UCL supported startup receives $1.2m in seed funding from Google
8 July 2021
Afro haircare brand, Afrocenchix, launched by two UCL entrepreneurs, has been backed by Google in a $1.2m Seed Round and named one of the “hottest Black-led startups in Europe”.
UCL alumnus Rachael Twumasi-Corson and former UCL staff member, Joycelyn Mate, bonded over the lack of suitable haircare products for afro hair – as most products on the market either didn’t work or were full of toxic chemicals.
The entrepreneurs, who originally met as undergraduates, have also suffered from alopecia, hair breakage, eczema and low confidence, so decided to make their own products which are natural, free from toxins, Fairtrade and vegan. And in 2010, they registered the business, Afrocenchix.
To further their ambitions, Racheal and Joycelyn, entered the UCL Bright Ideas competition in 2015 (now Build your own business 3: Launch your business) and won.
With this award they joined BaseKX, UCL’s entrepreneurship hub, where they received support to grow the business.
Afrocenchix has since gone on to win several awards including the “Best Natural Hair Brand” in both the Precious Hair and Beauty Awards and the BBFA Awards. The company also became the first to provide products for afro hair to be stocked in Whole Foods UK.
After a successful Pre Seed Round in 2019, the founders have now been backed by Google in this $1.2m Seed Round. They’ve also attracted the investment of angels, including WeTransfer founder, Nalden, and VCs, thanks to their community-centric, data-driven approach.
Now, having sold over 65,000 products, Afrocenchix will be using the funds to release three new products and they are also hiring to expand their team.
Rachael, a UCL MSc Medical Anthropology 2015 graduate, said: “After years of struggling with our own hair related problems and the challenges of bootstrapping, we’re delighted to close this round with so much support from Google, our investors and our customers, with some of our angel investors coming straight from the Afrocenchix community.
“This round is the next step towards establishing Afrocenchix as the number one brand for afro and curly hair, so we can give our customers and community the safe, effective products they need for optimum health and wellbeing.
“When we registered the company in 2010, we wouldn’t have dreamt that a tech giant like Google would know who we were or care enough about our mission to back us.”
UCL has a thriving entrepreneurship community. Since 2010, the university has helped create over 200 UCL graduate startups who have created more than 4,000 jobs and collectively raised over £149 million.
Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) said: “Congratulations to Afrocenchix on this well-deserved and significant achievement. Rachael and Joycelyn are a testament to the enterprising community at UCL, and are filling a real gap in the market which is reflected in the demand for their products. It’s rewarding to see UCL’s support for early-stage startups help Afrocenchix to flourish.”
Afro haircare is a $42bn market and continues to grow. However, 78% of products for afro hair contain toxic ingredients linked to cancer, fibroids and respiratory issues.
Products targeted at Black women have also been shown to routinely use highly hazardous ingredients and a five year study confirmed connections between afro hair products and serious health concerns such as dermatitis, eye irritations and reproductive problems.
Marta Krupinska, Head of Google for Startups UK, said: “Everyone talks about founder-market fit and I don’t think there’s a better example than two friends seeing a problem, studying it, building a business for people like them and winning the market thanks to their impeccable attention to detail, commitment to quality and a loyal, tight knit community of customers.
“We’ve been so impressed by Rachael and Joycelyn’s vision to make a successful data-driven business while delivering much needed safe and responsibly made haircare products that everyone deserves, and we’re excited to se their business grow further.”
- Google for Startups
- UCL Anthropology
- UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences
- UCL BaseKX
- UCL Innovation & Enterprise
- Professor David Price’s academic profile