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Nasir Qadree grew up in the projects; now he’s announcing one the largest debut funds for a solo VC

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Nasir Qadree had been working in the world of venture capital for the last six years, starting with a role at Village Capital in Washington, then as an associate director of social investments at AT&T, and as a venture partner with Pier 70 Ventures in Seattle.

Qadree encountered even more opportunities to join established venture firms recently. In fact, he says that after deciding early last year to embark on launching his own firm — and garnering capital commitments for it — he became quite interesting to investors who tried bringing him aboard their own organizations.

He gets it, he says. “I think it’s great that organizations want to find new lines of business through their connections with fund managers who have differentiated sourcing and who will yield, I’d imagine, a more diversified portfolio.”

Still, he wasn’t going to hitch his wagon to another firm once he got going. “Venture capital is a wealth-creating business,” says Qadree. “I’m a first-generation college student. I grew up in the projects [and became] president” of numerous student-led organizations at his alma mater, Hampton University.

“I think it’s up to someone like myself and people who are constantly being asked these questions to have strong conviction around how to think about building your franchise. I’ve been through so much to get to this point that to give up my equity, give up my branding and ideas” was not going to happen, he says.

Qadree’s bet on himself appears to be paying off. His Washington-based venture firm, Zeal Capital Partners, today announced that it has closed its oversubscribed subscribed first fund with $62.1 million, making it one of the largest funds to be raised by a solo general partner to date. It was initially targeting $25 million.

That Qadree’s pitch resonated so widely isn’t surprising. Zeal is focused primarily on two sectors that are being reshaped fast: financial tech and the future of work. The themes play neatly into the firm’s overarching thesis around inclusive investing, meaning in this case that the startups which interest Zeal need in some way to address the yawning economic inequality in the U.S.

The firm’s current portfolio — it has announced five investments publicly — offers a flavor of what’s to come. For example, Kanarys, a three-year-old SaaS platform that provides metrics to help companies prioritize and optimize diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the workplace. Zeal led its $3 million seed round, led by Revolution’s Rise of the Rest seed fund and others.

Meanwhile, three-year-old Esusu automates credit building by reporting its customers’ monthly rent payments to credit bureaus in an effort to boost their credit score. The app also allows users to pool and withdraw money for big-ticket transactions, then reports the fulfillment of those obligations to credit bureaus to improve their credit profiles. Forbes wrote about the company — which has raised $4 million in seed funding — last August.

Kanary and Esusu’s founders are Black, as is Qadree. But Qadree isn’t exclusively funding Black founders or Latino founders or women-led teams (though women founders currently represent 40% of the portfolio). While he says he is leaning into empowering founders who have been underrepresented in the tech world for decades, “being Black doesn’t mean we will only fund Black and brown entrepreneurs.”

He says he is far more focused on ensuring that a team has a specific strategy to evolve (quickly) into a more diverse group if it doesn’t start that way. Says Qadree, “If you’re building out a fintech company that’s rethinking FICO scores and you’re an all-white team, you have to show us that diversifying your management team is top of mind, that you recognize your blind spot.”

Zeal is also focused on founders who are outside of major tech hubs like the Bay Area, New York, and Boston. These “secondary markets” as Qadree calls them (using air quotes during a Zoom call), are just as important to Zeal’s mission around inclusive investing. “We want to level the playing field geographically so that an entrepreneur in Nashville or Detroit receives their fair share of investment capital, just as the Harvard grad who lives in Silicon Valley and is an alum of Google.”

Zeal’s new fund is anchored by investors Truist and Paypal, with additional investments from Synchrony Financial, the Skoll Foundation, Foot Locker, DC’s RockCreek, Hampton University Endowment, Southern New Hampshire University, and Gary Community Investment.

It also counts as investors numerous individuals who are also advising the firm, including NEA cofounder Frank Bonsal and Wes Moore, the former CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation (and current gubernatorial candidate in Maryland).

Not last, Qadree has brought into the fold several operating partners, including Rachel Williams, who is the head of equity, inclusion and diversity at X, the “moonshot factory” that is part of Alphabet; and Kam Syed, a senior sales and business development exec at Amazon.

Pictured above, left to right: Andy Will, a senior associate with Zeal; Nicole ward, an analyst with the firm; Nasir Qadree; Nicole West, an executive in residence who was formerly a managing director with Legg Mason; and Jason Green, who cofounded SkillSmart and is also now an executive in residence with Zeal.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/12/nasir-qadree-grew-up-in-the-projects-now-hes-announcing-one-the-largest-debut-funds-for-a-solo-vc/

Fintech

Salesforce to acquire RPA vendor Servicetrace

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Cloud-based software company Salesforce announced this week it will acquire robotic process automation (RPA) provider Servicetrace in a move that will boost Salesforce’s function-specific offerings, especially with regard to finance. The German RPA provider will become part of Salesforce-owned MuleSoft, which offers API management and other integration solutions. While few details on the acquisition were […]
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Source: https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/infrastructure/salesforce-to-acquire-rpa-vendor-servicetrace/

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Grayscale hires ETF head to convert biggest Bitcoin fund

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The company behind the largest cryptocurrency fund is building out its ETF team, despite dimming odds that U.S. regulators will approve the structure this year. Grayscale Investments LLC has tapped David LaValle, former chief executive officer of custom index provider Alerian, as its global head of exchange-traded funds. He will drive the effort to convert […]
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Source: https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/wealth/grayscale-hires-etf-head-to-convert-biggest-bitcoin-fund/

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CuneXus Inks Pact with Origence to Streamline Digital Lending

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A strategic partnership between digital lending solution provider CuneXus and lending technology company Origence will give more than 1,100 credit unions the ability to offer their members access to personalized, pre-approved financing offers.

“We are focused on changing the way credit unions interact with their members, and this means tearing down old, and painful banking experiences” CuneXus co-founder and President Dave Buerger said. “We’re empowering people with unrivaled transparency and convenience, and this partnership with Origence makes that easily accessible to many more credit unions and consumers. Together we can provide the modern seamless lending experience that members deserve, one that equips them for financial excellence.”

The partnership allows credit unions to access CuneXus’ digital storefront, which leverages a proactive, “Perpetual Approval” approach that continuously analyzes hundreds of internal and external data points to ensure that qualified borrowers can get personalized loan offers, while simultaneously helping keep the credit union “top of mind” whenever one of its members has expressed an interest in securing financing. The methodology exchanges the typical credit application process for an ongoing automated credit approval that make the financing process less complicated for credit union members.

VP of Strategic Alliances at Origence, Aleks Bogoeski, said that the partnership with CuneXus comes at an opportune moment as consumer behavior and spending begins to rebound in the wake of COVID-19. “Our partnership with CuneXus provides a timely opportunity for credit unions to implement a dynamic digital experience that further simplifies the lending process, as member spending returns to a normal, post-pandemic pace,” Bogoeski said. “We are happy to have partnered with CuneXus to bring this service to our credit unions.”

Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, CuneXus made its Finovate debut at FinovateSpring 2014. In the years since, the company has grown to serve more than 145 of the biggest lenders in the U.S. with its digital storefront, helping these institutions increase wallet share, generate branch revenue, and grow non-interest income. CuneXus clients represent more than $400 billion in combined assets and serve 20 million customers and members.

CuneXus was acquired by CUNA Mutual Group in the fall of last year. Announcing the move, CUNA Mutual president and CEO Robert N. Trunzo highlighted CuneXus’ “growth trajectory” – as well as its expertise and products – as features that would enhance CUNA Mutual Group’s opportunity for growth. “We are continuing our journey into a more diverse, digital-first world,” Trunzo said. “Our company is committed to using technology to enhance consumers’ access to financial solutions that work for them and create a more equitable financial system and society. This is a top priority for all of our core businesses.”


Photo by Erik Karits from Pexels

The post CuneXus Inks Pact with Origence to Streamline Digital Lending appeared first on Finovate.

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Source: https://finovate.com/cunexus-inks-pact-with-origence-to-streamline-digital-lending/

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What’s the strategy behind Square’s largest-ever acquisition?

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In a sign of the massive shifts in retail and online payments, Square announced on Aug 1 that it would acquire Australian fintech Afterpay for $29 billion, its largest acquisition to date. Afterpay, a Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) service, allows customers to break up a transaction into installments. This fast-growing type of unsecured lending […]
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Source: https://bankautomationnews.com/allposts/payments/square-announces-its-largest-ever-acquisition/

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