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From left: Ryan Glover and Paul Judge.

From left: Ryan Glover and Paul Judge.

Photographer: Piera Moore for Bloomberg Businessweek

How Greenwood Became the Most Hyped Startup in Black America

Founders Paul Judge and Ryan Glover knew little about banking, but 700,000 believers joined their exclusive waitlist. So can their fintech company actually repair centuries of racist banking?

Over the past year-and-a-half 700,000 people have added their names to the waiting list of a financial startup named Greenwood as if it were a sneaker drop. Some thought it was an actual bank created by Atlanta’s most prolific activists—Andrew Young Jr. and his modern-day civil rights counterpart, rapper Michael “Killer Mike” Render—that was trying to fix the racial wealth gap. Others thought it was a hot new secured credit card for the unbanked, a spin on Russell Simmons’s decades-old RushCard. Then there are those who saw their favorite former Real Housewives of Atlanta star Tanya Sam fronting for Greenwood on Instagram, where the brand now has 166,000 followers. Many signed on simply because the mere mention of Greenwood—named for the 1921 massacre of Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street,” which was thrust into national consciousness when its 100-year anniversary arrived not long after the murder of George Floyd—had become the most effective shorthand for a Black financial reckoning.

That Greenwood Inc., as an idea more than a specific product, has galvanized Black people everywhere, especially in Atlanta, where it’s based, means it accomplished at least the first part of what it set out to do. Pinky Cole, the Black founder of the popular Atlanta fast-food chain Slutty Vegan, says she wanted to be part of it once she saw that Killer Mike, who soothed her city during its May 2020 protests and popularized the #BankBlack hashtag, was involved. “If we can get a hold on the recirculation of Black wealth through money management, then I think it’s a win for our people,” Cole says. When Gigi Dixon, one of the highest-ranking Black executives at Wells Fargo & Co., told her thirtysomething son that the bank would be investing in Greenwood, he laid bare the draw. “When I think about Wells Fargo, I think about going to the bank,” he told his mother. “When I think about Greenwood, I think about ‘cool.’ ”