Product building in VC: the Visible Hands team is in full swing
In April 2022, Visible Hands (VH) launched its very first product team, a diverse, dynamic team dedicated to product building and development.
The VH product team has set out to build a cohesive set of programs, fellowships, accelerators, and digital tools that underrepresented, early-stage tech entrepreneurs can use to catalyze their growth as founders.
“Product” in the VC space is a term used broadly. Kyle Harrison describes in his The Productization of Venture Capital article how “products can include groups of people, specific services, brands developed a particular way, data-enabled technology, and a hundred other things that creative forward-thinking VCs could come up with.”
Productization in VC is becoming an increasingly important component of offering the best to entrepreneurs as more opportunities for founders unfold.
“These days capital is not sufficient for investors to support founders,” says Justin Kang, VH GP and Co-Founder. “We leverage our products as a container of the proactive support we provide to our companies. We know specifically overlooked entrepreneurs face amplified barriers in building their startup.”
Product building at VH has always been top of mind. After a successful inaugural accelerator program in 2021, the team is diligently thinking about the next steps to support and uplift underrepresented founders in their entrepreneurial journeys.
“Accelerators are a dime a dozen, thousands exist without a clear value proposition outside the capital they provide, usually at expensive terms,” Kang said. “We established this team to treat our accelerator and fellowships as a product and not just a calendar of events and workshops. They bring expertise around curriculum development with an unshakeable commitment to centering people of color and women in their program design.”
So who’s putting this vision into action?
Meet the Visible Hands Product Team
Nashaira Ofori — Vice President and Product Lead
Nashaira Ofori has a passion for learning, community-building, and leadership development. Prior to joining Visible Hands, Ofori served as a consultant to early-stage DEI and HR startups, developing and implementing strategies for scaling learning and development. She also has experience designing and facilitating community-building for new founders, a skill set she was proud to bring to Visible Hands’ inaugural accelerator orientation.
“I joined Visible Hands because I was excited to translate my passion for learning and community into tangible products that support Black and brown founders with the knowledge, resources, and community to effectively build their businesses.”
Yulkendy Valdez- Product Manager
Yulkendy Valdez was previously the Co-Founder and CEO of Forefront, a Latinx-led Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consultancy that worked with leading organizations from SAP to the Linux Foundation. Alongside her startup journey, she also received funding from Techstars, among other leading accelerators and funders, to help automate the hiring experience for Black and Latinx Gen-Zs. She is a Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur, TED speaker, and One Young World Ambassador.
“As a first-time founder and woman of color in tech, I know how difficult it is to fundraise for your startup. I want to re-envision how the startup ecosystem operates from the bottom-up and inside out, and VH is committed to this approach.”
Amanda Zieselman — Product Manager
Amanda Zieselman was previously a strategy consultant for nonprofits and a co-founder of Health Advocacy Innovations nonprofit. She is dedicated to a career in the social impact sector and loves problem-solving through brainstorming and trial & error. Additionally, she is on the YW Boston Advocacy Committee and is an Advisory Board member for Simmons University’s research on the impact of Covid-19 on career aspirations.
“I am passionate about Visible Hands’ mission to invest in the limitless potential of overlooked founders. In my own experience as a founder, I could have really benefited from an accelerator program whose goal was first and foremost to partner with and support founders from the earliest stages. Visible Hands is not only that partner, but is also investing in brilliant founders who are otherwise being overlooked and kept out of the startup ecosystem.”
Sarina Regehr — Product Coordinator
Sarina Regehr is passionate about creating impactful change in the world through innovative technology. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. Regehr studied around the world, where she blended her enthusiasm for business with her interests in art and world cultures. Alongside her studies, Regehr has conducted marketing analytics for several US-based companies such as TJX, Osmosis.org, MIDA restaurant in Boston, and Slate.
Supporting diverse founders is one of the first steps in confronting the systemic issues in VC, tech, and corporate America. I wanted to join this team of intelligent and driven leaders that are taking strides to make venture and tech inclusive.”
Now that you’ve met the team, let’s get into what they’re doing.
What is the product team creating?
The VH product team has distinguished clear goals for future product growth with overlooked founders as the guiding principle.
“First and foremost [we need to] create space for folks that have been either consciously or subconsciously, via systems of supremacy, kept out of the space altogether,” Zieselman said.
One of their main priorities is to build differentiated spaces where founders are not only supported in their company-building endeavors but in their overall journey as underrepresented founders.
“I think also the other component is just being seen,” Zieselman said. “Understanding that there are others like you that are doing the same thing and dealing with the same questions. Also having a peer community to learn from.”
The team is also thinking about how to develop these spaces authentically.
“Products made for Black, Latinx, and women founders by a product team that is reflective of this demographic will be more powerful, robust, and culturally relevant,” Valdez said. “We spend every day as a product team thinking through how we can build radically different solutions and dismantle the oppressive start-up system that wasn’t built for women and communities of color.”
Not only do these products create safe spaces for underrepresented founders, but they allow the founders to take ownership of these spaces. Founders are empowered to utilize the VH network and resources to facilitate their own growth.
“The focus is to create a space where people feel really safe being their authentic selves,” starts Ofori, “to create a new radically different generation of entrepreneurial leaders who have a strong focus on authentic leadership.”
Why is product building important?
Product building is important for a balance of growth and specialization. The team wants to expand VH programs in order to support a wider range of underrepresented founders while still prioritizing the individual experience of the founder.
“Product building for Visible Hands means really creating a strong brand identity for our offerings and supporting the mission of providing meaningful funding and support to underrepresented talent in VC,” Regehr said.
The founder-first mentality is key to product building at VH. Putting the individual and their talent, ambition, and background at the forefront is essential to catalyzing meaningful company growth. The product team intends to prioritize all aspects of the founder, not just their company-building projects.
“We want to build radically different ways of helping founders tap into their creativity and innovation,” Ofori said. “We really believe that founders who are able sustainable will build scalable businesses.”
VH products also put an emphasis on wellness. Programming and workshops will be focused on reflection and facilitate meaningful problem-solving. Founders participating in VH products can expect to enter a trusting and equal relationship.
“We are going to build products for the underdogs,” Valdez said. “You don’t have to have an idea yet or know how it all works, but Visible Hands will gain the trust of talented folks across the country and the world to go on this life-changing and world-changing start-up journey with us.”
What are they building now?
Although the team was only formed in April, they have already launched the first product (aside from the core Visionaries Accelerator): VHLX, a 20-week fellowship for 20 Latinx founders in partnership with Google for Startups. VHLX is a testament to the invaluable relationships that must be cultivated in order to successfully build large scale products.
“VHLX seeks to celebrate and honor the chutzpah and the resilience of Latinos in the US who have helped reshape the economy and society,” Valdez said. “Latinos makeup 17% of the population but only get under 2% of venture capital funding. This stat doesn’t include many Latinx women or Afro-Latinos like myself, so when we say we are building a fellowship for Latinx founders at VH, we genuinely mean ‘Latinidad’ in its most diverse forms. This program is built with their needs and culture in mind.”
Applications for VHLX are open from now until June 24th. We cannot wait to support an incredible cohort of 20 Latinx founders in this fellowship. Be on the look out for more incredible opportunities coming from the product team at Visible Hands!