PayPal Celebrates Black History Month

To mark Black History Month, Lisha Bell from PayPal Ventures interviewed Nasir Qadree from Zeal Capital Partners to hear about his Inclusive Investing strategy and how he hopes to turbocharge economic mobility in the Black community.

In the fall of 2020, PayPal invested $100 million in 19 Black and Latinx venture capital funds to increase the flow of capital to underrepresented entrepreneurs. The investments were made as part of PayPal’s Economic Opportunity Fund to create financial access and economic opportunity for under-resourced communities.

This year, in celebration of Black History Month, we’re spotlighting the founder and general partner of one of those funds, Nasir Qadree from Zeal Capital Partners. Nasir is on a mission to narrow the wealth and skills gap through his trademarked strategy of Inclusive Investing. 

Lisha Bell, Economic Opportunity Fund Manager for PayPal Ventures, sat down with Nasir to discuss his career and how he is expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs of color.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Lisha Bell, Nasir Qadree

Lisha: We’re so excited to be speaking with you. I believe PayPal was one of the first investors in your fund.

Nasir: You were. You anchored our first fund, Zeal I, and at such a pivotal moment when we were building it out. I had a strong conviction around our Inclusive Investing strategy, and you believed in us early. It started a domino effect of other notable companies gaining conviction in our strategy.

Lisha: Well, we’re extremely proud to have you and the entire Zeal Capital family as part of our Economic Opportunity Fund. Tell us a little more about your story. What initially attracted you to the venture capital space and ultimately led you to start your own fund?

Nasir: I started my career in traditional finance and that’s when I honed my investment chops. I wanted to apply that to my interest in innovation, specifically in sectors we interact with every day, like education, healthcare, and financial services.

Before I started in venture, I wanted to experience building something from the ground up and so I opened a coffee shop in the West Village, New York. It wasn’t a traditional coffee shop; it was an incubator where entrepreneurs met with investors, many of whom were investing with a lens toward impact. I befriended those investors, they mentored me and introduced me to venture capital, and more specifically impact investing. They encouraged me to put some of my personal capital to work, which I did. I chose to invest in companies led by those that are historically left out of opportunities – women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ founders. Recognizing there was this huge gap in opportunity pushed me to start my own investment franchise with an equity lens.

Lisha: Your investment strategy is centered on Inclusive Investing™, which is a term you’ve trademarked. What inspired this strategy and how does it work?

Nasir Qadree
Nasir Qadree, Zeal Capital Partners

Nasir: During my time at Village Capital, I was fortunate enough to travel to emerging markets around the world, including New Delhi, Nairobi, and Bogota and to some overlooked cities in the U.S. One key outcome of that exposure was seeing how often times in entrepreneurship, what school you went to, or your personal background, do not matter as much as the innovation and grit you bring to the table. And that can be found in anyone, anywhere.

To support entrepreneurs in being change agents, we have to expand and disrupt our definitions of what makes them qualified and where to find them.

Inclusive Investing is based on the belief that innovative founders are everywhere, not just in a few places. Our strategy allows us to cast a wide net in sourcing founders and proactively invest in diverse teams while keeping both returns and impact front and center.

Lisha: You closed your first fund in 2021, raising more money than you expected and becoming one of the largest funds led by a solo manager. What do you attribute your success to?

Nasir: Admittedly, like a lot of people of color and women entrepreneurs, I had imposter syndrome early on. But the more I ideated on Zeal and studied other investment firms in the space, I felt confident in what makes our framework and world view compelling.

We are focused on backing exceptional diverse management teams that are rethinking the building blocks of wealth – from education, to employment pathways, to financial wellness – sectors we felt were pivotal to turbocharging economic mobility.

We’re only as good as the companies we back. One of the first companies we invested in was Esusu, a company transforming the role rental payments play in increasing tenants’ credit scores. Since then, Esusu has become a unicorn [valued at more than $1 billion]. That was our first bet.

We’ve invested in 16 more companies, 94% of which are led by BIPOC or women entrepreneurs and 68% are headquartered outside traditional tech hotbed cities, like San Francisco.

Lisha: Oftentimes we focus on the challenges when it comes to Black entrepreneurship and access to capital. What has you optimistic about the future?

Nasir: There are people who genuinely want to be a part of this journey and hope that our success will shift the market and expand opportunities (only 1 percent of venture capital is managed by Black fund managers), the same way the success of titans like Robert Smith, John Rogers, and Melissa Bradley paved the way for investors like me.

I'm optimistic that more companies like Esusu – that challenge how we build equitable and inclusive infrastructures for wealth generation – will be recognized and thrive.

I'm cautiously optimistic that Black fund managers and entrepreneurs are earning a stronger voice in this space. There's a small, but collaborative and thriving ecosystem of Black VCs, entrepreneurs, and investors who are all committed to sharing resources, wisdom, and investment opportunities. A rising tide lifts all boats.

For Nasir’s Black History Month Playlist, check out his Spotify.

Lisha: Finally, when you're not spending your time building the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs, I hear we can find you behind the turntables. Is that right?

Nasir: Ha, yes. I DJ soul, disco, funk, and boogie. That’s my genre and I DJ on 100% vinyl. It’s very important for me to have that outlet. It’s my happy place and it’s therapeutic.

You can find out more about Nasir, Inclusive Investing™, and Zeal Capital Partners here.


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