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Agent of Impact: Samara Hernandez, Chingona Ventures

ImpactAlpha, Jan. 17 – The first hint that Samara Hernandez is not your typical venture capitalist can be gleaned from the name of her new firm: Chingona Ventures. Chingona is slang for “badass woman” in her native Mexico. She launched the Chicago-based early-stage venture firm after growing frustrated by the homogeneity of venture investing.

“I saw the same types of businesses getting funded, the same types of business models, and the same types of founders,” says Hernandez, who spent five years as a venture partner at tech-focused MATH Ventures. Many good businesses that didn’t fit the mold got turned away. Often, their founders were women, minorities or immigrants whose experiences and perspectives led them to identify unmet needs.

Hernandez’ investment thesis is that, by looking where other venture firms aren’t and tapping into massive demographic and generational shifts underway, she can find, and fund, the next big opportunities.

Chingona is not solely focused on diverse founders, but Hernandez puts out a large welcome mat. The mother of a 15-month old boy, she’s tuned into the needs of new and expecting moms. Her office has a lactation room, and to pregnant founders, she says, “I’ll come to you – and let me know what you’re craving!”

She’s also keenly aware of the struggles faced by immigrants. Growing up, her parents worked multiple jobs, from maid to busboy, in their adopted land – a very different experience than many of the people she encountered in business school and at Goldman Sachs, where she worked before getting into venture capital. Hernandez is one of less than 20 Latina VCs in the U.S.

Chingona has already made nine investments, and plans to invest in another 25 to 30 startups over the next three years. Along the way, Hernandez hopes to make venture capital a little less intimidating. “I’m trying to change the way CEOs experience fundraising,” she says. “I need to win their deals, too. It’s just respect.”

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