PopCom founder and serial entrepreneur Dawn Dickson- Akpoghene has raised over $3.5 million for her startup business ideas using equity crowdfunding. Thanks to the 2012 JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act signed into law by President Obama, Dickson has been able to leverage community support to reach her funding goals.
“I want to be able to create wealth in my community,” Dickson-Akpoghene shared during a 2019 Interview with The Breakfast Club. “That’s what I’m passionate about. I know that the real way to create wealth is through investments. One thing that we don’t know as a people, in general, is that we are kept out of deals because you have to be an accredited investor to invest in early-stage deals.” She adds, “Now there is a way for Black people to get in on early-stage deals and to start creating real wealth. I want to give the people in my community a chance to invest in a tech company and get money. When I exit, I want to make some Black millionaires. I want those checks to go to my people.
PopCom Founder Disrupts Retail Industry
Dickson-Akpoghene is the founder of PopCom. Founded in 2017, PopCom is a software company. It provides smart technology for vending machines by bringing data and innovation to the vending space.
“We make the software that makes the vending machines smart. We partner with vending manufacturers to integrate our software to be able to collect customer data at the point of sale,” Dickson-Akpoghene shared with Black Enterprise on the SistersInc. podcast. That data can be anything from foot traffic to customer demographics to conversion rates, achieved using technology such as AI, computer vision, and robotics.”
PopCom was not Dickson-Akpoghene’s first venture. The four-time founder started her entrepreneurial endeavors in 2001 with a media-tech company that generated revenues from ads and email blasts. Then she founded Flat Out of Heel’s rollable flats. She wanted to address a pain point she experienced while standing in heels at clubs for promotional events. She sold Flat Out of Heels in vending machines but lacked the customer data needed to make better sales decisions. Again, she solved her own problem by creating software for vending machines.
“Just imagine all the tools available on Google Analytics and Shopify and e-commerce, bringing those tools to the real world,” she continues. “Vending is so antiquated and there’s such a lack of data and innovation in the vending space. We really want to bring that innovation to allow retailers to sell direct to customer using vending machines.”
PopCom Went From Traditional Investment Opportunities to Equity CrowdFunding
Dickson-Akpoghene raised her first million for PopCom in a traditional way. She turned to institutional investors, venture capitalists, accredited angels, and accelerator programs to expand her vision. Eventually, she grew weary of the traditional pitch and capital-raising process.
“I didn’t like it,” Dickson-Akpoghene shared as she broke down the challenges associated with traditional investment options. “I didn’t think that the venture capital system as it stands today was set up for early-stage founders to win. Then, I had to understand the psychology of what venture capital is for. They are there to make money. They are there to produce a return for their LPs. [Venture capitalists] have to make investments at aggressive terms to get high returns so that their LPs are happy…they are not social impact.”
Equity CrowdFunding Helped PopCom Raise Over $3.5 Million
Dickson wanted to bring her community along on the investment journey. Equity crowdfunding eliminated the traditional barriers to entry. Dickson shared that she is the first female founder to receive over $1 million through equity crowdfunding.
“I want to create wealth for people who look like me, support me, and believe in me,” Dickson-Akpoghene shared. She explained how she wanted to move away from predatory investing opportunities and move towards community impact.
“That’s why I decided to do equity crowdfunding to open up my company to the public. [I wanted to] remove the barrier to entry for Black people to be able to make investments in early-stage companies. I wanted to demonstrate how we could use group economics as a community to invest in Black businesses. [We can] create Black wealth and generational wealth that we’ve been deprived of for centuries.”
Check out Episode 11 of the SistersInc. podcast. Dickson-Akpoghene shares her journey as a female tech founder and how she’s disrupting the retail industry.