Shila Burney worked for 20 years in the nonprofit sector, for organizations like the American Cancer Society, Points of Light, and the Black Women’s Health Imperative. She also was a reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Burney, an Atlanta native, knew that diverse entrepreneurs faced challenges in accessing capital. In 2019, she launched Zane Access, a nonprofit that works with founders of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and tech startups to make them “capital ready,” she said. Through a series of forums, Zane Access has helped 67 companies raise $13 million through angel and venture capital investors that resulted in the companies creating 50 jobs.
Zane Access prepares founders before they begin fundraising so they can learn the ins-and-outs of the industry such as overcoming biases. “We gave them the the education they need to have a successful fundraise and now teach them how to conduct sales and get customers,” Burney said.
By 2020, Burney launched her own venture capital firm, Zane Venture Fund, to support diverse founders in the southeast, from Texas to Florida, including Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
Two years before starting the fund, she had met Sig Mosley, the managing partner at his firm Mosley Ventures in Atlanta, who has decades of experience in venture investing. Mosley Ventures has made 145 startup investments along with 106 liquidity events, including a large exit with the $5.7 billion acquisition of Tradex. He is a venture partner of the Zane Venture Fund
Outside of CPG, cryptocurrency and Web3, Burney says Zane Venture Fund is industry agnostic and invests in pre-seed, seed or series A rounds.
Zane Venture Fund has currently backed companies such as New York-based SkillCycle that provides upskilling to employees across various businesses, nonprofits and online universities, OME Kitchen, a Durham, North Carolina startup that upgrades kitchens through iOT by turning any gas or electric stove into a smart appliance and Freeing Returns, an Atlanta-based company that uses artificial intelligence to prevent retail losses and find profits via data.
Name: Zane Venture Fund
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Size: Zane Venture Fund is raising a $25 million fund.
Minimum invest size: $15,000 for individuals/$500,000 for institutions.
Typical investment size for companies from the fund: $50,000 initial investment with follow on.
What it is: Zane Venture Fund invests in diverse founders and teams based in the southeast.
What kinds of companies does it invest in? Zane Venture Fund invests in startups providing tech-enabled solutions that are post-product and have early traction.
Leadership: Shila Nieves Burney, managing partner, and Sig Mosley, a venture partner.
Track record of leadership: “Our team has over 30 years of investing and my venture partner, Sig Mosley, is one of the most prolific investors in the southeast with over 106 exits,” Burney said. “We’ve both built a track record of working with early stage companies in Atlanta and beyond.”
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.