Building from the Ground Up (With Chingona Ventures' Samara Hernandez)

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This is a podcast episode titled, Building from the Ground Up (With Chingona Ventures' Samara Hernandez). The summary for this episode is: <p>Easier said than done. That’s how Samara Hernandez describes building her VC firm, Chingona Ventures. Like Elias, Samara ditched her stable engineering career to start her own company, and she hasn’t looked back since.</p><p>In this episode of The American Dream, Samara and Elias share stories of what it was like growing up as immigrants in the U.S., how that shapes the way they work, and the imposter syndrome they still feel today.&nbsp;</p><p>Be sure to hit the subscribe button to get new episodes when they drop every month.</p><p>In the meantime, be sure to leave a ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Elias on Twitter @eliast @DriftPodcasts.</p><p>For more learnings from Elias, check out his quarterly newsletter, The American Dream. You can subscribe at</p><p><br></p>
Samara shares her background
02:34 MIN
Dealing with imposter syndrome
03:36 MIN
The balance of building your brand and your business
01:45 MIN
What Samara sees in other women who want to become VC, and what might be limiting them?
02:59 MIN
Encouraging everyone to be brace and don't hold yourself to the perfection standard that holds us back from trying
02:13 MIN

Elias: Hey, this is Elias Torres, co-founder and CTO of Drift. Did you know that Drift is part of the just 2% of VC backed startups led by Latin American founders? Well, I am aiming to change that. I want to highlight stories of underrepresented leaders, and help change the face of corporate America. Once a month, you'll hear inspiring stories from other underrepresented leaders, as we work to build our own American dream. Hit the subscribe button to make sure you get the new episodes when they drop. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter at EliasT, and subscribe to get quarterly updates at drift. com/ american- dream. Hello, everyone. I'm here with Samara Hernandez, someone that I've been getting to know in this space, in tech and in venture. I've been really impressed. We met a few years back, right? In the green room for Latitude in San Diego, at the conference. I remember you saying," Oh, we'll connect, we'll stay in touch," and I can't believe how much we actually have been spending time together on many things that we can share with everybody here. But Samara, most important, right, you're the managing partner director of Chingona Ventures. I love that name. Tell us what does that name mean? To all the people that might not even speak Spanish, right?

Samara: Yeah. So Chingona means, basically, badass woman in Spanish, and it came from Mexico. Historically, that word, I guess if you ask your grandparents, was maybe not a frequently used word, it came from a swear word, essentially. But over time, many people, and basically women, have used it as just describing just the badass- ness that comes with being a Latina, as an immigrant to a country, all the struggles that you have to overcome. I used it with my sisters when we had to overcome a lot of things that comes with being a Latina. And so, when I was starting my fund, I was trying to think of a name. There's a lot of tree funds, and there's a lot of number funds, and there's a lot of those kind of things. And my younger sister, who's not in venture, was just like," You should call it Chingona Ventures. I mean, you're chingona, why not just call it that?" And so I was like," Yeah, maybe I will." And so I launched it, I put it on a deck. And my LP is a Latino, he started cracking up when he saw it. And I was like," Is that okay?" He's like," Yeah, it's okay." But the name has a lot of meaning to it, and it naturally draws a lot of people to the site and to the fund, and so I'm proud of it. And it's definitely something you have not heard in venture capital. And so, you have not heard the name, there's not many people that look like me in venture, there's not many people that get funded like me in venture, so I wanted to draw on that piece of it. Swag is coming out soon, so I'll definitely send you a sweatshirt, or a shirt, because now you're in Florida.

Elias: Yes, I'll take anything. You know who I follow on Instagram? I follow George Lopez, and he uses chingona a lot. inaudible stuff like that, so you got to look at his swag, there might be some ideas there. What I love even more than the name itself, but it's that you say Chingona with the name, what does that mean? Tell us, tell everybody, that this name of this venture firm forever will have chingona.

Samara: Yeah, it's a woman, right? It's the feminine word of chingon, it's the feminine version of it. Many times people think I only invest in women, and our team is only women, no, it's super diverse. It's led by women, there's a lot of women on it... Actually, I was just on a call before this, and one of the founders was like," Oh wow, it's all women." And I get that a lot. All women on the investment team, looking at a deal, and that's very powerful, because you never hear that. As a matter of fact, the last call I was on, it was three Latinas on an investment team, looking at a company. How rare is that? And so for me, that is so important. I do invest in men. I invest in non- Latinos as well. And it's great that the word has now become, hopefully, more widely used in venture and in technology. But it's a powerful thing, and I'm proud of it.

Elias: Tell us a little bit of your firm. You're the founding partner. You created this from scratch, you created a venture firm. Tell us a little bit about the magnitude of what you do. What kind of investments you make, the site checks, how many have you written? Whatever you can tell us so people can understand how much of a role model you are, and how you're the real deal, how chingona you really are. I'm extremely impressed. However you want to measure your mission or past stuff, so people get an idea of who you are.

Samara: I typically like to tell it from my background, because that's where it started, and that's what drove me to my fund, if that works. It began in Mexico. And I'd like to just start with, I come from a family of migrant farm workers, of orphans, of people with no more than a fifth grade education. And I think that's really important to say, because it's just hardworking people. I was born in Mexico. I came to the US at a young age. I experienced the immigrant experience, but the poor one. We lived in a one- bedroom apartment with multiple families, as many immigrants do who come to this country. Our first pieces of furniture, and clothes, were donated. And my parents worked multiple minimum wage jobs. And that's how I started my life here in the United States. And I think it's really important, because that's where you start, and where you're at today, it's a whole different thing. I was in ESL until I was in fifth grade, but I picked up math really, really quickly. Math is a universal language. And so I picked up my numbers quickly, I got more homework from my teachers, and I started getting advanced classes. And that's what led me to study engineering at the University of Michigan. And then from there going to Goldman Sachs and Kellogg. And then eventually when I graduated, go into venture. Now, early on, the reason why I went into engineering was not because I saw somebody in engineering that I knew, I actually didn't even know what that was. I was going to be a hairstylist, because that's where I worked. And my sister's like," Well, you're good at math and science, there's this engineering thing." I'm like," Sure, how hard can it be?" And then I was at an engineering conference, and then Goldman Sachs was there. They're like," You should come and work for us. We need more engineers." I was like," What do you guys do?" I had no idea. And so a lot of early on in my career, it was by luck, and being at a certain place at a certain time, where people pulled me up. And so that's what led me to go to Kellogg for my MBA. I took a class called BC Lab, and that's what gave me an internship at an Angel group here in Chicago. And then I was like," Oh, this is pretty interesting. I've been working in the public markets. I like the private side. I like looking at, and analyzing, early stage companies with barely an idea, barely a product, and there's so much ambiguity around that. It's a lot about people." And so when I graduated, without a job, I didn't know how hard it was to get into venture. I think I was naive. And through networking, I finally found a venture fund here in Chicago that was looking to hire someone, and so I convinced them to hire me. And that's where I joined-

Elias: MATH Ventures?

Samara: MATH Venture Partners. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Very fortunate that I joined them, because I was the third full- time person on the team. So everything that goes into that, starting a venture fund, refining your thesis, making checks, raising money. There's so much that goes into raising a fund, which I know a lot of people nowadays are raising funds, I think everyone's raising a fund, but there's so much that you don't see in the headlines in the news. It's not just about talking to cool companies and making checks, there's a lot more to that. But I learned that, and this was before the Me Too movement, racial equity conversations this past summer. I was there for almost five years, and I saw the same types of businesses getting funded, the same types of founders that had the same types of networks, maybe came from the same universities. And I just kept seeing the same things. I'm like," I just don't understand. These other businesses have really interesting business models. Maybe they don't have the right pitch, maybe they don't have the right terminology, maybe they don't understand how big this can be just yet, but they have something right now." And I had enough data points over five years to say," Okay, this business got to profitability. This business got to an exit, because business got to future rounds of funding outside of the Midwest." And so I went out to create an Angel group. And my now LP, I found him, he's a Latino, and he's the Chief Investment Officer at the Illinois State Treasurer's Office, and I tried to recruit him to be an Angel in my fund. And he goes," Hey, I'm looking to fund a different strategy. I keep funding the same types of fund managers." I'm like," Well, that's great, because I want to raise my own fund. Here's my thesis, and the strategy." And so together, he seeded my fund, my Fund One. It was launched in April of 2019. The strategy is investing in under- capitalized markets, founders, and business models at the earliest stages. So we go at the pre- seed to seed stage. We like being the first institutional check. Our Fund One check size is 100, 000 to 250,000. We can lead deals, and we're industry agnostic, but we like to focus on fintech, future of work, femtech, food, health and wellness, and EdTech. We don't exclusively invest in women and minorities, but over 50% of the portfolio has women CEOs. And I like to count CEOs, not just founders, those on the board, leading the company's majority equity upfront. Over 70% are racially diverse, and that's Latino, that's African- American, that's Native American. 42% are immigrant, not by design, it was just a nice surprise, which is great. And then 87% are outside of the Valley. So my thesis is that, is proving that you can get outsized returns with an outsized diversity in the portfolio. And many people think that, because it's run by a Latina, which there's, I think less than 0. 05% of all venture capital is run by a Latina. I mean, running the fund, because there's all different levels. So Fund One, we have 20 investments, we have three more commitments, so we'll close them in the next two weeks, so we have 23. And then we'll do another, call it two to three more investments in the fund. So it's a different strategy, we have a more... It's not a concentrated portfolio, because concentrated, I would think, is like 10 to 12 investments. And we don't have a spray and pray model, so we don't do 50 plus investments. We do something around 25 to 30, where we can invest a significant check, help the company out, but also get them to that next stage of funding.

Elias: And so Fund One... Am I asking the wrong question? I'm getting ahead of myself. Is there a Fun Two? Is that the next level of work that you have, once you finish this, you start with the next?

Samara: We're fortunate, as of last October, that PayPal Ventures had committed to invest in an equity initiative around investing in more women and minorities. We were fortunate that they announced our investment in our Fund Two. And so from that, that basically kick- started a lot of the conversations for Fund Two, and so that's the next goal.

Elias: So that's publicly knowledge, people know that, right? PayPal invested in you, and then you're working on that to finalize when you start investing in that fund.

Samara: Yes.

Elias: That's amazing. And you're still finishing, so this is early in the work. But it's such an amazing accomplishment, right? To envision this, to have the thesis, and to actually get it off the ground, and work to... I'm getting a taste of how much work it takes to fund a deal. You've got to source, find and invest in the deal. So especially we can talk a little bit about that. It's incredible, congratulations, much respect. And before we go more into that stuff, the story, it's amazing. It's fascinating. I do have many parallels to that, and it's awesome to hear. One of the things I like to talk about is the American dream, and you are living proof of it. And I love how you said how many people helped you, pulled you up, by being at the right time at the right place. Mine wasn't as fancy as yours. You were at school, and Goldman Sachs picked you up. IBM picked me up, at a job fair. And they were like," What are you doing here? We need you." I want us to be hopeful, and encourage other people to know that we might be discriminated, we might have a lot of the system against us, but there has to be hope that there's so many people that really want to help people like us, and give us a chance, and they need it, for their own good as well.

Samara: Well, that's the thing, you saw it from when you first moved into this country, like someone donated my first pair of clothes, my first jacket, my first furniture. We constantly had people come through our apartment. It was a one bedroom apartment, but we helped get the next generation of immigrants, get them up and going, and start, and get them clothes, and food and jobs. And then they went off. We saw that from when we were little, and so it's just ingrained in us to help others.

Elias: It seems that you have a good, strong sense of community. I was getting help. I remember in San Francisco, my family that moved there in the'70s, it was like that. They were living in this apartment, where the whole family had to sleep in the same bedroom. And luckily, when I came, I came 20 years later, we had some of their lessons, and we found in Tampa, Florida a two bedroom, so it was a little bit easier, but my three brothers were in one bedroom. Your parents must've been amazing, to be developing that community of helping the immigrants. I wasn't as... I was more focusing on getting a job, helping support my mother and contribute to the house. But I wasn't as surrounded by that many people like you guys, who were surrounding others. Tell me a little bit more about that.

Samara: Yeah, it was... We had some interesting characters. And now thinking about it, it's like, you have random strangers coming to your home, and your kids are five, six, seven, eight years old, and they're alone with them. We were home alone a lot, not because my mom wanted it, just because they worked two, three minimum wage jobs. We didn't have a babysitter, so we would be home by ourselves. It was just interesting to hear their stories, and to see strangers and... I know it's kind of weird, it sounds weird, but it's learning the stories of Mexico and how they struggled. Some people crossed the border through the desert, and survived that. And some people had different means. That just, at the early stages in your life, gives you a different perspective on life, and on people's struggle.

Elias: I do not know how to recreate that with my children. I grew up, my parallel to that is, I would just play out on the street all day. I would interact with people working in construction at different houses. Really poor kids that were selling food in the street, I would hang out with them. I would talk to an adult, I would talk to contractors... I would talk to anyone. I would go to the market. I'm an extrovert. You hear all the stories, and you learn about all these people. Now, kids just interact with people their own age. All that stuff influenced me to feel my experience about how the world works. And it's hard to recreate that. I think it's also we're such a difficult society, where we focus on the negative, we scare, and the worst case scenario of what could have happened there, like terrified. But on the other hand, we had to believe in others that were seeking something better for their families. They were not that, like," Oh, they're immigrants, they're going to be scary and dangerous." Your mother trusted them and helped them, and you got to learn and be inspired by that. You're paying it forward. You're now building a firm that is investing in companies of those people.

Samara: It's a full circle, and it's crazy to me that 30 plus years ago, I was there, and now I'm here making investments in these companies. And it's funny, because I wear my Chingona Venture shirt, or swag, when I'm on panels and whatever else. And I remember one of the last events I went pre- COVID was at Northwestern, and I talked on this panel, and I wore this Chingona shirt. I dropped off my jacket, and everybody behind the table was, they were Mexican immigrants, and they were just all talking to each other like," Is she wearing Chingona? What?" And they're like,"Are you Latina? Are you Mexican?" And you just talk, and it reminds me of my parents. My parents did that, my parents were the ones that were the bus boys, the maids. And they're just like," And she's speaking, in front of everyone at Northwest, a hundred different people?" And it's just a crazy thing to just be like, two decades ago, I was their kids, and now I'm here. It's just a beautiful moment, I think, to just highlight what we can do with American dream. Many times people ask me what's it like being a Latina in VC? What's it like being one of the only... I don't think about that ever. I'm constantly trying to be like," Okay, how do I get my next deal? Why did I win that? Why did I lose that? What are the people that are most successful doing four or five funds down the line?" And the only time I think through that is when I get imposter syndrome, or I'm like," Oh, something went wrong, or an LP said no to me." I'm just like," But I started at a very different point, and where I'm at today, even though I don't necessarily have the exact returns and whatever else, it shows me success early on for me, and it just pushes me, it drives me to do more." One example is, I was on a panel recently, just a virtual one, again at Northwestern. I do a lot with Northwestern because I went there-

Elias: You have pride and joy in Northwestern.

Samara: My husband got three degrees there. My sister got a degree there, she teaches an engineering class there. So we're a big Northwestern family. I was on a panel, and there was this entrepreneur who had like six different companies, all exited, now a VC, knew everyone, knew Sheryl Sandberg and whatever else. And I'm just like," Oh my gosh, this guy is pretty intense, and I'm sitting on a panel with him like colleagues." But we're both still here. It doesn't matter where we came from, we're both still here, and we're both proving that we can invest and make outsized returns. And so I just tell myself that, to remind myself that I started at a very different place, and what that means for our community, what that means for me to be successful, and it pushes me forward.

Elias: Yeah. We talk a lot about imposter syndrome. I talk a lot about that. I feel it. I think we play mind games with ourselves so much. People like us that are ambitious, and we want to move forward, and want to learn how to overcome fear, criticize ourselves. We're our toughest critics, ourselves. And so I think that it's something to share with others, that way that you just worked through that set of emotions when you were on that panel. I don't understand why we do it to ourselves. I'm just being transparent. I'm in the world as an entrepreneur, it's like everybody wants to measure you by how much did you raise? Everybody wants to rate you, or rank you by what's your valuation. If it's not one exit, it's like, well how many exits, like you said. It's, how fast did it grow? It's just a never ending rat race. What I've been working through, especially through the pandemic, is we create our own game. It's our version of success. And when I look back, like you, where I was, not having food stamps in Tampa, Florida in 1993, I'm like," Look, I can rent a house by the water, and my family, and enjoy some quality time that I never had when I first... never dreamed of having." And so we got to stop going ourselves crazy, and put the right amount of push. But it's also not a zero sum game. It's not about only having one person on that panel, it includes the mass chingon. It's really about, we need both stories, because some people are going to listen to that other person and connect with that person, and some people are going to connect with you.

Samara: Oh yeah. Oh, that's exactly it. Some people connected with him, and they have the same story. And for me, I had a lot of people reach out to me. I'm very transparent, I was like," I never had the highest GPA. I never had the highest ACT, SAT. I did engineering, but it didn't come easy to me. I went to two classes, three classes at a time, and went to office hours, every office hours I could possible... Even if I knew how to do the homework, so I could teach others, so I could make sure that I fully knew the topic." And some people relate to that. And I want to just say that, because many times you see people on panels, or on podcasts, or the news, how much you raise, and they put you on a pedestal, and we're just everyday people just trying to figure it out. You're trying to get your company to a certain point. You're trying to get to the next exit. I'm trying to get exits in my portfolio. I'm trying to raise the next fund. And so we're still working through that. Of course, we've had success in our own right, from where we started off in life, but we're still trying to make it as well. And we want to help others along the way, obviously. We've talked about this too. People reach out a lot, and you're trying to balance two things. You're trying to run your fund, run your company, and you want to help others, and you're trying to balance how to do both. And that's a lot of pressure that you feel too, because you can't do it all. So I'm still working through that. I'm definitely not perfect. You give good advice to one of your friends. Is it Catalina that reached out to me? And I was just like," Hey, Latina wants to get into venture, most likely to say yes to her." But she's like," Oh my goodness. I'm sorry, I didn't offer you a piece of value," because I think somebody posted on LinkedIn and whatever else. Look, I think we're all trying to just do our best, and things like this, where we can scale our story, and we can hopefully inspire someone to start their business, or their fund, or get to that next point in their life, I think is important. And there's different ways of doing that.

Elias: What I like about that is, I constantly have these high bars where that imposter syndrome, it cuts me in both ways. I don't like saying stuff, or posting things that are going to interpret as me boasting or being prideful. I don't feel they're good enough to put in... It's like the opposite. This country has an amazing way of broadcasting a lot, and marketing every little thing as a big thing, but my Latino is like," It has to be real. It has to be an amazing thing." And so I'm always second- guessing what I'm saying. Either I don't want to go out and say... And so from that perspective, what I like to do is, I want to work hard to do great things, but I want to stop doing that, and focusing on how I can help others. And so that's where I'm balancing some of this. I don't want to be that guru, or those thought leaders, or those influencers. I'm trying not to be that, because I don't like that, I want to focus on building a business. But, it is much more fulfilling when somebody emails me and says like," Look, I was thinking of starting a company. I was afraid, but you encouraged me to go try it." And when somebody says," I want to become a woman VC connected with her," and you inspire her. That could make a huge impact that we don't have enough of. And so that's when I try to balance between I want to be hiding and just working, but then I'm like," I need to say some of it."

Samara: Well, there's different ways of doing it. For me, I'm the same exact way. People think I only launched in January of 2020, because that was what my first article was, but I actually launched eight months before, and I didn't even know if it was going to close. So some people start talking about their fund before they even raise their first half a million, million, and they're out talking about it. And now there's rules around that you can do that. But I was like," I don't even know if it's going to go through." And then when it went through it, I was like," I don't even know if the strategy is going to work, so I need to start making investments." And it wasn't until somebody in Chicago was just like," We're publishing your story..." I'm like," Wait, I'm not ready." And then that's when it officially launched. And so I'm on-

Elias: You wanted to wait until you had three full, like 20 eggs when... You're like,"Hold on, I'm not done yet."

Samara: Exactly. I wanted to wait.

Elias: One fund is not enough. Wait until I have three successful funds in a row. Wait until I beat Sequoia's returns. That's how we are, right/

Samara: Yeah, that's exactly how we are, and I'm not that person. I look at some people and they're follower rich, capital poor. And not to call out anybody or anything, but eventually that will lead to other things, hopefully. You have to build a brand, so I'm on Twitter, I'm on LinkedIn. I'm a small Midwest fund, I need to go out there and get people to come to the site, to see me as a potential investor in their fund, to potentially invest in my fund, that whole thing. But I need to balance, to your point, being out there and talking about this, with actually building. I'm not going to be a VC if I don't get returns, bottom line. That's what I'm striving for it. It doesn't matter how many followers I have, it doesn't matter how many Tweets I have. But, I will say that some of the social media platforms have also helped connect me with other people, and helped spread the word about certain things that I want to spread. And that's, many times, about the Latino community, because we get left behind in so many different areas. And we're so different, some of us are dark, some of us are light, some of us speak Spanish, some of us speak Spanglish, some of us are rich, some of us are important. It's all over the place, and that's beautiful about the Latino community, but it makes it sometimes very hard for us to organize, and for people to be like," Are you this, or are you that?" And I want to just show that we're here, there are Latinas in VC, although few, there are Latinos, there are Latinos like you building amazing companies. And so let's get that next generation of people doing this, while we're still building." It's just a hard balance to do both.

Elias: I mean, you just said amazing businesses, and I'm like cringing. I'm like," Please, let's not... I know all my flaws. I know all the things, the pain, the growth." But I was going to say, I think we did a good job of describing this feeling, where we're an imposter or whatever, like you said, where we know we haven't done enough yet to publicize it. Is that different by gender? I feel like we both described the same exact feeling. And yet, you are masterfully overcoming it, and you're doing it. You put yourself out there, you put the news, you carry your name, you invest in companies, you close the deals, you're working on the next fund. You're amazing. What do you see in other women that want to become a VC? What is limiting them to do all the things that you do, or is that just natural inaudible?

Samara: I do see some differences. I'll talk about it from a Latina perspective, because this is where I see the biggest difference, and where we represent the least in tech and in venture. Many times, Latinas that I talk to are like," Well, I need to take care of my family. I can't be too far from home," with their undergrads, which is something my parents wanted. It's the risk piece. It's women, it's everyone, but it's a risk piece. It's daunting to see that much money that you have to put up to invest in a fund. People don't know this, but it's very expensive to launch a fund. Many times you have to go without salary for two years. And you don't know if you're going to be able to successfully raise. You actually have to put up 1%, typically, of the total fund, as your own personal capital. So if that's a$ 25 million fund, that's 250,000. So not only do you have typically a lot of loans, you don't have a cushion, you may not have salary for two years, and that's just the beginning of the fund, that's if you are successful in raising a fund. And if it's under 10 million, typically it's really hard to get any sort of salary for the longterm. And so there's a lot of risks as starting your own fund. And then it's a business where you don't know if you're doing well for five to 10 years. I'm making all these investments, but I don't know if they're doing well. I know that there's revenue growth. I know that they've raised future rounds of funding. I know partnerships and whatever else. But there is no exit yet. And so there is so much unknown. One of the things that I saw recently was that women are taught to be perfect, and men are taught to be brave. And for me, the biggest thing I learned growing up, and it wasn't my parents or anybody else, just society, I don't know what it was, but I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to have the right numbers. I wanted to have the right everything before I even started something. Even applying for a job. When I graduated from Kellogg, I was looking at all these jobs, and there are like 10 qualifications. And I remember like," I can't apply for that. I can't apply for that." And my husband was actually like," Why can't you? You have two of those things, and the rest you learn." And I see that over and over again, in so many women especially, that are like," Oh, I don't have the right thing." And then on top of that, not only do I don't think I have the right skill sets, I need to get a job that pays a good salary, because I have to take care of my parents, I have to pay off my loans. I have to..." And so you start at a different base, and then growing up, you're taught to be a certain way. And so I think that risk component is very difficult to grasp. For me, it wasn't necessarily that I knew, or that I'm different, or that I have this innate skill to be risky, because I... My dad's an accountant, who taught me to save, when I was 13 years old, half of my paycheck. And then when I left Goldman Sachs, he was like," Wait, you're leaving a company with good insurance. What? To go where?"

Elias: When I left IBM, everybody was like,"Are you crazy?" crosstalk 10 person company that only raised a million dollars. This is the other thing, I don't know if what we're doing is a good job to encouraging people to start funds or to start companies, or we're discouraging them. This has been such a learning thing for me, what you just said, holy shit, starting a fund, it is crazy. What you just described to me is maybe worse than starting a company. It's, wow.

Samara: Yes. It's insane. I am like," Why am I doing this?" But I love it. I can't see myself doing anything else. I think about this every single moment of the day. Just like you're obsessed with solving the problem that you're solving for your company, I'm obsessed with this part of it. I think what helped me was I saw somebody that was like," Oh, have you tried going into this asset class? Did you try going to venture capital?" I'm like," What is it? I don't even... I mean, I know what it is, but am I a fit?" And then people like even my husband saying," Hey, you should apply. You're going to learn everything else. These are the things you do have." And then getting in. Sometimes it's just someone showing you, like," You've never thought about this, but you can do this. And even if it sounds really risky, and it just sounds daunting, if you really love it, there's an opportunity for you to have a place here." Everyone's journey is different. I remember you being on the panel... This is how I was like," I need to meet you." Was it Grady from Sequoia?

Elias: Yeah.

Samara: You were on the panel with them, and you were talking about exits. I don't remember the story exactly, but that was the first time that you were like," Wow, this is where my company can grow to." And for me, it's the same thing. I had no idea. If you would have asked me five, six years ago," Are you going to start a company... You're going to start your own venture fund, and invest in founders you absolutely love. And you're going to have to have more conviction than anybody else, but you're going to love it every single day, and you're going to be able to raise Fund One and Fund Two." I would have been like," You're out of your mind. No one else is doing this." And sometimes, again, it's just someone saying you can. And then you saying," All right, I'm not perfect. I don't know what this means. I'm probably unqualified. And I probably don't look like anybody else, but F it, I'm just going to go try it. What's the worst that could happen?"

Elias: Absolutely. I think that... I'm watching the time a little bit. I think it's awesome. I've been watching and becoming a fan of Brene Brown. I love that line that you said that... I don't want to stereotype, I don't want to say it wrong, but you said," Women are taught to be perfect, and men are taught to be brave," and how that needs to be flipped, so we need to encourage everyone to be brave, to not try to hold yourself to this perfection that holds us back to not try anything. There's a story from Brene Brown about her daughter. She was asked in a swim meet, in a swim team, and they gave her the toughest swim. I think it was the butterfly. Because, I don't know, they just put different swimmers into different categories. And the daughter was struggling and crying, she wanted to quit, and she didn't want to do it. And so there was this struggle of, do you pressure her, or do you not? She came up with a strategy that she was going to scratch the heat, and miss it, and that would have been fine, and she wouldn't have got in trouble. And they said to her," You do whatever you need to do." The last moment before the heat, they were going to blow the whistle or whatever, she shows up out of the locker room, gets in the water and does a terrible job, like she is last by a mile. I think everybody comes out, and she's still swimming, and the parents are supporting her. But she said something that blew me away," For her, winning was jumping into the pool. Her winning was not about being number one in that race." And so I think I'm connecting that with, I'm building a company, and I'm enjoying, and I'm learning and I'm growing. And we're here and we're representing, and we're showing people they can be here. You are starting a fund, you are investing in companies, you're helping people, you're helping operators have an opportunity to have a shot. We don't need to be worrying about how much bigger you are, or how much more successful, and so forth. You're doing it. And we have to appreciate how that impact of somebody showed you that VC asset class, and he puts you in this whole path for your life. What we can do for many other people, it's unbelievable.

Samara: Ultimately, I want to create multi- generational wealth for our community. I'm doing this so I can invest in the next generation of founders, many of them are Latinos, so they can get a new wealth that they never ever thought about for their families. For me, and my fund, and for my LPs, my limited partners that are investing in my funds... Some of them are endowments, and foundations, but their own clients are everyday Americans. I take that very seriously, having and investing their money on behalf of them, very, very seriously. For me, it's about multi- generational wealth. It's about thinking about it in a very, very different way, and changing how we have influence in our community with wealth. We can organize differently. We can have a voice differently. We can make changes in our ecosystem very differently.

Elias: I'm in Tampa with three other friends, Filipino, and two blacks and myself. They were asking me about investments, and they were talking about the stock market, and they're talking about a stock doubling or something. And I was explaining to them that it's really hard to build all this wealth, because we don't have access to the right information. But I was explaining to them how investing in an Angel, in a seed, on a company that goes multi- billion, what are the kind of returns. They had never heard this before. They were like," Tell me more, tell me more. And then tell me how do I get access to that?" Because they had$25, 000 to invest, but they were peanut buttering that over stocks, without too much information. I love what you said, is that we need to help accelerate the access to multi- generational wealth. That will make a difference in the Latino and the black community in this country. And what you're doing is really, really powerful, because you're showing that it's possible to play at a much larger game. It's not just about having a great salary for 30 years and then being able to retire. That's still a dream for most of us Latinos here in this country. But you're creating amazing wealth that will impact everybody, unity with the LPs, the operators, their families, their children, and the future generations.

Samara: It's a multiplier effect. The fact that PayPal Ventures committed to my fund, and then the next day it was announced that I invested in a company led by a Latina, where 100% of the cap table was women, 80% were Latinas, it shows immediately what happens. I just hired my full- time hire, a Latina. So you invest in one, you're going to invest in a hundred different Latinos, or others, because of our diversified networks. And that's what I learned as a child, when I had people come to my home, immigrants, helping them out, and I helped them out, my family helped them out, then they helped somebody else out, and it helped multiple families. And so I'm just doing that on a very different level, a very different scale.

Elias: And I want to leave it there, pause for now for this conversation, because I think that's really well said. I feel like we should talk another time on the actual due diligence, and some more stories on due diligence in decision- making, because I think people want to know more about that. And to help you expose you to Latino communities. Whatever it takes us as a village, as a group of people, to bet on each other, to help each other. I want more Latinas to come to you, Latinos, Latinas, and look for investment. You invest in the best one, they become successful, and let's blow this thing up. In whatever way I help, I'm working with you, I'm at your service. It's been fun to work with you.

Samara: Yeah, no, you too. You too. That's the thing, when I saw you on stage, I was like," Okay, we got to connect." And we did. And we've been connecting ever since, and so-

Elias: I hard to connect with everybody. It's hard to be involved in everything with everybody, because then you're not going to be successful. I'm really thankful that, organically, you and I have been working together more, and we just keep crossing paths. And we've got to do activities that are high leverage for everybody, so you are definitely... Working with Samara is high leverage, everybody. If you can get into that motion, get in there. We'll talk again. Really, so impressed. I love your story. I love the immigrant story. I love what you're doing, and how confident you are, and that you're doing the right thing, and something that you're so passionate. We want more people to find stuff that they're passionate about, and they can do it 100%.

Samara: I love this. Thank you for having me come on, and let's continue the conversation, let's do a due diligence podcast. I love this. You know I love it. This is what I'm passionate about. And you too. Let's get more Latinos funded, let's get Latinos creating multi- generational wealth.

Elias: It's incredible what's possible in this country. And just to wrap up with the American dream, that we can have access to creating multi- million, multi- billion dollar companies in return. It's incredible that we have the opportunity to build the same thing that others have built in this country for many, many years. It's the time. Hasta luego. We'll be in touch. Thanks for listening to the American Dream. Let me know what you thought of this episode by tweeting me at EliasT. Be sure to hit subscribe, and leave a five- star review, por favor. If you're looking for more leadership insights and stories like the ones you just heard, sign up for my series, the American Dream at drift. com/ american- dream. Every quarter, you'll learn how Drift is progressing towards our mission of remaking the face of corporate America. And you will get insights from amazing Latin- American, and entrepreneurs of color, and leaders like Manny Medina of Outreach, Maria Martinez of Cisco, and many others, along with curated content, news events and ideas delivered straight to your inbox. Muchas gracias, and don't forget to sign up.


Easier said than done. That’s how Samara Hernandez describes building her VC firm, Chingona Ventures. Like Elias, Samara ditched her stable engineering career to start her own company, and she hasn’t looked back since.

In this episode of The American Dream, Samara and Elias share stories of what it was like growing up as immigrants in the U.S., how that shapes the way they work, and the imposter syndrome they still feel today.