- By Brian Edwards
Two prominent Indigenous venture capital funds on Saturday announced a new organization aimed at narrowing the gap between Native entrepreneurs and the capital sources that many other founders often take for granted.
Native-owned Relevance Ventures and Skoden Ventures jointly announced the establishment of the Native American Capital and Investment Alliance (NACIA), a new nonprofit initiative aimed at addressing financial disparities for Native American entrepreneurs. The announcement came during the Creative Experience conference for startups in Santa Fe.
NACIA is a 501-(c)(3) organization that aims to shrink the gap between Native American entrepreneurs and conventional capital sources, providing access to equity investment, venture capital, and alternative debt funding. NACIA plans to provide training, mentoring and tools to help Indigenous founders access capital. In the future, the organization plans to host events to connect founders and investors.
The organization also plans to place an emphasis on increasing the representation of Native leaders on corporate boards.
"We believe in the power, wisdom, and potential of Native people,” NACIA Co-Founder and Relevance Ventures Chairman Dean Newton, a member of the Patawomeck tribe, told Tribal Business News. “Our people have all the ingredients for success except access. NACIA will widen access to capital for Native founders, bring Native faces to seemingly faceless boardrooms, and help drive substantial change for our communities."
NACIA Co-Founder Kelly Holmes (Mnicoujou Lakota), founding partner of Skoden Ventures, emphasized the absence of a formal network for Native entrepreneurs who are trying to raise venture funding rounds to scale their businesses.
"Currently, there isn't a network where entrepreneurs deserving of investments are easily identified. It's mostly word of mouth – someone might mention a person in their deal flow, but there's no structured way to connect potential investors with suitable opportunities,” Holmes told Tribal Business News. “We aim to change that. Our ultimate goal is to connect (Native) founders with the right investors and vice versa.”
Holmes added that the mission of NACIA goes far beyond just providing Native company founders with access to investment funding.
"Our mission transcends the mere provision of capital; it’s about nurturing a system that understands and respects the unique cultural and business dynamics of Indian Country. We are empowering our people to be architects of their own economic destiny," Holmes said.
The alliance's acronym, pronounced "nah-see-ah," symbolizes Capital and Investment as allies in a united cause. It reflects NACIA's commitment to unity and acknowledges diverse energies converging for the advancement of Native people.
Newton and Holmes will be joined on the NACIA board by Indigenous business leaders including Known Holdings Co-Founder and President Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, the first Native American to launch an investment bank on Wall Street; Cory Littlepage, CEO of Tribal Diagnostics; Spencer Foust, managing director of Sozo Ventures; and Cameron Newton, co-founder of Relevance Ventures.