What we are most likely to invest in

(Updated January 2021)

We started Unshackled Ventures in 2014 with a single mission: help immigrant founders succeed faster. Over these years, while our mission remains the same, our strategy has evolved, our portfolio and fund size have grown, and we have learned a lot. The goal of this post is to layout our latest thinking of what we are most likely to invest in and help entrepreneurs qualify if we are the right partners for them

People

We look for the upside — your ‘superpower.’

Often, the best starting point for us is to understand the entrepreneur’s journey and motivations. This requires earning the founders’ trust and prioritizing the people over the business model, sector or market opportunity.

This approach enables us to avoid stereotypes, pattern matching, and being ‘lazy’ in the evaluation of an investment opportunity.

We welcome first-time entrepreneurs.

Immigrant entrepreneurs.

If any of the founding team members are on a visa (or needs one), we take over the immigration process for them, so they can focus 100% of their time on building the company, instead of dealing with or worrying about immigration. We are able to provide this support by having immigration attorneys as partners in the firm. Our track record of successful immigration work on 150+ filings for portfolio founders means we understand the nuances involved with each founder.

We can help cut through the wrong/misleading information floating around and support entrepreneurs journey while being fully compliant with the law. To be clear, we are not doing something entrepreneurs can’t do themselves (since the law is the same); we assist in making it faster, and easier to understand. “I loved working on my immigration petitions” — said no entrepreneur ever.

Note: We do not provide immigration services for a cash fee. Immigration support is a way for us to make our portfolio more valuable and support great entrepreneurs, by solving for a major time-sink in the early days of a company.

Sector

Great entrepreneurs are capable of breaking into sectors that have been notoriously tough to build venture-backed companies in. We tend to ignore business model generalizations if we believe in the entrepreneur’s capabilities, insights, and market needs.

Stage

“Too early for us” — it’s not in our vocabulary

We love investing on day 0 for a variety of reasons.

  • Second, very few investors are willing to take the risk at this stage, leaving the field wide open for us. Some of our portfolio founders got a “too early” from up to 80 investors before they met us. We saw the upside, invested with conviction, and now the same companies have oversubscribed rounds from top-tier VCs.
  • Third, we believe in our capability to identify the highest upside entrepreneurs at this stage and surround them with great people to maximize on that upside. While building a company, entrepreneurs are doing a lot of things for the first time. A little help can save meaningful time, which often is the difference between hitting a tipping point before running out of cash, or not. More than 400 VCs and angels have invested in our portfolio companies after our investment, further validating our selection.
  • Lastly, it’s amazingly fun to partner with entrepreneurs who are just starting. The trust relationships formed at this stage last a lifetime.

We prefer meeting entrepreneurs as early in their journey as possible and encourage them to reach out sooner rather than later. The odds of our initial investment reduce as the company/product progresses. Since most of the investment conviction comes from the founding team, we don’t need to see a product. Most often, the product starts taking shape after our investment as the teams get 100% focused on customers, their needs, and the solution.

We lead rounds

In summary, don’t be shy in reaching out to us. We are just as likely to invest in entrepreneurs referred to us by someone we know as we are investing in entrepreneurs we meet directly. We respond to 100% of the pitches we receive directly through our website. Referrals from shared connections can make the process a little faster but won’t affect our decision. A well-articulated cold email / LI message is just as good!

An early stage venture fund for immigrant-founded startups

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