One of the hardest things to often find as an entrepreneur is that first active, lead investor. That person and that check that is able and willing to roll up the proverbial sleeves and get to work helping even structure the investment round that other investors come in on. They are your champion as a startup in helping wrangle, close, and finalize the deal terms with those other potential investors.
Through my work with Access Ventures and with many partner organizations like Village Capital and the Kauffman Foundation, I have sat in many rooms talking with good-intentioned investors trying to figure out the best ways to invest in communities. It has become abundantly clear that being a person of financial means doesn’t mean you know how to invest and that fellow founders often have great leads and better insight through personal experience on what works and how to scale.
This is why when we set out over 18 months ago to build Render Capital as an investment firm to boost a regional ecosystem, we knew we would still be facing clear gaps that simply no amount of money could solve for all at once. We knew that our investment model would certainly move money faster through the Render Competition with more significant checks at $250,000 from our venture fund for companies facing scale, but we also knew that to do this with a limited team, rapid deployment, and geographic constraints, we would not be able to take on the burden of being the lead – therefore, leaving yet another gap for founders.
As such, we have been intentionally exploring ways we could step in and be a part of the solution. At Render Capital, we are firm believers in needing multiple solutions – that it’s more important to achieve regional success with an abundance mentality than one of scarcity. We also knew that some other regions have been working on this for some time and felt we could learn a great deal by taking time to listen and learn. When we launched Render last year, we were made aware of an interesting new model called TheFund.VC. It’s a community of founders and operators investing in and supporting fellow founders. In a sense, the virtuous and best form of an angel network and lead investor all wrapped up into one. We wanted to learn more and see if this (or a similar strategy) could be a part of our roadmap at Render Capital.
Simultaneously, we were impressed with the movement of new efforts and meetups such as Network & Chill that had also identified gaps and stepped in to fill the holes and build something better. So I approached Chris Redd and asked if he would come on board as an Innovator in Residence and help us ask questions and explore a path to build better founder networks. He agreed, and got right at it…connecting nationally, regionally and locally – working to explore ways to support founders. I asked Chris a few questions about his background and his time as Innovator in Residence with Render Capital.
Chris…a little about yourself. Where are you from, what are you working on and what are you passionate about?
Chris: I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I attended Kentucky State University where I studied computer science. I’m working on creating density in the Louisville startup through connections, capital, community and culture. I have a passion for creating diverse, inclusive professional and social communities. Alongside an obsession with technology, people, business growth and investing, I am confident that I can be a catalyst for creating equity, equality, and inclusion for all people in Louisville and the region.
What are you hoping to build in this world?
Chris: So many things I want to create in the world, but my current goal is to create the new investors in this community and region that are diverse, inclusive, and work together.
As an Innovator in Residence, what sort of things did you explore and what types of conversations did you have? What lessons did you learn about the ecosystem or the need for more and better angel strategies?
Chris: I had the privilege and opportunity to work on some great initiatives as the Innovator in Residence. One of the major projects that I was able to hop in and collaborate on was a program that is in the works called “First Dollar”. It will be a grant program for minority entrepreneurs to access capital, spur business growth, and ultimately to be a piece of the catalyst to close the wealth gap (more to follow in the next couple of months). There is a definite need for the support of minority businesses and ideas in this ecosystem, so being a part of this gave me an opportunity to build strong partnerships within the community. During my time as Innovator In Residence, I was also able to dive deeper on the need for more angel capital and the need for diverse strategies. There are numerous gaps in this area, and I’m excited to build on this research through new strategies that will be announced and deployed in the near future.
What’s next? Based on what you have learned, where can we go as a region and where do you hope to go personally?
Chris: As a region, we are set up to be a landing spot for innovation, growth, and development. The region has the potential to work collectively together to increase opportunities for business and economic development. I’m grateful to be at the tipping point of this and to be able to lead and support this community in an impactful way. Personally, I have a goal to educate new angel investors, support founders with capital earlier on, and work to build synergy throughout this region. I look forward to continuing to use my God-given talents in this capacity.
For us at Render Capital, we are all about identifying and solving for the capital gap that founders face in the Louisville and Southern Indiana region. We also firmly believe that it is important to support multiple avenues and approaches and are excited to share that as a result of Chris’ great work and our connections across the country, we are announcing a $50K commitment to The Midwest Fund that was just announced out of Cincinnati to expand their focus and to bring this concept to founders within the Louisville region. Over the coming months, we are hoping to identify additional strategies to invest in that are supportive of founders and founder networks by being the lead investor and “first check”. To learn more, check out thefund.vc. And if you have a similar idea or strategy to fill this essential gap for founders and would like to discuss it, please email email@example.com.