LA Venture Podcast: Vamos Ventures Invests In Underrepresented Founders

On this week's episode of LA Venture, hear from Marcos Gonzalez, the managing partner at Vamos Ventures, a seed-stage venture fund which invests in Latino and diverse founders. Over half of L.A. County is Latino. A relatively new fund, investments are in the range of $100,000 to $500,000. Seems like a great time to be investing in this community! And, Vamos is hiring...


Key Takeaways:

  • Each month, 80,000 Latinos turn 18, which is driven by 92% domestic growth -- not due to immigration. Vamos Ventures is looking at opportunities within that demographic, with a special interest in consumer packaged goods as well as financial services, health and wellness, retail broadly and media.
  • Venture capital versus private equity can lead to investors getting carried away with the latest fad idea. VC that focuses on early-stage companies can learn from private equity to be more circumspect and carefully evaluate the young company at hand.
  • Vamos Ventures says "no" to prospects with a thoughtful four-prong approach. Ultimately, the door is always open.

Every year the number of Hispanics receiving STEM related degrees is doubling. A lot of these young folks with STEM degrees are going to be getting into the engineering world and innovation and entrepreneurial world. That's a great indicator of future.

— Marcos C. Gonzalez

Marcos C. Gonzalez is founder and managing partner of Vamos Ventures. Marcos is a private equity, venture and angel investor, who has invested in the U.S. and abroad. In between investment funds, Marcos co-founded a tech company in Boston during the first internet wave of the 90s. Before tech entrepreneurship and investing, Marcos worked for the Boston Consulting Group. Marcos graduated from Brown and Harvard Business School.

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Los Angeles is home to thousands of founders working day and often night to create a startup that's the next breakout hit.

Who are the most impressive L.A. founders? To find out, we asked our cohort of dozens of L.A.'s to VCs top weigh in.

In somewhat of a surprise, given he's less profile than many founders, Andrew Peterson, co-founder of the cybersecurity platform Signal Sciences, topped the list. Last year, he sold his company for $825 million to Fastly, which he joined during the transaction. He now leads the cloud computing giant's security practice.

Unfortunately, the list is lacking in diversity and does not include any females, which is emblematic of problems that continue to plague the industry.

A mere 1% of venture-backed companies are led by Black entrepreneurs. Last year, only a quarter of venture dollars nationwide went to companies with a female founder and L.A. fares especially poorly, ranking fourth for capital invested with female teams.

The complete list is below, in alphabetical order, except for Peterson, who received the most votes. The others were all tied.

Andrew Peterson,  Signal Sciences

Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson is the co-founder and former chief executive of Signal Sciences, a web application security platform that he founded in 2014 and was acquired in 2020 by Fastly in a $775 million deal. Signal Sciences protects web applications from attacks and data breaches for clients like Duo Security, Under Armor and DoorDash.

Prior to starting Signal Sciences, Peterson worked at Etsy, helping the online marketplace with international growth as a group project manager. Etsy reportedly became one of Signal Sciences's first customers. Peterson has also served stints as health information management officer at the Clinton Foundation and as a senior product specialist at Google.

Ara Mahdessian, ServiceTitan

Ara Mahdessian

Ara Mahdessian is the co-founder of ServiceTitan, a SaaS product for managing a home services business.

The inspiration for ServiceTitan, Mahdessian's first company, came from watching his parents start their own businesses in building and plumbing, only to struggle with the logistics behind keeping them running, he told Inc in 2019. Mahdessian and his co-founder Vahe Kuzoyan met while in college, and worked on several consulting projects before starting ServiceTitan, in hopes of aiding small business owners like their parents.

Evan Spiegel, Snap Inc

Evan Spiegel

Evan Spiegel is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Snap Inc., the Venice-based company known for its app Snapchat. He's also one of the youngest billionaires in the world, launching Snapchat while still an undergraduate at Stanford.

SnapChat, the company's app, has recently been taking on rival TikTok with a new feature and a program meant to attract creators to its platform. And it is been at the center of a larger national debate on the power of big tech.

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff is the founder of several companies, including dot.LA. He started his career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, later leaving to co-found travel website Hotwire. After serving as vice president of lodging at Expedia, he went on to found Zillow, an online real estate marketplace that went public in 2011.

Rascoff's most recent project is Pacaso, a marketplace for buying, selling and co-owning a second home.

Tim Ellis, Relativity Space

Tim Ellis

Tim Ellis is the co-founder and chief executive of Relativity Space, an autonomous rocket factory and launch services leader for satellite constellations. He is the youngest member on the National Space Council Users Advisory Group and serves on the World Economic Forum as a "technology pioneer."

Before founding Relativity Space, Ellis studied aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California and interned at Masten Space Systems and Blue Origin, where he worked after graduation. He was a propulsion engineer and brought metal 3D printing in-house to the company.

Travis Schneider, PatientPop

Travis Schneider

Travis Schneider is the co-founder and co-chief executive of PatientPop, a practice growth platform for healthcare providers. He founded the company with Luke Kervin in 2014.

The two have founded three companies together, including ShopNation, a fashion shopping engine that was later acquired by the Meredith Commerce Network.

Luke Kervin, PatientPop

Luke Kervin

Luke Kervin is the other co-founder and co-chief of PatientPop. He is a serial entrepreneur — his first venture was Starbrand Media, which was acquired by Popsugar in May 2008.

Kervin and Schneider then founded ShopNation, and when it was acquired in 2012, Kervin served as the general manager and vice president at the Meredith Commerce Network for a few years before leaving to found PatientPop.

Kervin had the idea for PatientPop when he and his wife were expecting their first child, he told VoyageLA. They were frustrated with how the healthcare system wasn't focused on the consumers it was meant to serve. So in 2014, he and Schneider created PatientPop.

An L.A. security startup that has already signed on clients in tech, gaming, cannabis and entertainment is coming out of stealth mode just as the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol and this week's presidential inauguration has brought safety to the forefront.

HiveWatch provides companies with a central platform that uses multiple sensors across buildings to help better respond to physical security threats.

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It's almost 90 degrees outside in Los Angeles as lines of cars pull up to Dodger Stadium, home to a mass vaccination site that opened Friday.

"Please make sure that they're not under the sun in the cart," Edith Mirzaian is telling a volunteer as she directs the person to put ice packs on coolers that hold up to 20 COVID vaccines. Mirzaian is a USC associate professor of clinical pharmacy and an operational lead at one of California's largest vaccination sites.

Dodger Stadium alone — once the nation's largest COVID-19 testing site — is slated to vaccine up to 12,000 people each day, county and city health officials said this week. Officials plan to finish vaccinating some 500,000 health care and assisted care employees by the end of this month before opening appointments up to people 65 and older.

Mirzaian is desperately trying to make sure that the vaccines don't spoil.

"We have to be the guardians of the vaccine," she said.

Earlier this month, hundreds of vaccinations were lost after a refrigerator went out in Northern California, forcing the hospital to rush to give out hundreds of doses. Mirzaian's task tells a larger story of the difficult and often daunting logistical process required to roll out a vaccine that requires cold temperatures.

"You know they can't be warm so just keep an eye out," she gently reminds the volunteer.

The volunteers and staff from USC, the Los Angeles Fire Department and CORE Response prepared enough doses to vaccinate around 2,000 residents on Friday and they plan to increase capacity each day after.

Local health officials are holding the vaccination syringes in coolers after they leave the air-conditioned trailers. The coolers are then covered in ice packs and wheeled on carts to clinicians administering shots to health care workers and nursing home staff eligible under the state's vaccination plan.

"Vaccines are the surest route to defeating this virus and charting a course to recovery, so the City, County, and our entire team are putting our best resources on the field to get Angelenos vaccinated as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible," said mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement announcing the plan.

Health officials around the world are racing against time as the virus mutates and poses greater dangers.

"We have a little bit of borrowed time here right now because these variants are not here in great numbers from what we can tell," said Susan Butler-Wu, an associate professor in clinical pathology at USC's Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Curbing the spread of the virus is a vital way to prevent mutant strains from developing, she said.

Mirzaian, who arrived at the site before it opened at 8 a.m., said that there were logistical challenges as volunteers scrambled to assemble what will likely be the hub of the region's vaccination efforts.

"It's challenging to make sure that everyone knows what the process is and what we're doing and what to tell the patients who receive the vaccines."

After a few hours, the procedure moved quicker.

Residents have to show identification and proof of employment before they're taken through a list of pre-screening questions and given the vaccine through their car window. They're required to then wait for 15 minutes while clinicians monitor them for side effects.

Mirzaian said the process took each car about an hour. While eligible residents can walk-in for vaccinations, she recommends they make appointments so that enough doses are made available each day.

"As long as people have their appointments, they will get in," she said. "We are ready. We are like an army ready to give vaccines."

An earlier version of this story misidentified CORE Response.

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