After spending over 20 years working as a software engineer in the technology and business sectors, Marie Rocha pivoted to becoming an entrepreneur in 2010. While Rocha was building her business, a tech platform geared to help small businesses and nonprofits, which no longer exists, she realized women and minority founders were left out of capital raising.
As recently as 2021, women received only 2.4% of funding for their startups according to data compiled by Pitchbook. A Kauffmann Fellows study shows that diverse teams that receive venture funds tend to outperform and exceed their fundraising goals across all rounds, yet diverse teams still receive less funding compared to their more homogenous counterparts, typically white and male.
Diverse teams have also proven to return 30 percent more cash to investors. Morgan Stanley calculated an annual loss of $4.4 trillion in potential U.S. revenue due to the lack of funding towards privately-held women and minority-owned businesses.
“Not only does investing in diverse teams encourage a more equitable and inclusive future, it’s also just smart business,” Rocha said. “As our communities grow stronger and more vibrant in their diversity, we believe that we should invest in providing opportunities that reflect this diversity.”
Rocha’s curiosity and knowledge led her to become an angel investor. In 2018 as she was conducting due diligence on high net worth individuals, she met a female real estate developer in Greenwich, Connecticut who offered to seed a fund, which became the launching pad for Rocha.
Realist Ventures was launched by Rocha and funds early-stage biotech and software startups.
“I’ve always been interested in who is solving problems in healthcare or the environment,” she said. “I do not invest in consumer packaged goods or hardware because I lack the experience.”
Name: Realist Ventures
Location: Stamford, Connecticut
Size: Realist Ventures is raising a $25 million fund.
What it is: Realist Ventures invests in U.S. based groundbreaking startups with diverse teams, building modern solutions to modern problems in the biotech and software industries.
The VC also launched Realist Lab, a tech accelerator for underrepresented founders in Connecticut, to support entrepreneurs seeking help with funding, technology and practical tools to scale their businesses and startups. They are creatively exploring public and private funding to help undersourced founders and starting in CT.
“We help founders learn about running a business and follow up by pairing them with a tech team,” she said. “We need to make more investments in underrepresented people who don’t have the additional resources for tech such as spending $100,000 on an initial minimum viable product (MVP).”
What kinds of companies does it invest in? Realist Ventures invests in software-enabled companies that are led by very diverse teams with a focus on early stage biotech companies as well as startups with a focus on healthcare, ranging from research on Alzheimer’s, women’s health or ways to make healthcare more inclusive.
“We encourage founders to pursue clinical trials that are more inclusive and be helpful founders who are white are thinking about inclusivity from team to everyone
Leadership: Marie Rocha, founder and general partner, Joana Gutierrez, principal
This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.