Meet the Inaugural VHNYC Cohort

Visible Hands
10 min readMar 30, 2023

Visible Hands — a venture capital firm with multiple programs that funds and empowers underrepresented founders launching high-growth startups — announces its first cohort of 20 entrepreneurs for VHNYC, a hybrid, 14-week Fellowship for NYC-based founders. The Fellowship program, created in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is targeted at early-stage entrepreneurs who are working on scalable tech-enabled solutions and/or venture-backed ideas reshaping leading industries.

Visible Hands and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) has officially launched their first cohort for VHNYC, a 14-week hybrid Founder Fellowship for 20 underrepresented founders building high-growth, tech, and tech-enabled businesses based in NYC. This inaugural group of 20 diverse founders from the five NYC boroughs will work over the next few months to take their startups to the next level in a hybrid-model program.

The founders who were accepted into VHNYC will get the guidance and support needed from the Visible Hands and NYC EDC teams to hit their next major startup milestone. The NYC EDC has granted each of the cohort’s entrepreneurs with $10K in non-dilutive funding to financially empower them to work on their startups, and Visible Hands will be providing company-building services over the course of the fellowship, as well as the opportunity for additional venture capital funding from the firm after successful completion of the program.

The fellowship was created to help underrepresented tech founders across NYC gain more traction in the early stages of their startup, with NYC EDC and Visible Hands hoping to be a strong foundation of support to fill the funding gap for overlooked entrepreneurs. The partners hope VHNYC will reflect the same amount of inspiring opportunity for the cohort as the city of New York does for entrepreneurship as a whole.

Some of the new VHNYC cohort founders meeting for the first time at the NYC EDC Founder Fellowship kickoff in New York.

“Before becoming a product manager at Visible Hands, I was a founder from St. Louis, Missouri,” said Yulkendy Valdez, Visible Hands Product Manager and VHNYC Lead. “Like many founders, I built my company in New York and moved here due to the limitless opportunities and networks. My parents — my aunts — built their homes in Queens and Bronx and never looked back after immigrating from the Dominican Republic.”

According to Crunchbase, the amount of funding raised by Venture-backed startups based in New York City has increased over the last few years, with NYC-based startups raising more than $52 billion last year. Despite the overall increase in funding being allocated to founders, a gap still exists for founders from historically underrepresented backgrounds. VHNYC is looking to help fill that gap in NYC, through hands-on support, funding and more.

“NYC is a special place to me personally and many others,” Valdez said. “Still, to make sure its magic is accessible, Visible Hands has partnered with NYC EDC to build intentional programming to support leading local entrepreneurs on their business journey. Our team will infuse wellness and community into our startup curriculum to make sure our entrepreneurs feel seen, supported, and surrounded in this busy melting pot filled with dreams that is NYC.”

Many talented individuals applied for VHNYC’s first cohort, and Visible Hands is excited to partner with the NYC EDC to create a New York-specific program for 20 new founders .

“New York City is home of some of the most creative individuals out there but so many — people of color and women — lack the networks and resources to start and scale their companies,” said Justin Kang, Visible Hands Co-Founder and General Partner. “We know this to be true with our dozens of investments in founders who call NYC home. We are proud to partner with NYC EDC to launch VHNYC to help solve this problem and create the next wave of impactful companies that will shape society.”

VHNYC is an extension of the Visible Hands mission to support overlooked talent, in partnership with NYC EDC’s efforts to create more inclusion in the startup ecosystem.

Here are the amazing 20 founders and startups who make up the inaugural VHNYC cohort:

Alexandra Ruiz, Poder Capital

Poder Capital is committed to working alongside BIPOC small business owners/entrepreneurs to create products that truly reflect their needs and circumstances. Poder Capital seeks to address this challenge by introducing into the market a loan product exclusively for Latinx Small Business Owners (SBMOs).

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Amanat Anand, SoaPen Inc

SoaPen is for the artist that lives in all of us. By incorporating play into daily life, SoaPen fosters cognitive growth and experimentation in order to maneuver challenges that come our way.

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Daniel Justiniano, ConConnect

ConConnect connects formerly incarcerated people with direct service providers and employers through professional networking technology. Its core products, an arm and AI-driven job board, streamline operations within nonprofits and help employers diversify their workforce.

Website | LinkedIn

Ariana Abramson, DivySci Software

DivySci is a communication analytics platform for mid-sized technology-enabled teams to improve their digital interactions. DivySci combines natural language processing technology and communication research to provide real-time feedback on language and communication behaviors.

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Austin Lopez-Gomez, Orchestra Health

Orchestra Health is reinventing care transitions, beginning with surgery. Orchestra provides virtual medical exams for patients pre-surgery, sells packaged coordination software to the facilities performing those surgeries, and facilitates patient transitions after surgery. It enables providers to improve their utilization & health outcomes, which costs them $5M a year from cancelled surgeries.

Website

Ayomi Samaraweera, Canopy

Canopy is an anonymous-but-verified platform for content creators to share knowledge, grow their careers, and spill the tea in a safe space. Consider the Canopy Community your phone-a-friend, full of real-time industry insights from creators in the know.

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Brittany Brathwaite, KIMBRITIVE

KIMBRITIVE is the unapologetic sexual wellness platform reimagining the health and wellbeing of Black women. It provides community, workshops, events, and on-demand sexual health learning tools where Black women feel seen, heard, and celebrated.

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Carmi Medoff, Onsite Kids

Onsite Kids develops high quality, modular child care centers and operates them onsite as an affordable employee benefit for frontline parents. It addresses the twin crises, the labor shortage, and the child care crisis, which have created a massive business opportunity ($60B+ in early childhood education) and the chance to solve one of the nation’s most pressing issues.

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Cathy Huang, Gudwork

Gudwork aims to restore the American Dream by extending the benefits of elite universities to anyone via online training, career coaching, and paid freelance projects. Gudwork’s MVP is a professional development platform that turns students into freelancers. Students access flexible, paid freelance projects to explore careers, build a portfolio and network that empowers them to graduate debt-free and experience-rich.

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Dorothee Grant, Kaveat

Kaveat is a platform empowering those in the creator economy to understand and negotiate their contracts. It provides simple explanations of each clause along with statistics and tips around what the implications of signing the contract are. Kaveat enables users to make more money, avoid hidden fees, and make sure they sign deals that are fair.

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Iris Lu, Magnify

Magnify is an ML-powered solution to discover top operators who are flexible to meet the crafty needs of an early-stage team: fractional, part-time, full-time, for equity, and co-founders. Due to limited payroll budget, early-stage startups require creativity to stretch resources and get quality work done without over hiring FTEs. Magnify allows startups to add flexible capacity to meet performance goals without taking a massive runway hit.

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Irma Cedeno, Diafano

Diáfano creates language classes for companies in order to help them build a better company culture, champion DEIA in a way that’s low-risk, high-impact, support limited English proficiency employees, and provide professional development opportunities to other staff. Diáfano offers online cohort-style group classes, 1:1 courses, and a self-paced subscription program. It also offers language testing to evaluate a job candidate’s proficiency level.

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Jaime-Jin Lewis, Wiggle Room

Wiggle Room is an elegant childcare solution for working parents with non-traditional schedules.

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Laura Moreno, HomeFlow

HomeFlow makes home buying easy, helping you save time and money with an intuitive, all-in-one home-buying platform that teaches you everything about buying your first home, helps you collaborate with others on your home search, and keeps everything related to your home purchase in one place.

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Lulu Meza, Snappable

Snappable is a digital point of sale system that solves the challenges of paying with and accepting government nutrition benefits. With its all-in-one digital wallet, accessible via a smartphone or physical card, food stamp shoppers can easily shop without stigma using additional government vouchers like Health Bucks, which double the value of food stamp benefits when buying fresh food. And because vendors are currently burdened with reimbursement timelines of up to 6 months for these vouchers, Snappable expedites these payments so they can receive the funds in fraction of the time — or in a snap! — providing them with faster access to operating capital and incentivizing them to ensure and expand access to nourishing, affordable, and culturally relevant fresh food to communities that need it most.

Website | LinkedIn

Melissa Cesarano, ThinkHuman TV

ThinkHumanTV delivers social and emotional skills training integrated with major streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Peacock. By meeting young people where they are and leveraging content they love, ThinkHumanTV is able to boost engagement while building essential socio-emotional skills like perspective-taking through in-the-moment practice.

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Roydon Jeffrey, ListedB

ListedB is a social booking platform that uses photos and videos to enhance the booking experience for hair, skin and nail services. It provides professionals with tools to automate the scheduling process and maximize revenue. ListedB’s dual-posting feature allows clients to discover content, post the latest trends in hair, skin, and nail services, and find local professionals.

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Sarah Lee, Relavo

Relavo is changing the way that kidney failure patients receive dialysis by making home-care safer and more accessible. Relavo’s product, the PeritoneX, is a self-disinfecting connection device that prevents infection and enables patients to receive safer care. This patent-pending, Class 2 medical device will be sold to dialysis providers, who are incentivized by government policies to expand home-dialysis utilization and provide value-based care.

Website | LinkedIn

Tavishi Gupta, Tern

Tern is an AI-powered app to reduce the stress of travel planning, which impacts 141M Gen Z & Millennial travelers. Tern wants to empower the next generation of travelers by providing a one-stop solution that solves for every phase of planning in just a few clicks.

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Tracey Hobbs, Shifterr

Shifterr connects hospitality employers to local talent looking to fill shifts. Its marketplace allows businesses in hospitality to find quick, on-demand talent to staff last minute and hard-to-fill shifts. Shifterr provides jobseekers with the flexibility that comes with deciding where and when they work, while also giving them stability through access to resources such as training/professional development and benefits.

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Visible Hands

Visible Hands is a VC fund with a 14-week, virtual-first fellowship program that supports overlooked talent in building technology startups.