Black-founded Rochester business receives $100,000 Google grant

Yamillet Payano

Google for Startups has awarded Rochester-based Sign-Speak a non-dilutive $100,000 grant as part of its second Black Founders Fund awards.

As part of the program, Sign-Speak Founder Yamillet Payano will receive technical and business mentorship from Google employees, $120,000 in ads grants and up to $100,000 in Google cloud credits.

Google for Startups chose 50 Black-founded startups nationwide to receive equal grants from a $5 million fund. Eight startups in New York state were selected, with seven in the New York City area and one in Rochester.

“The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund embodies our mission of helping underrepresented founders grow their businesses. We are excited to continue the fund and contribute non-dilutive funding to Black founders, who currently receive less than 1 percent of total (venture capital) funding,” said Jewel Burks Solomon, head of Google for Startups U.S. “We heard loud and clear from the 2020 fund recipients that Google for Startups and Goodie Nation have been crucial to their success, not only through funding but through community, mentorship, network connections and technical expertise.”

Sign-Speak is a language software that recognizes sign language and translates it into the spoken word, and vice versa, using machine learning, enabling businesses everywhere to more effectively communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing clients and staffers. A smartphone or laptop are the only requirements.

To be eligible for a Google grant, founders needed to be nominated by a prior recipient or by a partner in the Google for Startups network, or they must have participated in Google for Startups programming. The grants are distributed to founders directly through Goodie Nation, a Black-led nonprofit organization that also helps grantees develop relationships with influencers, advisers and other supporting individuals.

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