Nasir Qadree entered the venture capital world six years ago, starting with a position at Village Capital in Washington, and then as Associate Director of Social Investments at AT&T.
Qadree has encountered even more opportunities to join recently established venture capital firms. In fact, he says after deciding early last year to go into starting his own business – and getting capital commitments for it – it became very attractive to investors who tried to integrate it into their own organizations.
He understands, he says. “I think it’s great that organizations want to find new lines of business through their relationships with fund managers who have differentiated sourcing and who will produce, I imagine, a more diverse portfolio.
Still, he wasn’t going to tie his cart to another business once he was gone. “Venture capital is a business that creates wealth,” says Qadree. “I am a first generation student. I grew up in projects [and became] president ”of many student-led organizations at his alma mater, Hampton University.
“I think it’s up to someone like me and the people who are constantly asked these questions to have a strong belief in how to think about building your franchise. I went through so much to get to this that giving up my equity, my branding and my ideas ”was not going to happen, he says.
Qadree’s bet on himself seems to be paying off. His Washington-based venture capital firm, Zeal Capital Partners, today announced that it has closed its first oversubscribed fund with $ 62.1 million, making it one of the largest funds raised by a solo general partner. nowadays. It was initially targeting $ 25 million.
That Qadree’s pitch resonated so widely is not surprising. Zeal is primarily focused on two areas that are undergoing a major overhaul: fintech and the future of work. The themes fit neatly into the company’s overall thesis on inclusive investing, which in this case means that startups that interest Zeal somehow have to tackle the gaping economic inequalities in the world. United States.
The company’s current portfolio – it has publicly announced five investments – offers a taste of what’s to come. For example, Kanarys is a three-year-old SaaS platform that provides metrics to help companies prioritize and optimize diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the workplace. Zeal led his $ 3 million funding round, joined by Revolution’s Rise of the Rest seed fund and others.
Meanwhile, three-year-old Esusu automates credit building by reporting clients’ monthly rents to credit bureaus in an effort to improve their credit scores. The app also allows users to pool and withdraw money for large transactions, and then report compliance with those obligations to credit bureaus to improve their credit profile. Forbes wrote about the company – which raised $ 4 million in seed funding – last August.
The founders of Kanary and Esusu are black, as is Qadree. But Qadree doesn’t exclusively fund black or Latino founders or female-led teams (although female founders currently make up 40% of the portfolio). While he says he looks at empowering founders who have been underrepresented in the tech world for decades, “being black doesn’t mean we will only fund black and brown entrepreneurs.”
He says he focuses a lot more on having a team have a specific strategy to evolve (quickly) into a more diverse group if it doesn’t start that way. According to Qadree, “If you’re building a fintech company that rethinks FICO scores and you’re an all-white team, you need to show us that diversifying your leadership team is a priority, that you recognize your blind spot. “
Zeal also focuses on founders who are located outside of major tech hubs like the Bay Area, New York, and Boston. These “secondary markets,” as Qadree calls them (using airline quotes on a Zoom call), are equally important to Zeal’s mission of inclusive investing. “We want to level the playing field geographically so that an entrepreneur in Nashville or Detroit gets their fair share of the investment capital, just like the Harvard graduate who lives in Silicon Valley and is a Google alumnus. “
Zeal’s new fund is anchored by investors Truist and Paypal, with additional investments from Synchrony Financial, the Skoll Foundation, Foot Locker, RockCreek DC, Hampton University Endowment, Southern New Hampshire University and Gary Community Investment.
He also has many investors who also advise the firm, including NEA co-founder Frank Bonsal and Wes Moore, the former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation (and current candidate for governor in Maryland).
Not the last, Qadree has integrated several operational partners, including Rachel Williams, head of equity, inclusion and diversity at X, the “moonshot factory” which is part of Alphabet; and Kam Syed, senior sales and business development executive at Amazon.
Pictured above, left to right: Andy Will, Senior Partner at Zeal; Nicole Wardlaw, analyst at the firm; Nasir Qadree; Nicole West, Executive in Residence who was previously Managing Director at Legg Mason; and Jason Green, who co-founded SkillSmart and is also now an Executive in Residence with Zeal.