Chingona Ventures, a three-year-old Chicago-based venture firm that invests in pre-seed startups, primarily in the Midwest and founded mostly by under-the-radar people focusing on mass markets, has closed a new fund with $52 million in capital. . Commitments Limited partners in the new fund include PayPal Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Melinda Gates’s Pivotal Ventures, Foundry Group, and the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office Growth and Innovation Fund, among others.
It’s a big step up from the team’s $6 million debut fund and a sign of confidence in Samara Hernandez, an engineer who spent six years at Goldman Sachs before joining venture firm Math Venture Partners in 2015 as an investor and then take the road on your own. in 2019 with Chingona, where she remains the sole general partner of the firm.
While it’s too early to judge the success of her portfolio, Hernandez has been active, writing checks for between $100,000 and $250,000 at 27 companies with that first fund and investing in eight more with her second effort. These portfolio companies include Career Karma, a four-year-old startup that links employees and contractors with job training programs (and raised $40 million in January), and Suma Wealth, a financial wellness platform for the Latino community that has raised $6.6 million to date, according to data from Crunchbase.
Both startups highlight Chingona’s areas of interest, which include fintech startups, as well as startups focused on health and wellness, food technology, and the future of learning.
They also play to Hernandez’s strengths, including an understanding of the massive and growing Latino market in the case of Suma Wealth. (Hernandez, who was born in Mexico and raised in the US, points out that one in four children born in the US today is Latino, yet Latinx businesses still attract less than 1% of venture capital funds in this country).
It’s also willing to back founders who haven’t heard from other sponsors, like Ruben Harris, co-founder of Career Karma. Although Harris and his co-founders had gone through Y Combinator, he had a network and lived, at the time, in Silicon Valley, he reached out to Hernandez via Twitter after countless other meetings in which he was overlooked. “They didn’t believe in his strategy, but I believed in him, so I ended up investing,” Hernández says. (Career Karma earlier this year expanded on its initial strategy, which was to help aspiring students and working professionals navigate their way to the right training camp. Harris also recently moved to Miami from the Bay Area.) .
In fact, with much more capital at his disposal, Hernandez says the plan is to do more of the same, with slightly larger checks, ranging from $250,000 to $1 million.
Chingona, a Spanish word for a woman who is fearless and gets things done, Hernandez says, wants “to be the first and biggest check in a round,” she says. “What I realized with fund one is that a lot of these founders really need someone to lead and write the biggest check and help catalyze the round.”
With investors like PayPal and Insight now looking to her for some of their deal flow, she’s more than happy to lead the way.