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Richard King Mellon Invests in Black Founded Ed-Tech Startup Toyz Electronics

Gaby M. Rojas

RK Mellon Foundation makes a project-related investment in a Black father-son-led company that aims to increase diversity in STEAM fields so disadvantaged populations are included in the future of work. Damola and Wole Idowu – engineers, creatives, educators, and entrepreneurs – founded Toyz Electronics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Using its Social-Impact Investment Program, the Richard King Mellon Foundation invests in for-profit companies looking to accomplish a public good that aligns with its Strategic Plan. These investments are known as Program-Related Investments. The Convertible note investment leads a $500,000 seed round for Toyz Electronics and provides resources for:

  • Improving the Dah-Varsity Android and iOS Apps
  • Refining and developing the TOYZSTEAM curriculum
  • Increasing the scalability, measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of both TOYZSTEAM and Superhero Rap program for difficult learners
  • Raising educators’ and learners’ awareness of the Dah-Varsity app to increase its reach and impact
  • Hiring two full-time employees in 2022

“As we celebrate Black History Month, the historical significance of the Mellon Family investing in the Idowu Family does not evade me,” expresses CEO Damola Idowu. “I am inspired by Booker T. Washington, who received funding from Andrew Carnegie and endowed Tuskegee and Hampton Universities to train former slaves to capture the opportunity of the industrial revolution. This investment allows us to empower disadvantaged populations to upskill for the future of work by using our Dah-Varsity App, our Superhero Rap concept, and culturally relevant TOYZSTEAM curriculum to make emerging economies, such as the metaverse, more equitable for everybody.” 

In 2022, Toyz Electronics strives to empower 5,000 diverse and disadvantaged students to become Superhero versions of themselves and foster skills that allow them to overcome obstacles that hinder their educational paths or to create new trails to sustainable creative, software, manufacturing, hardware, and entrepreneurship careers. The key is to give disadvantaged students the power to engage in an equitable metaverse economy and give them opportunities to control their lives. 

The history of Toyz Electronics stems from the duo’s own STEAM superhero background. 

At 15-years-old, Damola enrolled at Syracuse University and a dual Mechanical Engineering and Economics Major at 16-years-old. Later transferred to Howard University, and as a junior and at 18, won a university engineering design competition.

Chief Technical Officer and Damola’s son, Wole Idowu, knows the impact of access to mentorship and learning opportunities. Raised in Washington DC’s Ward 8, became a Thiel 20 under 20 finalist at age 15 as he was graduating high school. “My dad’s support gives me opportunities that I can build on,” Wole explains. “It allows me to grow and pass it on to more people, making it widespread equitably so access can truly reach beyond the limits we imagine are capable today.”Enrolling at Carnegie Mellon University at age 15, he was featured on CNBC’s 20 under 20 Transforming Tomorrow documentary. Wole holds an Electrical and Computer Engineering degree, also minoring in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship for Creative Industries.

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