By Neal Reid.
Five alumni of Auburn University who teamed together to create the software development company SmartWiz have been awarded $150,000 in developmental funds by Google to advance and distribute their tax accounting software.
Samuel Ginn College of Engineering graduates Olumuyiwa Aladebumoye, Tevin Harrel and Jordan Ward, as well as Bre Johnson from the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business and Justin Robinson from the College of Sciences and Mathematics, founded the Birmingham, Alabama-based company in 2018 and have grown it into a trusted service-based tax business. The company is a tax professional software and digital accounting firm that optimizes accounting, tax management, legal and consulting services.
SmartWiz has used artificial intelligence (AI) and modern integrations to create the first-ever all-in-one tax software for tax professionals serving underserved communities. SmartWiz is one of 46 U.S. recipients of the 2023 Google for Startups Black Founders Fund and Latino Founders Fund awards. Its software was approved by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) last year, and the company also recently spent three months in Los Angeles as part of a TechStars cohort.
“Our team is very big on strategic partnerships,” said Johnson, a 2018 graduate who played on the Auburn women’s basketball team. “We are big on working with partners who understand our vision to change the world with the way taxes are done forever, and Google has offered such amazing resources and opportunities to us. This funding means to us the ability to build our product faster, scale our organization and really take over the digital space with improved support on how we market our software using Google SEO.”
The six-figure Google for Startups investment will allow SmartWiz to impact the way millions of Americans file their taxes. The funds are equity-free, and SmartWiz also will receive sales and fundraising training, technical support from Google mentors, up to $100,000 in Google Cloud credits, mental health coaching from a team of Black and Latino therapists and participation in the fund’s interactive community.
“As we build out our engineering team, we now have the ability to really focus on improving the technology and AI capabilities to bring tech to the tax industry,” said Johnson, who was named to the 2017 SEC Academic Honor Roll. “We will be giving our users a more innovative, fun and revolutionary approach to tax preparation while ensuring every single person who gets their taxes done by someone using our software will have an improved experience every single year. Being Black founders, and even me being a woman, we don’t take this opportunity for granted because we know it is a blessing from God to be chosen by Google for Startups to be a part of this journey.”
Since 2020, the Google for Startups Founders Fund has provided more than $45 million in funding to more than 500 Black and Latino founders, and past recipients have raised more than $400 million in investments after their selections in the fund.
SmartWiz’s founding quintet graduated from Auburn between 2014-18 and created the company shortly after their days on the Plains.
“We are five founders from Auburn University, and we graduated from three different colleges,” Johnson said. “That just speaks to the education and opportunity at our university on all levels to develop and grow into a business owner and have the skills in any industry to be successful.”