Clarence Bethea’s Crusade Against Big Box Stores


In 2014, Clarence Bethea bought a new laptop. It came with a complicated and expensive warranty that he promptly misplaced. It got him thinking.

“A lot of consumers don’t know this, but you don’t actually have to buy a warranty at the store” Clarence said. “Big box stores will usually add an upcharge of 100% to 500% to a warranty. They earn a big fat profit on every TV or computer they sell.”

“Most people don’t know that insurance carriers will actually sell warranties directly to consumers, at a much fairer price,” he said. “The retailers are, quite frankly, greedy.”

Building a business

Clarence knew he had an idea for a business. And a few months after launching his company, Upsie, which cuts out the middleman in the warranty sales process, he knew had customers too. But he needed help raising the money from investors to take Upsie to the next level. Especially because, as a Black founder from a rough part of Minnesota, he didn’t have the standard background for a tech entrepreneur.

Clarence graduated Village Capital’s 2016 Fintech US investment-readiness program, where he had one-on-one meetings investors from Kapor Capital and Core Innovation, as well as PayPal senior leaders who offered him advice on product and market. At the end, he was selected by his peers as one of two companies to receive investment from Village Capital.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not an accelerator guy,” he said. “But the Village Capital team was a huge help.”

What’s next

Clarence credits Village Capital with helping him learn how to talk to investors. In 2017 he raised $1.7 million from several investors including M25, Syndicate Fund and a follow-on investment from Village Capital.

Upsie now has 11,000 registered users on its platform, and is protecting over $2 million in devices.

“People are trusting Upsie to protect their $5,000 TV or $3,000 iPod,” Clarence said. “That’s big.”

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