When Portland financier Nitin Rai established the Elevate Inclusive Fund in 2016 to invest in minority- and female-owned startups, people were skeptical he’d find attractive opportunities in Portland.
He’s already found 14.
“What we’ve shown is that there is a pipeline of really good startups that are women-led and minority-led that are investable,” says Rai, the fund’s managing director.
Together, the companies Rai has invested in now employ 198 people, 78 percent minority and 70 percent women. Ten of the 14 are led by female CEOs or co-founders, Rai says. Seven are Latino or black. Three are veterans.
The fund closes to investors Sept. 15, with a total of $2.3 million: $1.5 million in public funds, and $800,000 in private capital from local investors. Rai’s Elevate Capital is leveraging another $1.5 million in “follow-on” investments.
Rai says winning over private investment turned out to be “quite difficult.”
“People consider this high-risk,” he says. “They don’t want to take a risk on minorities and women.”
In all, Elevate Inclusive Fund has invested $650,000 in its startups to date, Rai says. Every dollar invested in its 14 fledgling companies, he says, has brought 20 times the money through other sources.
“We serve as a catalyst and a validator,” Rai says. “These entrepreneurs are just blowing it out of the water.”
The companies in which Elevate has invested include Hue Noir, Wildfang, Blendoor, Hubb, Goumikids, Hemex Health, Garden Bar, RFPIO, Agricool, Versi, Heritage Laboratories, Rezi, Scout Military and Curadite.