KauffmanWomen: Q&A with Samara Hernandez, Founding Partner at Chingona Ventures

In the latest installment of KauffmanWomen, we chat with Samara Hernandez (KF Class 26), Founding Partner of Chingona Ventures, an institutionally-backed pre-seed stage fund focusing on investing in tech and tech-enabled companies across the U.S.

Prior to founding Chingona, Samara was an investor at MATH Venture Partners where she led new investment review, diligence, and execution. Before getting into VC, Samara worked at Goldman Sachs, continually ranked top 5 in selling financial products, providing market insights, advising on portfolio construction, and consulting business practices. Her career started in the Fixed Income, Currency, and Commodity (FICC) group and she led multiple tech-enhancing projects across global exchanges. Samara is actively involved in the Chicago tech community and is passionate about helping underrepresented groups get into STEM education, VC, and entrepreneurship. Samara co-founded Latinx Founders Collective to bring together Latinx founders, investors, and community leaders to support the entrepreneur.

You have been a vocal supporter of the Latinx founder and investor community. What can and should we do to increase the representation of Latinx leaders in the startup and technology ecosystem?

Invest more in U.S. Latinx VC fund managers and change the perception that investing in us and with Latinx founders is a charity. We are one of the fastest growing demographics in the U.S. where 1 in 4 kids being born today is Latinx. Our group has one of the highest purchasing powers. It’s one of the biggest investable opportunities we have today and yet we get very little funding.

You recently launched your own venture fund, Chingona Ventures. What motivated you to start the fund, and why did you think now was the right time in your career to start the fund?

I launched my fund in 2019 because I saw a need in the market to go earlier especially in ecosystems that didn’t have mature angel networks, invest in industries that were growing but not well funded, invest in founders that didn’t fit your traditional mold. When I first launched my fund it wasn’t like I planned to do it, there was just no other option. I was tired of only giving founders advice, they needed capital. I knew there was a big opportunity and didn’t see anyone else doing it in the Midwest. The last few years have been a good time for new VCs to come into market with new fund structures, new ways to market. I was fortunate to raise my Fund 2 and close it this year.

Sampling of Chingona’s portfolio companies

How does Chingona Ventures differentiate itself from other pre-seed funds?

We collaborate a lot with other pre-seed funds; this is what I love about this stage. There are very few who can write a large check and lead rounds into true pre-seed companies, especially from the Midwest. This is our strategy.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting Chingona Ventures?

Raising a fund is hard for anyone. Raising while Latina, where we represent less than 0.1% of VC GPs, solo GP, in the Midwest, without family wealth, during the pandemic while taking care of a toddler — very hard. It takes a personal toll that no one talks about. I am fortunate to have a community of investors that I reach out to for support.

What is one important skill that has been critical to your work and success?

Growing up below the poverty line and in an immigrant household teaches you a lot about being different and succeeding despite it all. It is also what is my superpower as an investor.

What woman leader inspires you the most?

Me. You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else.

How have you leveraged the KF network or, what have you enjoyed most about the program?

What I have enjoyed most about the program is the people. It helped me build deeper connections with colleagues and meet new amazing people. The program allowed me to take a step back and think through how I want to become a better leader. Shout out to my Kauffman forum for being my support and making me laugh almost every day. Below is a picture from the last module with the best class ever.

Samara with KF Class 26 colleagues

Want to learn more about Samara? Tune into the Vitalize Podcast!

In this episode of the Vitalize Podcast, Samara chats with host Justin Gordon about ALL the things below and much more. Tune in now!

  • Samara’s journey to raising a $52M fund for Chingona Ventures, including doubling her target
  • Funding 80% women and minorities and getting them in a position to grow a venture-backed business
  • The process of raising Fund I vs Fund II
  • Participating as a Kauffman Fellow
  • Samara’s thoughts on leadership and passion

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