It's ok for me to be excited about talking with a successful young man who is just entering into the crazy life of leading a venture capital fund. Not even 30 years old yet, and a $40M fund behind him, he's going to be drinking from a firehose (as if he hasn't been already)! The whole idea of Harlem Capital Partners started in 2015 in his co-founder, Jarrid Tingles' living room. Jarrid was also Henri's cube mate at the private equity fund they worked at together. While they were writing small angel checks, they wanted to go bigger, focusing on backing women and minority-led startups.
"When we were raising, we were probably the riskiest investment one can make. Both of us have never worked in venture capital, we came from private equity which is completely different, we're both under 30 and don't have the experience nor a track record, we're people of color, we invest in people of color, and we're doing early-stage venture. There is a lot against us!"Henri Pierre-Jacques | VCHunting S3E7
Henri believes that long term, San Francisco will not be the place where diverse founders reach the top, but it will be in other cities with more diversity to choose from. With a mission to fund 1000 diverse founders over the next 20 years, Henri and his team have big dreams they want to accomplish.
"We wanted to make meaningful investments and we wanted to raise a fund where we can help founders close rounds faster, get them the capital they want to raise, and set them up to actually compete against non-minority founders."Henri Pierre-Jacques | VCHunting S3E7
So what does an under 30-year old bring to the table for a founder other than a check and a handshake? A legitimate question that has been asked of Henri and his LPs many times before and he's not shaken by the question.
"First what I realized is that most value-add is fluff. The majority of VC investors don't know what they're actually doing. This is what founders have been telling me. Coming from a private equity standpoint, I see value-add as a much higher bar in terms of work. We're in those companies for days, sending them tons of consultants, so making a customer introduction is a very different value-add as it would be in private equity. Most early-stage funds don't have a back office, don't have a talent pool or web designers, you most likely have two GPs and one associate if you're under $100M seed fund. So your value-add is really your network. It's not a differentiating factor to say you have a network or you can make introductions. That's table-steaks at this point."Henri Pierre-Jacques | VCHunting S3E7
For Henri, he pitched that he's growing more than just a venture fund, but a Brand:
"The brand is really important. That's why Blackstone or Sequoia win deals. For our brand, we focus on content, we do podcasts, host events, hire interns. That resonates with people. If you have a strong brand, your network grows even faster and further. We've invested in lots of different founders from different cities who have heard of us or read an article on us and want to be part of the mission of our brand. We're trying to have a national brand presence at the seed stage."Henri Pierre-Jacques | VCHunting S3E7
I love this idea because it is a mission that will help Henri and his team persevere the long winters and hard times of their fund. If they truly want to become a national brand for early-stage founders, then they must continue to grow their content, grow the community, and grow in success.
"The irony as VC investors is we're asking founders to take massive risks, put all their eggs in one basket, shoot for the stars and have these massive goals, and as an investor, we're trained to be conservative. One of my big goals is to create the most millionaires of color ever before."Henri Pierre-Jacques | VCHunting S3E7
Henri's hopes are that they can be around for many funds and become a platform for success for founders and their limited partners. To be a successful one-time fund is great, but that's not where Henri's mind is at. He wants to become a platform for good and be around for a long time. How does he do this? Balance:
He also is highly disciplined with his work processes:
I knew we'd get some great nuggets of wisdom from Henri and even though he's never founded a company, he has the required mental models of a successful founder and I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot from his side of the world in due time. I'll be tracking and following Henri's progress. I have great hopes for him to be around for multiple decades to come!
Enjoy my retrospective!
Henri Pierre-Jacques Social Media
It doesn't get much better than this; the smell of fresh pine in the breeze, an abundance of game to be hunted.
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