Zeal Capital Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based venture capital firm that got its start in February, has raised $22.3 million on its way to its first $50 million Inclusive Investing Fund. The new fund is anchored by PayPal, The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, family offices, business leaders and investors.
“Inclusive investing is our strategy, and when you build a team this way, you widen the lens and geography,” Nasir Qadree, founder and managing partner of Zeal Capital Partners, told Crunchbase News. “When more than 40 million Americans are unemployed and only 28 percent are ‘financially healthy,’ we need more businesses delivering solutions to bridge the wealth and skills gap at scale.”
The firm is focused on making inclusive investments in the sectors of financial technology and future of work, tapping into $4.4 trillion of economic opportunity due to under-investments in companies led by diverse management teams, said Qadree whose background in startups includes roles at Village Capital and associate director of social investments for AT&T.
The fund will have a 10-year lifecycle, but Qadree expects to invest in 20 to 24 companies over a four-year period. Zeal made its first investment in fintech company Esusu, which raised a $2.3 million seed round in August. Esusu is developing a mobile platform using data and insights to increase consumer credit scores, lower eviction rates and fill vacancies.
In addition to Esusu, Qadree plans to invest in two or three more companies this year. Zeal intends to write checks for seed funding in the ranges of $250,000 to $500,000, and for Series A rounds at $750,000 to $1.3 million, he added.
Qadree said that the environment in 2020, including the global pandemic, social unrest and the economic downturn, “turbo-charged and proved” Zeal’s need in the marketplace.
Zeal is also proactively leaning on secondary markets, those areas considered the “fly-over” cities between New York and San Francisco, Qadree said.
“We recognize the missing investments and how best to source companies so that entrepreneurs get fair play,” he added. “There is just as much, if not more, innovation happening in the secondary market or fly-over cities. We aim to democratize access to capital because the better story is there is innovation all across the United States.”