builds startups. Photo: Clarence Wooten

Clarence Wooten has over the years enjoyed establishing companies and selling them for profit and moving on to the next venture. The serial entrepreneur started his journey when he was 28 years old and co-founded ImageCafe.com, a firm that serves up custom Web sites for small businesses on a tight budget, according to the Washington Post.

Wooten’s exploits in entrepreneurship may lead one to assume wrongly that he comes from a family with an illustrious journey in entrepreneurship. He studied architecture at Catonsville Community College and later graduated at Johns Hopkins University with a degree in business.

Wooten took multiple courses in computer-aided design, where he met many older architects attempting to update their skills. Through conversations with the older architects, he realized the field was not as exciting as he thought.

After acquiring computer design skills, he started Envision, a company that built three-dimensional animated computer models for architects. He went on to establish other ventures, including ImageCafe.com.

According to Forbes, Wooten was inspired into entrepreneurship by successful businessmen like Bill Gates and Reginald Lewis. Lewis is reportedly the first African American to build a billion-dollar company. He was also regarded as the richest African American in the 1980s.

In 1999, Wooten was preparing to raise a big venture round when Network Solutions swooped in and acquired ImageCafe.com for $23 million, seven months after launch and just before the dot com bubble popped.

With the money, Wooten moved out of Maryland where he had spent his entire career to Silicon Valley and has started several companies since. “I’m this guy who takes wacky ideas and turns them into things,” Wooten told Forbes.

In pursuit of his dream, he founded VentureFund.io where he serves as CEO; and co-founded Progressly, which was acquired by Box (NYSE: BOX) in 2018. VentureFund.io is a real-time traction marketplace that makes it easy for founders to build relationships with investors simply by sharing a live feed of their startup’s growth data. The goal of the company is to reduce selection bias and make access to capital performance-driven.

He also co-founded Revitalize and launched PitchBLCK, two organizations dedicated to bridging the funding gap faced by Black founders. He was motivated to pursue this path after realizing the racial gap in Silicon Valley.

Growing up, Wooten lived in Baltimore’s Walbrook Junction, a place where a young Black man had only two choices: become a predator or become prey. His parents found a way to get the family out despite minimal means after seeing the limited future ahead of him. By his 13th birthday, he’d moved to the suburbs. His new environment opened his whole world to fresh possibilities.

Being surrounded by kids whose parents were professionals and businessmen, Wooten gained a new understanding of life.

“Here, it wasn’t about being ‘hard’; it was about being smart. By the time I turned 16, my priorities were firmly set on education and achieving financial success — I could see then that my path was entrepreneurship,” he said.

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