November 14, 2023

Indigenous VCs Launch New Alliance To Empower Native American Entrepreneurs

Relevance Ventures and Skoden Ventures have announced the launch of the Native American Capital and Investment Alliance (NAICA) to bridge the gap between Native American founders and capital providers.

Relevance Ventures is one of the only privately owned and operated Native American venture capital firms in the US.

They provide strategic venture assistance and guidance to entrepreneurs who foster balance and harmony while delivering a positive societal impact.

Skoden Ventures is a boutique venture fund investing in early-stage startups with Indigenous, Black, Brown, and women founders.

Native American Founders

For over 400 years, Native Americans have endured resource extraction and collective trauma.

Native American entrepreneurs and founders are essential to building regenerative economies and ecosystems, yet face genuine and unique challenges in building successful organizations.

Jump Scale reported that Native entrepreneurs are often denied loans, and the approved loans are usually far too small.

Moreover, Native Americans have been almost completely locked out of access to equity investments, leaving them to resort to bootstrapping, investing large amounts of personal savings into their businesses.

They also face discrimination at nearly all phases of business growth.

Only 0.6% of scientists and engineers from a Native American background break into the industry.

However, Relevance Ventures and Skoden Ventures are trying to change the narrative.

The Native American Capital and Investment Alliance

NACIA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the lives and financial opportunities of Native Americans by supporting Native founders and their businesses. 

They aim to successfully access equity investment, including venture capital and alternative debt funding.

It also focuses on increasing the representation of Native leaders on corporate boards and mentoring emerging Native capital managers and investment advisors.

As it acknowledges the unique challenges faced by Native American entrepreneurs and leaders, NACIA works to provide vital resources and access points to financial opportunities that have historically been elusive.

The Alliance will enable Native founders to craft pitch decks, access deal document templates, and connect with pre-screened investors and lenders.

It will additionally provide a platform for equity investors, investment advisors, and alternative leaders to discover Native-founded investment opportunities and contribute to a diverse and inclusive investment landscape.

“We believe in the power, wisdom, and potential of Native people,” said Dean Newton, Co-Founder of NACIA, Chairman at Relevance Ventures and member of the Patawomeck tribe.

“NACIA will widen access to capital for Native founders by providing entree to venture, debt, and alternative investment capital, bring Native faces to seemingly faceless boardrooms, and help drive substantial change for our communities.”

Native American Board Representation

The Alliance’s acronym, pronounced “nah-see-ah,” unifies capital and investment as allies.

The focus on Alliance further signals the organization’s acknowledgment of and respect for Native American tribes.

The acronym, according to NACIA, is a conjugation of the Spanish word “nacer,” which means “to be born,” but also constrains “CIA,” a naming convention for a US intelligence agency.

The acronym symbolizes various energies in balance for the common purpose of advancing Native people.

Founding Partner at Skoden Ventures, Kelly Holmes, a member of the Mnicoujou Lakota tribe, and Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, Co-Founder, and President of Known, of Cherokee heritage, join Newton as founding NACIA board members.

Cory Littlepage, Co-Founder and CEO of Tribal Diagnostics, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and Cameron Newton, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Relevance Ventures, a member of the Patawomeck Tribe of Virginia, also join the board.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.