Ashley Williams, founder and CEO of Clymb, knows students and their struggles. In her prior role as director of climate and culture at Southwest Baltimore Charter School, Williams developed emotional intelligence and mindfulness curriculum. While she valued the work, Williams found it an impossible task for one person to manage the emotional well-being of 400 students—which is where Clymb comes in.
The tech start-up, previously known as Infinite Focus Schools, provides tools for children to develop emotional intelligence through mindfulness and socio-emotional learning. The software measures data in real-time, allowing educators and parents to track young people’s emotional intelligence and well-being.
“I wanted to develop an engaging way for young people to self-regulate and manage their emotions,” said Williams. “I remember what it was to be a young person myself and experience confusion, anxiety, and stress. It would have been really nice to have a resource like Clymb to help me navigate those feelings.”
Williams understands that in stressful times like the pandemic, which has been characterized by uncertainty and loss, it is critical for children to have emotional well-being supports in place. At the same time, Williams needed her own supports to grow her business. A connection to TEDCO, Maryland’s economic engine for technology companies, proved timely.
“As a black woman in tech, it is not easy to raise capital; just look at the stats,” said Williams. “TEDCO stepped forward as one of our first investors, coming in with a convertible note from the Builder Fund. Also, TEDCO listened to me. They hold values of collaboration and respect, as well as offering on the ground support.”
Under-Represented Tech Startups Find Support at TEDCO
Every startup benefits from expert advice and access to funders; unfortunately some begin at a disadvantage. Jean-Luc Park, the senior director of Social Impact Funds at TEDCO, notes that there are many tech entrepreneurs with high quality projects and the skills to succeed; one of the things they lack is the right connections.
“Our Social Impact Funds are incredibly important; they address the need for a first line of resources to talented tech startup founders who are traditionally under-represented in their fields,” said Park. “These investments are a win for both the entrepreneur and the state of Maryland, which gains a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem, good-paying jobs, exciting innovations, and the chance to narrow the wealth gap.”
“Here at TEDCO, we embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in Maryland’s startup communities,” said Troy LeMaile-Stovall, the CEO of TEDCO. “Our Social Impact Funds are purposefully designed to engage and invest in economically underrepresented founders and communities. With each investment, we are working towards a more equitable tech ecosystem here in Maryland—while at the same time we get to elevate talented and innovative entrepreneurs across the state.”
The Social Impact Funds include the Builder Fund, which typically invests in amounts up to $200,000 via convertible notes or other financial instruments. The fund’s goals include helping startups reach meaningful milestones and become healthy companies, going on to either attract larger institutional investors or become independent of the venture investor path.
The Clymb Continues
The founder and CEO of Clymb is proud of its recent milestones and recognitions. The company recently went through a rebrand, embracing its new name. The team has made refinements to the software allowing for greater personalization; a partnership with Harvard Business School is aimed at further improving the user experience.
The “climb” to success is already well underway; the Mayor of Baltimore recognized Clymb’s work and mission by making March 20 Baltimore Happiness Day. In addition to working with the city, Clymb is also partnering with the American Heart Association on efforts to prioritize emotional health. And to top it off, TEDCO’s support and guidance helped Clymb close its seed round.
“My vision is to live our mission; we want to spread happiness and enrich the lives of young people, changing mindsets and perceptions about what’s possible,” said Williams. “It doesn’t matter where you are on the planet, we want to reach you.”
While this company has global aspirations, the first beneficiaries are right here in Maryland—as is the company founder. If you’re a Maryland-based entrepreneur and are led by an underrepresented founder(s), explore TEDCO’s Builder Fund investment application at https://www.tedcomd.com/funding/builder-fund.