Chingona Ventures, a three-year-old Chicago-based venture outfit that invests in pre-seed startups primarily in the Midwest and founded primarily by overlooked individuals targeting 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’s Pivotal Ventures, Foundry Group and the Office of Illinois State Treasurer’s Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund.
It’s a huge step up from the outfit’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 in 2015. Partners came and then started her own business in 2019 with Chingona, where she remains the sole general partner of the company.
While it’s a little early to judge the success of her portfolio, Hernandez has been active, managing checks between $100,000 and $250,000 in 27 companies with that first fund, and eight more with her second fund. to invest. Among these portfolio companies is Career Karma, a four-year-old startup that matches employees and contractors with training programs (which raised $40 million in January) and Suma Wealth, a $6.6 million financial wellness platform for the Latino community. retrieved so far, according to Crunchbase data.
Both startups underline Chingona’s areas of interest, which include fintech startups, as well as startups focusing on health and wellness, food technology, and the future of learning.
They also capitalize on Hernandez’s strengths, including understanding of the huge and growing Latino market in Suma Wealth’s case. (Hernandez, who was born in Mexico and raised in the US, notes that one in four children born in the US today is Latino, but Latinx companies still attract less than 1% of venture capital funding in this country. )
She is also willing to support founders who have heard no from other backers, such as Ruben Harris, the co-founder of Career Karma. Although Harris and his co-founders had passed by Y Combinator, he had a network, and living in Silicon Valley at the time, he coldly reached out to Hernandez via Twitter after countless other encounters where he was passed. “They didn’t believe his strategy, but I believed in him, so in the end I invested,” Hernandez says. (Career Karma expanded his original strategy earlier this year to help aspiring college students and working professionals find their way to the right boot camp. Harris also recently moved to Miami from the Bay Area.)
With much more capital at her 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 part of their deal flow, she’s more than happy to lead the way.