When Samara Mejia Hernandez, Founding Partner of Chingona Ventures, tells Startup Cuba that she’s “not your typical VC” she’s not kidding. As head of Chingona Ventures, Chingona literally meaning “badass woman,” Samara is taking a different approach to venture capital.
With an impeccable reputation as someone who is brilliant and badass among entrepreneurs, she is investing in non-traditional founders who want to change the world and is challenging the investment community to diversify by bringing on more chingonas to lead in the space. Admittedly bullish in this area, she says it’s a “no-brainer” to invest in U.S. Latinos. They are “the fastest growing market and it’s incredible that people are still calling us niche.”
I want Latinos to think about wealth in a very different way.Samara Mejia Hernandez
Samara has a familiar immigrant background story with an atypical path. She came to the U.S. from Mexico with her parents when she was young and watched them work hard in minimum-wage jobs as a maid and busboy to give her the stability that eventually led her to earn an engineering degree at the University of Michigan and an MBA at Kellogg. Her mom would tell her, “I am doing this so you don’t have to.” When Samara later landed a coveted job at Goldman Sachs, she fondly recalls her mom proudly bragging about her while not fully understanding the difference between Goldman Sachs and Saks 5th Ave. When she decided to leave her stable career at one of the biggest companies in the world to enter the Venture Capital field, her dad questioned the risk she was taking but later honored her choice with a phrase she uses as a marker to this day – “if it makes you happy, go for it.”
Today, we can agree that Samara is a beautiful and potent example of The American Dream as a unicorn in the world of venture capital – one where only 2.3% of funds are founded by women, according to Women in VC. By the way, in the startup world, a unicorn typically refers to a company with a billion-dollar valuation – super rare, like Samara.
You see, a venture capitalist or VC fund invests in high-growth companies by raising money from high net-worth individuals and institutions. They look for the next Uber or Airbnb, quickly scalable and not necessarily a small business, like a taco truck, albeit delicisoso. Up until recently, almost all VCs were led by white men with big start-up exits (think Google or Facebook). The problem with this is not their race or socioeconomic make-up but the fact that VCs typically invest within their own networks, in people referred to them or from the same ecosystem – hence the tiny amount of investment trickling down to women and the Latinx community overall.
Samara encourages all entrepreneurs, especially women, to:
Be Brave & Just Start: Your website, business plan or messaging doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t matter if you “mess up” – just start.
Try to Sell it: The first money you raise should be from your customers. Find out if people want your product – that’s important.
Build a Community: Get support, start conversation, and prove your concept.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Be patient. Quitting your day job without having the stability of a paycheck can hinder efforts to build your dream business.
Be a Chingona: Claim your inner badass self and take a leap. We need more of you!
That being said, lack of funding is not stopping Latinx founders, especially women. According to Nielsen, Latinx Female Majority-owned firms grew in number by 87% during the last recorded 5-year period compared to their male Latinx counterparts at 39% and overall U.S. population at only 27%. And you shouldn’t be surprised because Latinx women start businesses at six times the national rate – that’s faster than anyone else male or female.
We need to get more women, more Latina women to become investors.Samara Mejia Hernandez
So what’s the best way to get more investment to the Latinx community? “We need to get more women, more Latina women to become investors,” the Chingona Ventures founder says confidently and as a call to action.