The Unequal Geographic Distribution of Venture Capital


While venture capital has been the fuel that powers innovation in America, it has long been concentrated in select major cities across the country. Given that the country’s most powerful and fastest-growing companies are clustered in hubs like the Silicon Valley, New York City, and Seattle, it’s not surprising that venture capital shares a similarly concentration. Geography plays a huge role in the venture ecosystem. A report by Citylab tracked venture capital investment and startup activity across U.S. cities and found that venture capital investments are extremely concentrated in specific regions while other regions show very little investment activity. The ten largest cities in the United States for venture capital investment account for 77.6% of all US venture capital investments. The largest hubs for venture capital investments in the United States include the Bay Area, the Bos-Wash Corridor (including Boston, New York, and Washington D.C.), and cities across the West Coast including Los Angeles and Seattle.

To further break down America’s venture capital landscape, a team of Harvard researchers analyzed and spatially visualized 57,000 venture capital investments from 2000-2014. Their  findings suggested recurring patterns of investment activity that they used to classify cities into four categories. They used two metrics to gauge domestic investment activity – the percentage of money that VC firms invested in companies within the same city and the amount of money that companies raised from investors within the same city as a percentage of total amount of funds raised. From these metrics, the researchers found, once again, that geography plays a huge role within the venture ecosystem.


The first city classification is called the self-sustaining city. It is characterized by substantial domestic investments by local firms. This creates a cycle in which more investments result in more successful companies causing more companies to relocate to the area. The results of which spur more funding and cause the cycle to repeat. San Francisco and Boston are self-sustaining cities which fall into this classification.


New York City, the second largest hub for venture capital investment in the United States, falls into the second classification, a finance center. This classification is characterized by disproportionately high venture capital for the amount of startups present in the city. Finance centers are the opposite of tech hubs in that the startups in these cities are well-funded by local investors. However, the majority of NYC-based venture capital dollars go towards financing startups in other cities.


The third classification of city are tech hubs which are areas that have experienced a disproportionate inflow of investment money. In tech hubs like Salt Lake City, Austin, and North Carolina’s research triangle of Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill, the percentage of outside investments flowing into the cities is much larger than the percentage of local investments.


Lastly, the fourth classification is spatially mismatched cities. These are cities that cannot be categorized as tech hubs, self-sustaining cities, or finance centers because of low venture capital and startup activity. In spatially mismatched cities, companies aren’t raising money from local firms or external players at a significant level. Investors from these areas put money into startups in other cities.


Portland, Oregon is an up-and-coming startup region that cannot yet be characterized as a techhub, self-sustaining city, or finance center. However, there is still plenty of opportunity for future venture capital growth within the city. One of the main qualities that Portland currently lacks is a critical mass of investment dollars. Additionally, Portland doesn’t have any of the “unicorn” startups and only have one candidate for an IPO – Puppet, a network automation company that has delayed IPO plans indefinitely. However, while startups don’t play nearly as important a role in Oregon’s economy as they do in California and Washington, new businesses are essential to any state’s economic future.


A large amount of investment money currently flows across the United States (nearly $60 billion in 2015 alone). However, venture capital investment are found in just ½ of America’s 366 metro areas. Funds like Elevate Capital aim to attract more entrepreneurs and more investors to the Portland region, which lags behind places like Seattle and San Francisco as far as total angel investment and venture capital dollar.


Oregon is a state ripe for investment and Portland is a city with vast potential for becoming home to even more successful startups. Over the last decade, Oregon’s startup ecosystem has matured significantly. Oregon startup investments of over $1 million have increased sevenfold over the past 11 years. Portland already has a healthy tech ecosystem with several major players including Elemental Technologies sold to Amazon in 2015, Zapproved which raised a $60 million round of funding, and Puppet which employs hundreds of workers in a 75,000 square foot offices in downtown Portland. The venture capital  and startup activity trend for Portland, Oregon remains very much in an upward curve.


Elevate Capital is building the pipeline of the next generation of successful startups by investing in very early stage companies as lead investor and creating investment syndicates  for follow up capital to grow.  Additionally we provide the best mentoring and advice to our portfolio founders and CEOs.

Women and Minority Founders in the Venture Capital Pipeline

Venture capital has historically been an insular, isolated world. In the world of venture capital, women and minorities are dramatically underrepresented – both in terms of having the power to give out funding, and in being on the receiving end of that funding. Today, venture capital continues to exclude female and minority entrepreneurs from the investment pipeline. From the entrepreneurs pitching to investors all the way up to the C-suite, gender and racial imbalances pervade venture capital.


Not only do minority founders make up disproportionately small percentage of all startup founders, they have a harder time securing funding. During the first half of 2013, minority entrepreneurs made up just 8.5% of the people pitching their businesses to angel investors. Entrepreneurs of ethnic or racial minorities were also less likely to receive investment that year. Compared to 22% of all businesses, just 15% of minority-owned firms successfully translated a pitch into dollar bills. According to 2010 data from CB Insights, 87% of venture capital backed founders are white and 83% of the founding teams for these were all white. As a whole, less than one percent of venture capital funding every year goes to founders who are people of color.


As far as receiving venture capital funding, female founders aren’t doing so well either. Between 2010 and 2015, just 10% of venture capital funds invested around the world went to startups with a female founder. In 2016, venture capitalists invested $58.2 billion in companies with all-male founders. During that same year, women received just $1.46 billion. According to Ethan Mollick, a professor of management at Wharton, 38% of new businesses in this country are started by women but only 2% - 6% of those founders receive VC funding.


One challenge faced by both women and minorities in securing funding is the pipeline problem. Venture capital historically has been, and still is, an all-boys club with a mostly white workforce. Because venture capital is so male-dominated, many women lack access to networks of social and intellectual capital necessary to close on funding. Women may represent about 50% of the labor force, but when it comes to money and power, they have very little of either. As for minority founders, factors like unconscious bias, historic under representation, and lack of access to opportunity all play a role in their under-representation in the venture capital pipeline.


If the tech industry is ever going to build a culture of inclusion and diversity, female and minority founders need "intentional" funding. Some corporations have already begun implementing plans to increase diversity in the startup world. In 2011, Comcast Ventures (Comcast’s corporate venture arm) started the $20M Catalyst fund to invest in companies led by women and members of minority groups. In 2014, Intel Capital (Intel’s venture capital arm) announced that it would set aside $125M in a Diversity Fund to invest in startups with diverse management while bringing them onto Intel’s portfolio. The same year, AOL launched a $10M fund designed to focus on women-led consumer internet startups.


While large corporations are making strides to level the playing field, mainstream venture capital firms don’t seem to be making the same commitments. Even though research shows that having a diverse team results in a more creative and more profitable company, the venture capital industry seems to be largely denying itself this opportunity. By leaving out women and people of color, firms miss out on millions of innovative minds and profitable business opportunities. Funds that focus on diversity like Intel’s Diversity Fund, AOL’s BBG fund, Women's Venture Fund, BackStage Capital and our very own Elevate Inclusive Fund, ensure that we invest in diverse minds. It’s time for us to stop talking about the diversity problem in venture capital and start taking action to solve it. The answer is intentional investment.  Lets put our money where our mouth is. By taking these action steps, we are building a more inclusive, equitable, and innovative world.


Elevate Capital through its Inclusive Fund has made a big dent already. 70 percent of the Inclusive Fund investments are in women founded startups and minority founded startups.  Elevate Capital has  become a  driving force in  changing the faces of entrepreneurs and  set a new benchmark  and a leader  as a fund with proven success in diversity and  inclusion. 

Portfolio Update: Summer 2017

In the last 12 months, Elevate Capital and Elevate Inclusive have made a total of 17 investments in 15 companies (2 follow-on investments).

Elevate Capital has remained committed to supporting female and minority founders in Oregon and across the globe. Of the 198 employees employed by Elevate Capital’s 14 portfolio companies, over 70 percent are women and minorities. The Elevate Inclusive fund continues to invest exclusively in women and minorities. In fact, over half of Elevate Capital’s new companies are led by women.

We are very proud of our team here at Elevate, thankful to our investors, and are excited to witness how our portfolio companies change the world. Our new investments span fields ranging from global health, to hair care for women of color, to menswear-inspired womenswear. Here’s a look at our new portfolio companies:


Heritage Labs (Elevate Inclusive)
CEO: Kateigh Williams

Heritage Laboratories creates luxury skincare supplements, designed to help the body create brighter, hydrated, more radiant skin - naturally, from the inside out.  Through luxury, convenience and efficacy, we're modernizing the centuries-old Asian tradition of eating with health and beauty in mind."


Garden Bar (Elevate Inclusive)
CEO: Ana Chaud

Garden Bar serves generous bowls of raw leafy greens tossed with locally sourced fruits and vegetables, gratifying grains, all-natural meats, artisan cheeses, housemade dressings and more, all in a comfortable, modern-farmhouse setting. The menu also includes baked goods, handcrafted beverages and more. Founded in 2014 by Ana Chaud in Portland, Oregon, Garden Bar is THE destination for farm-fresh, handcrafted salads.


Scout (Elevate Capital, Elevate Inclusive)
CEO: Cody Mcgraw

Scout Military is a startup based in Portland, Oregon. Scout Military's primary goal is to alleviate the problems around military discounts for veterans and service members who shop without receiving discounts. Founded in 2014, Scout Military has grown to a team of six. Currently mobile apps provide over 150,000 local military discounts. Scout Military connects the military community with brands honoring discounts, savings, or special experience through our online marketplace and apps.


Curadite (Elevate Inclusive)
CEO: Dennis Mcnannay

Curadite is leading the way in reducing the US healthcare system’s $337 billion medication non-adherence problem. Combining cellular-enabled disposable packaging and IoT technology, Curadite fully supports patient's efforts to maintain their medication regimens. The Curadite platform provides individualized medication reminders, offers real-time medication tracking, generates usage data, and verifies communicator viability. It also invites patients to include friends, family and clinicians to be part of their Care Circle – a support system for their medication plan. Finally, recognizing that "Knowledge is Power", Curadite seeks to empower patients with the tools needed to improve medication adherence.


Rezi Rent (Elevate Inclusive)
CEO: Keenan Williams

Rezi Rent pays Landlords one year of rent upfront and then leases those properties  to long term high quality tenants via its advance AI based screening technology.


Hue Noir (Elevate Inclusive)
CEO: Paula Hayes

At Hue Noir, we are on a mission to change the face of beauty by putting multicultural women at the center of the modern beauty movement. We've blended SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY to develop luxurious and innovative makeup solutions ideal for customers with nuanced skin tones ranging from fair to deep. Our brand was founded by Paula Hayes, a product chemist who is also a woman of color. Thanks to her expertise, we develop proprietary makeup formulas calibrated with multicultural women in mind.


Hemex Health (Elevate Inclusive)
CEO: Patti White

Hemex Health seeks out and works with brilliant inventors to deliver revolutionary solutions to global health problems. Their innovative products are designed to help millions of people across all markets, especially in underserved areas. Hemex Health was founded by Patti White, whose career has focused on finding and building solutions that make a difference in people's lives. In May 2017, Hemex Health was selected as a top woman-led health innovation hub company by Springboard Enterprises.


Wildfang (Elevate Inclusive)
CEO: Emma Mcilroy

Founded by Emma Mcilroy and Julia Parsley in 2013, Wildfang aspires to make menswear-inspired trends accessible to women everywhere. Known for their “Tomboy” tee and “Wild Feminist” design, Wildfang designs clothing for badass women. From wingtips and blazers to exclusive content and inspiration, Wildfang aims to bring out the best in their customer by serving both their tomboy fashion sense and their tomboy spirit.


This is unimaginable! Within 8 months we have achieved first close of not one but two funds and invested in 6 amazing startups from both the elevate inclusive fund (six startups) of which two received funding from elevate capital fund... 50% are founded by women and the six are diverse and multi colored. THE UNITED COLORS OF BENETTON!  I am so proud of my team, especially Eric Boothe. Not only have we been raising capital, we have been working hard to find the brightest and the best to invest in. Warm welcome  to our mentors and the elevate investment cohort #1. Thank you very much to our investors. Now lets go change the world;  and make some money doing that - TOGETHER! 


Nitin Rai

For Immediate Release

Elevate Capital announces first close of its two funds and cohort of investments in women and minority owned startups   

Portland, OR (August 31, 2016)Elevate Capital announced that it has completed the first close of its $3 million Elevate Inclusive Fund and $10 million Elevate Capital Fund and has made investments in its first cohort of six women and minority entrepreneur-led startups.

Elevate Capital is a Pacific Northwest-based venture firm that invests in early stage under-represented entrepreneurs, including women and minorities that include communities of color, veterans, and entrepreneurs located in under-served regions.

Elevate Capital, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, and Kimberly Branam, Portland Development Commission (PDC) Executive Director, along with other investors in both funds, will recognize and showcase these investments at a media and investor-only showcase event on August 31, 2016 at the Oregon Story Board.

“Seventy percent of Oregon’s new jobs happen when existing businesses grow and expand,” Governor Kate Brown said. “Promising businesses owned by Oregonians in underserved communities need and deserve access to investment capital to help them grow, and Elevate Capital’s announcement of these first six recipients is proof that entrepreneurship is alive and well in all Oregon communities.”

"I am truly elated to see this idea come to fruition and celebrate the first six recipients of the Elevate Inclusive Fund,” said Loretta Smith, Multnomah County Commissioner. “This is a key example of how we can foster wealth creation within our communities of color and low-income neighborhoods and get us closer to becoming an even more competitive and equitable place for folks to live and work."

“We’re very proud of our role in seeding the Elevate Inclusive Fund as one of the first investment funds in the nation to support inclusion and diversity,” said Kimberly Branam, PDC Executive Director. “Our number one question at PDC is “who benefits?” And in this case it is small, entrepreneurial endeavors, led by diverse founders, with the potential to become much larger players in our regional economy.”

Investors in the Elevate Inclusive Fund were led by a $250,000 commitment from the State of Oregon, $500,000 from Multnomah County, and $500,000 from Portland Development Commission, as well as additional investments were raised both from in and out-of-state entrepreneurs. 

Elevate Capital closed on its $4.2 million investment that was led by a $2 million investment from Meyer Memorial Trust, $250,000 from Oregon Community Foundation, and individual investors such as local entrepreneur Stephen Marsh who invested in both funds, and certain members of the TiE Oregon Angels and Willamette Angels Group.  Both funds are on a rolling close till first half of 2017.

"We are happy to see Elevate Capital has completed its first close. Meyer Memorial Trust is excited to find a new partner focused on investing in under-represented and underserved communities, including communities of color," said Rukaiyah Adams, Meyer Memorial Trust Chief Investment Officer.

“I’m excited to be able to support Elevate Capital and the great companies they’re helping to find capital, expertise, and other resources they need to be successful,” said Stephen Marsh.

Elevate Capital is investing $25,000-$75,000 in early seed investments from its Inclusive Fund and up to $500,000 in seed and series A stage type investments from the Capital fund. It will have additional funds available for follow-on investments from both funds.

“We are off to a great start! I am delighted that we have achieved this milestone so quickly and I am very thankful for the overwhelming support we have received from our investors and the community at large,” said Nitin Rai, Managing Director of Elevate Capital.

“Not only have we been working hard to raise capital, we have been simultaneously managing an overwhelming interest from entrepreneurs to seek capital from our funds. As a result, we are pleased to announce our first cohort of investments at first close,” said Rai.

The first cohort of investments includes:

Blendoor: Founded by Stephanie Lampkin, an African American entrepreneur. Blendoor is a blind recruiting app that hides a candidate’s name and photo to circumvent unconscious bias. In just a few months since beta launch, Blendoor has attracted over 250 companies, 5,000+ candidates and has been features in Forbes, NPR, and Fast Company. The team of Stanford and MIT graduates hold over 30 years combined experience at companies spanning Microsoft, Netscape, Simply Hired, and BCG. Blendoor is based in Silicon Valley, but plans to establish a presence in Portland Oregon. Blendoor received funding from Elevate Inclusive Fund.

Goumikids: Co-founded by Lilli Yeo, an Asian American entrepreneur and former veteran employee at Nike. Goumikids is a kids apparel company with deep roots in social mission and sustainability. It makes mitts, boots, hats, jamms and preemies. Ten percent of all proceeds, and 100% of proceeds from goumigiving go directly to support efforts that protect children and invest in improving the lives of girls globally including girls rescued from human trafficking and orphaned children. Goumikids is based in the Oregon Technology Business Center (OTBC) accelerator in Beaverton, Oregon. Goumikids received funding from Elevate Inclusive Fund.

Hubb: Founded by Allison Magyar, a serial woman entrepreneur. Hubb brings order to the chaos of content management for meetings and conferences via automation and helps reduce costs of managing events for large corporation via its cloud based software. Founded by veteran event management professionals, Hubb is based in Vancouver, Washington, but hires a number of employees who live in Portland, Oregon. Hubb received funding from Elevate Inclusive Fund.

I.T. Aire: Co-founded by Jason Patz, a disabled veteran. I.T. Aire specializes in providing the world's most reliable and energy efficient Data-Center Cooling Systems. The company also holds key utility patents protecting popular data-center cooling techniques, which are licensed to data-centers for use in accomplishing their energy efficiency initiatives. ITAire is based in Portland, Oregon. I.T. Aire received funding from both Elevate Inclusive Fund and Elevate Capital Fund.

RFPIO: Co-Founded  by Ganesh Shankar, an Indian American entrepreneur. RFPIO’s cloud-based Request for Proposals (RFP) software is a response management solution that eliminates the friction often associated with responding to RFPs and significantly reduces cost of managing the RFP process for businesses. RFPIO is based in Beaverton, Oregon. RFPIO received funding from both Elevate Inclusive Fund and Elevate Capital Fund.

Versi: Co-founded by Jorge Guzman, a Hispanic American entrepreneur. Versi is a Yelp-like mobile app that allows businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies to expose their products, services, programs and community resources to the growing Latino market. Versi is based in Portland, Oregon. Versi received funding from Elevate Inclusive Fund.

Each of the six startup companies will select mentor and advisors from Elevate Capital’s pool of mentors in residence of successful entrepreneurs, many of whom are charter members and mentors at TiE Oregon or investors in Elevate Capital Fund. Elevate Capital Fund will partner with TiE Oregon and offer its newly launched TiE XL, a lean startup-based virtual accelerator and education program to the startups receiving funding.

“In additional to making investments, the mentoring program at Elevate Capital will fulfill our commitment towards mentor capital to these startups. It is a vital ingredient in their overall success,” said Mr. Rai.  Mr. Rai will serve on the boards of RFPIO and ITAire. Additionally, Mr. Raghu Raghavan former CEO and founder of Acton is also expected to serve on the board of RFPIO and a key advisor to its CEO.

Media Contact

Nitin Rai, Managing Director

Elevate Capital




Elevating - the next step!

We have exciting news! In January this year we announced the launch of Elevate Capital, our preamble and core mission and "Elevate Inclusive Fund" that will invest $3 million over the next five years in underrepresented entrepreneurs targeting concept stage and seed startups that were 100% from women, communities of color and veterans. $1.25 Million was committed from Portland Development Commission, Multnomah County and State Of Oregon. This is one of the first public/private supported funds of its nature in the nation. The range of initial funding is $25-75,000, in those two entrepreneurs in their garage style startups. 

Today we are proud to announce the launch of "Elevate Capital Fund" - a $10 Million "all inclusive"  fund that will invest initially up to $500,000 in early stage startups. We are so proud to get the support of a large local institutional investor - Meyer Memorial Trust in form of a $2 Million  commitment to the Elevate Capital Fund. It was a chance opportunity to present TiE Oregon to the Meyer executive team last year that inspired me pursue the creation of this fund. 

 It is a real privilege to have Meyer as our lead investor. Combine that with our other investment partners such as Oregon Community Foundation, individual members of  TiE Oregon Angels and Willamette Angels (as part of our endorsement by RAIN accelerator as their investment fund in the South Willamette Region of Oregon), we truly have a regional group of investors to help us create an impact on "You the Entrepreneur".   It doesn't matter who you are, what race or gender, where you are in our geographical space, if you have an idea that can scale into a business  and help create jobs and wealth in your neck of the woods we want to talk to you. 

Our investments will be  for high growth startups  primarily  in the pacific northwest region (but we may consider a few outside) including all of Oregon,  that are looking for that hard to raise $500,000 - $1000,0000  to get beyond the MVP and to the next level. We will target under represented entrepreneurs and under-served regions but we are open to one and all.

Yes folks, we can lead your series seed/Pre A and also invest in a series A with room for follow-on, if you have a disruptive product and a team that can help scale this business (read previous blog Hello World for types of companies). Not only will we invest this capital, we will help syndicate these deals with investment partners like TiE Angels, Willamette Angels and  other local and national funds that have partnered with us in the past or are eager to partner with us. Combine that with our mentors (that list will be out soon) you get "one fund" to join hands with that will serve as a catalyst to get your funding in place quickly, so you can focus on your business vs spending large amounts of time fund raising. We become your mentoring and funding partner. 

We are hoping for a first close of this fund in the next couple of months, after which we can start making some initial investments - so be patient with us folks, we are in the same mode as you might be - "raising capital" !!!   In the meanwhile, if you are actively raising capital, do take an opportunity to apply on our website so we can contact you when we are ready.

I end this post with a sincere thanks to my team of Eric, Robin and Stephen who have been working hard to support our mission and all of our initial investors, friends and colleagues at TiE Oregon, First Insight and our law firm Ater Wynne. They all have supported us beyond my wildest dreams. I am including a copy of the press release below that is coming out in a few hours but I cannot end without quoting an investor of the fund "Rock this sh*t Nitin! Rock it!". So lets Rock it!


Nitin Rai,

Managing Director, Elevate Capital Fund,, @NitinrRai


Copy of the press release:

For Immediate Release

Elevate Capital Fund Earns Institutional Commitment

Portland, OR (June 9, 2016) –  Elevate Capital Fund announced that Meyer Memorial Trust, a local foundation and institutional investor, will invest $2 million into Elevate Capital Fund. Elevate Capital Fund is a newly formed $10 million Pacific Northwest-based venture fund that invests in early stage startups that includes under-represented entrepreneurs, including women and people of color, veterans, and entrepreneurs located in under-served regions, such as the Willamette Valley, central and southern Oregon, and southwest Washington.

"Although Meyer Memorial Trust recognizes that first-time funds present higher risk all around, Nitin Rai is the kind of fund manager that we want to invest in and invest with," said Sayer Jones, Meyer's Director of Finance. "The investment will be made through our Invest Oregon platform. We look forward to Elevate Capital Fund joining our portfolio alongside other local investments in firms like Ecotrust Forests and the Women's Venture Capital Fund.”

“Elevate Capital Fund was formed to lead the effort in funding under-represented entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest region. We are very fortunate to have Meyer Memorial Trust as an investment partner. Our partnership will help passionate entrepreneurs who are focused on creating high-growth companies with disruptive products,” said Nitin Rai, Elevate Capital’s Managing Director.

“Elevate Capital Fund provides the financial and mentor capital to build a successful company and spread job growth. Backed with experienced mentors, investors and partners globally, we plan to build the next generation of entrepreneurs and companies across the region,” adds Mr. Rai. “Along with our $3 million, 100% under-represented entrepreneurs-focused Elevate Inclusive Fund that invests in concept and seed stage startups, we now have $13 million in investment capital at our disposal, which we will deploy in these seed and early stage startups.”  

Elevate Capital Fund expects to do a first close in the next two months, after which it will start investing up to $500,000 in early A or Series A rounds in 12 to 14 high-growth startups with room for follow-on in the next three to four years. The final close is expected to take 12 months. Other early investors committed to the fund include Oregon Community Foundation and certain individual investors from TiE Oregon Angels and Willamette Angels via endorsement from the RAIN accelerator group in Eugene and Corvallis.

About Meyer Memorial Trust and Invest Oregon Platform: Meyer Memorial Trust was created by the late Fred G. Meyer, founder of a chain of retail stores bearing his name throughout the Pacific Northwest. Established in 1982, Meyer has awarded roughly $700 million in grants and program related investments to organizations, primarily in Oregon. 

Meyer launched Invest Oregon in 2014 to focus a portion of its corpus in market-rate opportunities that create social, equitable, environmental and economic benefit across the state.