Being a founder of a company can feel like you're fighting an uphill battle with an army of one. When you effectively use one of the most invaluable free resources at your disposal, your community, that burden becomes much easier to bear. The Netcapital Advisors team spoke with Daniel Acheampong, co-founder and General Partner of Visible Hands, to learn more about how founders, and investors, can successfully leverage their communities.
Visible Hands is an investment firm with a 14-week fellowship program for underrepresented talent. The firm focuses on cultivating individuals with a vision and the capacity to execute, by providing company building services and investments of up to $200k. They received upwards of 900 applications for their inaugural virtual-first fellowship program.
Daniel Acheampong, co-founder and General Partner of Visible Hands
Acheampong explains that Visible Hands takes a community-based lens to working within the venture ecosystem by not necessarily viewing other VCs as competition, and instead as part of a larger process:
“We see that there’s a lot of support in the Seed stage and Series A, especially for diverse founders. We love seeing all that support, but the challenge here is that in order to reach Seed and Series A, you need revenue, you need a team, you need to have built a product … Often the idea dies before [underrepresented founders] even have a chance to validate it…[this] creates a huge gap in the pipeline...That pipeline needs to be cultivated, it needs to be built. Our focus is to really help generate a healthy deal flow for the later stage companies.”
He shares that Visible Hands also places a lot of importance on creating a community for founders, beyond just providing them with financial capital: “There’s also the social capital... helping someone to find a co-founder or build a team. At 90% of Black and Latinx-led firms the owner is the only employee, which makes it hard to scale...Then there’s the inspirational capital, having a team of advisors, people around them who can say ‘I have done this, and I can support you to do this too’.
We’re focusing on those three sources of capital: financial, social, and inspirational to really build a community oriented around the founder.”
Share your ideas, widely.
“...Some founders say, ‘I’m scared to tell people about my idea, because somebody might steal it.’ And I push back on that because I think you should actually go out and share your idea with everybody,” Acheampong says.
“To leverage community is to go out and speak to people, speak to people in your family, go to your neighborhoods. If you’re building something for a customer, go out and speak to the customer.”
“For Visible Hands, the two things that we really want to accomplish when founders are going through our process is, number one; helping them find a co-founder, and number two, customer validation. And that is community — you have to go out and speak to the person you want to purchase your product or service. Sometimes before you even build it.
Sometimes there’s this challenge of building in siloes, without necessarily knowing who they’re building it for. We want to prevent that. Don’t build a product without testing things with a customer.”
“What every investor wants is a differentiated deal flow. That’s how you find companies, how you build connections and a network.
... for investors, know that to be successful you need to approach [investing] with a community lens. You have to want all the boats to rise. When it becomes a cutthroat “If-I-get-this-I-don’t-want-this-person-to-get-it,” it actually becomes more harmful,” explains Acheampong.
“The beauty of the VC world is that if we invest in a company, one way to ensure that the company will be successful is if we work with other VC firms, for them to support the founder and help them get to the next stages of financing, acquire more customers, support more people, and get their product or services out there.”
“First, as a founder you have to want it more than anybody else. And it’s going to require diligence, it’s going to require patience, and this complete sense of hope. If you believe in what you’re building, and believe that it will have that generational impact — then just keep pushing. Just keep pushing.
There are going to be moments where you have to iterate and change your idea and improve on the idea, but, just keep pushing. Don’t let those down moments stop you. Know that you’re great: you took on the challenge to build something special and if you don’t build it nobody else will. It came to you for a purpose — go out and do it.”
Interested in leveraging your community to raise capital?
Paige is the Assistant Content Marketing Manager at Netcapital Advisors. She is a graduate of Wellesley College, with a double major in American Studies and East Asian Languages and Cultures. Outside of her work at Netcapital Advisors, Paige pursues creative writing and keeps up with the latest cultural news.