What to Know
- CityRock Ventures announced a new $17 million portfolio serving underrepresented startup founders.
- With a focus on diversity and inclusion, this fund is focused on startups and occasionally Series B companies.
- While these entrepreneurs come from various backgrounds, the group frequently related on business strategies and lessons learned along the way.
Hoping to change the face of venture capital, CityRock Ventures announced a new $17 million portfolio serving underrepresented startup founders, ranging from people of color to women to the LGBTQ+ community.
CityRock Ventures is an opportunity fund and the newest part of H/L Ventures, a business management consultant company located in Manhattan. With a focus on diversity and inclusion, this fund is focused on startups and, occasionally, Series B companies.
H/L Ventures Managing Partner, Oliver Libby, described his start ten years ago within New York City's venture capital world, which he believed was lacking in many ways.
"The incentive structures seemed not well-aligned between founders and investors. There was a huge absence of focus on impact and diversity, which for us, felt like a powerful investment thesis," Libby said to NBC New York.
According to Crunchbase, global VC funding to women-led startup founders dropped last year to 2.3%. During the same time for Black U.S. founders, less than 1% of total funding went to these companies.
CityRock hopes to change that, and the founders under this new portfolio are leading the way - all New York City-based startups across the boroughs. Although grateful to be a part of the portfolio, each entrepreneur faced challenges along the way building their companies.
"You definitely have to have stamina. In our world, it's like sprinting a marathon - constantly selling yourself as an entrepreneur - and you're a walking pitch story," said Travis Montaque, CEO of the tech messaging company Holler.
CEO of Sealed, Lauren Salz, also shared certain struggles, emphasizing the sacrifices she had to make to her health while running her home heating and cooling company. During the course of managing Sealed, she not only underwent major hip surgery but also had a baby.
"In regard to health, I had major hip surgery in the middle of a fundraiser, and I had to go back to investor meetings on crutches within two business days. Those are the types of things you have to do in order to not let life get in the way of your company, but I also believe in not letting your company get in the way of your life," she said.
"Everything about being a Black person in America or a woman, early-stage investing is more art than science. When you're sitting on the other side of the table [turns to Oliver as investor], you have to look at an entrepreneur and just kind of believe that they're going to turn this dream into a reality," said Donnel Baird, CEO of BlocPower, a Brooklyn-based energy tech startup.
While these entrepreneurs come from different backgrounds, the group frequently related business strategies and lessons learned along the way.
"My advice is always, 'just do it.' Don't be too precious, just put it out there because it's going to change to whatever you think it is until you launch. Perfect is the enemy of good," said Andie Swim CEO Melanie Travis.