Why as a Latina Founder I’m Starting a VC firm to Invest in Chicago’s Underrepresented
As a Latina founder of a social impact company, raising VC money hasn’t exactly been easy. Especially in Chicago, where I’m based, the VC community, while close-knit and easily accessible, is small, homogenous, and focused on later-stage investments. On the startup side, of the 65 Chicago-based startups backed by Chicago-based venture capital funds, only 16 (about 25%) have a non-white founder, and only 15 (or 23%) have a female founder to Chicago Blend.
From firsthand experience, the lack of access to early-stage capital compared to the coasts has an oversized impact on underrepresented founders’ ability to get their startups off the ground in Chicago, skewing survivorship bias and greatly affecting what ‘success looks like. Thus, the cycle perpetuates.
Enter LongJump — a first-check venture fund designed to elevate Chicago’s startup landscape by investing in underrepresented ideas and founders.
How did the fund come about?
Ideated over the past few years, the LongJump crew formally came together last summer after George Floyd’s death, determined to support underserved communities in the most impactful way possible. Given our backgrounds as entrepreneurs, angel investors, and advisors, and our networks within Chicago, we landed on the concept of a small fund to help drive capital to those who need it most while elevating Chicago’s tech landscape.
True to its name, our goal is to arm founders with capital, community, and connections to help them take the leap towards building fast-growing, scalable businesses. We are not a diversity or philanthropy fund: we’re a group of six dedicated (majority-minority) operators on a mission to put our and our LPs’ money where we think it will make a tangible difference for underrepresented founders, for Chicago’s tech scene overall, and for returns that we can then reinvest.
Who is all involved?
Our management team comprises six Chicago-based operators with strong ties to the city:
- Ablorde Ashigbi, Co-Founder of 4Degrees
- Garry Cooper, Co-Founder of Rheaply
- Tim Grace, COO of Draftbit
- Brian Luerssen, Co-Founder of Draftbit
- Daniel Rogers, Co-Founder of A.M. Money
- Kristen Sonday, Co-Founder of Paladin
Notable LPs include the Yagan Family Foundation, operators like Mike Gamson, Chris Gladwin, Kristi Ross, Sean Harper, Aaron Rankin, David Kalt, Godard Abel, Ryan Coon, Justyn Howard, Ayo Jimoh, Maria Katris, Coco Meers, as well as investors like Steve Miller, Troy Henikoff, Ezra Galston, Rob Chesney, Guy Turner, and Ira Weiss. So far, we count more than 100 startup founders, investors, and operators in its network of LPs, which rivals any fund ever raised in Chicago. We’re excited to expand our founders’ network and access in an unprecedented way!
Don’t you all run other companies? How will you manage this?
We already spend many hours per month in our communities mentoring, hosting office hours, speaking at events, and angel investing. LongJump is a great way to combine and elevate that work more intentionally to maximize our impact. Our networks through our businesses are a unique value-add to portfolio companies.
What types of companies/founders are you looking for?
We are industry agnostic, focused on investing at the earliest stage — even the idea stage. We’re looking to help close the funding gap for overlooked founders in Chicago who might not have access to ‘friends and family’ or early-stage capital otherwise. At this stage, the team, market, competitive advantage, and ability to execute are most important.
When will you start investing, and what is the average check size?
We anticipate being able to start writing checks towards the end of Q2, with the average check size around $100k.
How can I apply for funding?
Founders can apply longjump.vc/apply, and we’ll review them every quarter. No warm intro needed!
How can I support?
We’re always looking to grow our network, so you can reach out to us directly at email@example.com to get involved.
This article was originally written by Kristin Sonday, Founder, COO @JoinPaladin, for Medium.