Identity as a Social Investment Thesis
There is no prototype. Just be YOU.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~ Robert Frost (h/t Will Sarni)
The topic of identity has been stuck in my mind for many months. Prompted by my own years-long self-discovery and countless office hours with a diverse array of founders, emerging VCs, and others in startupland.
I had plans to write an essay on the crucial role identity played in shaping our wildly different journeys in entrepreneurship. But the other week I read a simple tweet by Henri Pierre-Jacques, Managing Partner of Harlem Capital, and someone I deeply admire for his own journey and identity.
There is no prototype. Just be YOU.
His words cut right to the heart of it all and pretty well summed up what I wanted to say. Identity is so crucial to who we are, yet we are surrounded by images, prototypes, models of what we’re supposed to look like, act like, talk like, operate like. There’s no wonder we are so apprehensive of openly sharing stories of imposter syndrome. We are engulfed in environments that propagate unachievable standards and endless competition. They also set unrealistic expectations for rising stars who might otherwise add tremendous value and diversity to the world of startups and venture capital.
We should be moving in the opposite direction. Breaking molds. Encouraging differentiation. Building more on-ramps vs raising up walls.
The reality is there is no prototype. This is the age of hybrids, make your own path, create your own title. I happen to be an ambivert with a winding, if unconventional, pathway into entrepreneurship and venture capital. But instead of seeing my wide experience and early adulthood introversion in negative terms, I've come to embrace them as my greatest strengths later in life. My wide experience comes as a result of a nearly insatiable curiosity to understand not only every side of venture development, but also where I can contribute the most value. Introversion, when properly harnessed, can be the ultimate superpower in venture when you need to connect deeply to founders or rely on intuition when decisions aren't so clear.
Many of the projections we witness online are attempts at signaling value, importance, and ultimately belonging. I'm no stranger to this either, by the way. Everyone wants to find their tribe, or in the most greedy sense, create their own tribe where they make the rules.
I’ll let you in on a secret. When you begin to shed the insecurities of your identity and focus more on doing what you love, being authentic, and adding value to others, you find your tribe. Or at least your tribe finds you. Over time, your identity comes naturally and suddenly you discover you are right where you belong.
Peeling back the layers of superficiality and living more authentically is a bold, audacious step into the unknown, and for most people quite terrifying. I know, I’ve been there. It's often a continual effort. After all, it means being vulnerable to a world where we risk certain rejection and judgement. At any moment, we can choose to recoil and fall back into our sheltered, protected lives. And yet, it’s in vulnerability where we find our greatest strength and our tribe.
For some, vulnerability is where they find their superpower.
Identity has become the core lens to which I view the world and relate to people. You might even say identity is my overarching social investment thesis. When fused with genuine curiosity and a devout search for humanity in others, identity becomes the treasure, the reward, you discover in someone else. Finding identity is what helps bring forth empathy and enhances the beauty in the world. It’s what makes everyone unique at their core. Seeking identity in others is what makes supporting entrepreneurs the best job in the world, at least in my eyes.
How is identity showing up in your life? Your work? Your network?
On that note… Here are some amazing founders in my network that could use a helping hand. If you need context on any of these companies, please reach out to me.
If you have a need for my network, drop it here. Open to anyone, founders and emerging VCs.
Dreami (U.S.) - Dreami is breaking down the social barriers to equitable career development. Seeking social impact, education or HR conferences/events to attend. Open to speaking engagements + attending more in-person events. → Contact CEO Ashima Sharma
femPAQ (U.S.) - At femPAQ, we take the oops out of unexpected periods by making menstrual hygiene care accessible in every space women exist. Seeking intros to femtech investors. → Contact CEO April Roy
Clusiv (U.S.) - Clusiv is the world’s first e-learning platform for the visually impaired and blind community. Intros to state government leaders, Office of Personnel Management, or Directors of Vocational Rehab at State Agencies. → Contact CEO Lukas Simianer
Little Bridge (UK) - Little Bridge is a unique platform for young, digital learners of English from over 100 countries around the world. Seeking connections to investors in edtech, Web3, digital community. → Contact Co-founder Sarah White
She.community (U.S.) - SHE is a digital community de-institutionalizing and creating equitable access to vital social, emotional and life resources for female identifying GenZ teens worldwide. Seeking intros to health service partners and investors focused on healthtech or women’s health. → Contact CEO Rina Patel
&facts (UK) - Helps DTC brands make the right decisions with market research powered by millions of data points and industry experts. Seeking intros to DTC brands, especially those crossing from U.S. to EU markets. → Contact CEO Sohaib Ahmed
Kutai (U.S.) - Kutai uses the latest technology in AI to facilitate personalized nutrition pathways beyond calories. Seeking intros to hospital systems and insurance companies. → Contact CEO Simon Villa
WeChamber (Mexico) - WeChamber is the "Shopify" for Hispanic member-based organizations. Seeking intros to Hispanic-focused membership-based associations or chambers in U.S. or Latam. → Contact CEO Alejandro Rodriguez
Okel (U.S.) - Okel is a social platform that connects users over sharing meals at local restaurants. Seeking mid size startups/corporations to bring more meaningful meals, real connection, and true belonging back to your now mostly remote organization. → Contact CEO Farah Al Chammas
More Seconds (U.S.) - More Seconds is a full-service digital agency providing an extensive slate of web development and design services. Seeking critique on company pitch and sales process; info on how to better convey "what" we do, to prospective clients. → Contact CEO Brian Hurst
Distaff (U.S.) - Distaff empower new users, established influencers, and businesses of all sizes to build and sell their own clothing brand. Looking for CTO/co-founder interested in social media, web 3, e-commerce, and fashion-tech. Currently raising a pre-seed round of $500k. Open to intros to angels and small VC's. → Contact CEO Sam Costich
TrendiTech (Canada) - Trendi uses robotics to help the farm and food industry rescue and upcycle food waste into valuable products. Trendi is fundraising and open to intros to Seed Plus → Series A investors or debt financing. Also seeking North American manufacturing experts. → Contact Co-Founder Carissa Campeotto
Client Clouds (U.S.) - Client Clouds is a digital marketing software platform that assists small businesses with their company branding, and communication with our various Saas + web-based products. Seeking connections to VCs focused on digital marketing and branding. → Contact CEO Web Annacius
Featured Book 📖
Our featured book is by my fellow colleague in the 2022 Republic Venture Fellow & Associate program, Vedika Dayal. I encourage you to grab a copy and give it 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
What’s the secret to achieving the impossible? This thought-provoking book will take you through the lives of underdog innovators and help you discover the answers along the way.