Chingona Ventures lands $52 million to fund overlooked founders in massive markets
Chingona Ventures, a three-year-old Chicago-based venture capital firm that invests in pre-seed startups primarily in the Midwest and mostly founded by overlooked individuals who focus on massive 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’ Pivotal Ventures, Foundry Group, and the Illinois State Treasurer’s Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund, among others.
It’s a huge step up from the outfit’s first $6 million fund and a sign of confidence in Samara Hernandez, an engineer who spent six years at Goldman Sachs before joining venture capital firm Math. Venture Partners in 2015 as an investor, then to go it alone. in 2019 with Chingona, where she remains the sole general partner of the firm.
Although it’s a little too early to judge the success of her portfolio, Hernandez has been active, managing to write checks between $100,000 and $250,000 in 27 companies with this first fund, and investing in eight others with his second effort. These portfolio companies include Career Karma, a four-year-old startup that matches employees and contractors with job training programs (and which raised $40 million in January) and Suma Wealth, a well-being platform. be financial for the Latino community that raised $6.6 million. to date, according to Crunchbase data.
Both startups highlight Chingona’s areas of focus, which include fintech startups, as well as startups focused on health and wellness, food tech, 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 United States, notes that one in four children born in the United States today is Latino, but Latinx companies still attract less than 1% of capital funding -risk in this country.)
She’s also willing to support founders who haven’t heard of other funders, like Career Karma co-founder Ruben Harris. Although Harris and his co-founders went through Y Combinator, he had a network and he was living in Silicon Valley at the time, he contacted Hernandez cold on Twitter after countless other meetings where he was ignored. “They didn’t believe in his strategy, but I believed in him, so I ended up investing,” Hernandez says. (Career Karma earlier this year expanded on its original strategy of helping budding college students and working professionals navigate the right boot camp. Harris also recently moved to Miami from the Bay Area. )
Indeed, 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 the first fund 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 turning to her for some of their deal flow, she is more than happy to lead the way.