Cassie Ann Hodges

by & filed under Building Better, NVCA Blog.

Welcome to the new NVCA Blog series, Building Better, where we celebrate the dynamic relationship between our VC members and their innovative portfolio companies around the nation.


NVCA Member: Unshackled Ventures

Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Focus: Helping immigrant founders succeed faster  

Point of View: Manan Mehta, Founding Partner  

Website: http://www.unshackledvc.com/

Portfolio Companies Featured: Plantible Foods & Bluefield


We spoke with Manan Mehta, Co-Founder of Unshackled Ventures, to learn more about what his company is up to, what they are hoping to accomplish in the near future, and how they are arming their portfolio companies for success:

“We are on a mission to help immigrant founders succeed faster,” said Manan. “We don’t just focus on funding when it comes to supporting the founders of the companies that we invest in; we have been directly involved in helping founders with their immigration and visa statuses.” Unshackled Ventures was founded in 2014 by Manan and Nitin Pachisia. Manan and Nitin wanted to start an early stage VC firm that focused on investing in people and ideas that had limitless potential at the stages closest to company formation. “We are here to unlock potential,” explained Manan.

And they don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. Unshackled Ventures has filed over 60 visas over the past three years and raised two funds investing in over 30 companies who have gone on to raise subsequent rounds from investors like NEA, Shasta, Rise of the Rest, First Round Capital, Khosla Ventures, Gradient, YC and RRE. “We’ve created a model that allows immigrants to work with Unshackled Ventures while building their own technology company,” says Manan. “We give them the freedom to focus on building what they care about, while we assist with the easing of the immigrant system casts on immigration process. This results in faster business progress and financial success.” 

Photo credit: Forbes

 

Unshackled Ventures is proud to unlock the immigrant talent population. Familiar with foreign-born entrepreneur stories themselves, Manan and Nitin Pachisia personally understand the struggles and tedious obstacles that arise when trying to navigate the U.S. immigration system. Manan and Nitin met in 2010 at Kno, an education startup backed by A16Z, First Round Capital, Floodgate, and others. In 2014, after both attempting to start companies with immigrant co-founders, they decided to join forces with the goal to foster technological innovations so that no immigrant-founded startup has to be threatened to shut down – and Unshackled Ventures was born. And something is certainly working, as Unshackled Ventures deploys over 2,400 executives, investors, founders, and mentors.

“It is amazing what someone can build when the immigration process isn’t an insurmountable challenge,” says Manan. Unshackled Ventures helps with the visa process, so their immigrant founders can get to work on their life-changing ideas. “We take their life journey very personally, and we are here to see them succeed,” Manan told NVCA.

Unshackled Ventures places a strong emphasis on appreciating and understanding why immigrant entrepreneurs travel to America, and they spend a good amount of time on celebrating the conviction of human potential – they understand that no entrepreneur’s story is linear. “I cannot begin tell you how gratifying it is when one of our portfolio founders finally receive his or her visa and, ultimately, green card,” explains Manan. “What we do goes beyond the transactional finances of VC – it becomes human – we can recognize the individual and unleash their inner genius.”

As long-term partners, Unshackled Ventures is ready to work the long hours alongside their portfolio companies and endure the difficult roads to bring their stories to light. “Our portfolio companies are about their stories,” explains Manan. “These founders don’t just quit. They truly embody the concept of American grit.”


Take a look at two of Unshackled Ventures portfolio companies:

Plantible Foods

Focus: Plant-based nutrition for all humanity

Website: https://www.plantiblefoods.com/

What is the mission of your company and how did you start?

We are on a mission to produce the world’s best and most sustainable plant-based protein, that is neutral in color & taste and behaves just like an egg white. We do this by combining the power of the humble, but awe-inspiring, lemna with proprietary technologies that are sustainable, resource-light, and most importantly, scalable.

Animal farming is perhaps the biggest single contributor to global climate change, and recently many initiatives were launched to create plant-based meat- and dairy alternative products to reduce the demand for animal-based products. However, it has become apparent that the shift is taking longer than we all want. So, we conducted multiple qualitative interviews with both consumers as well as companies exposed to this space. What became clear is that price and taste are the limiting factors in persuading the majority of the market to shift their dietary preferences. And that is how we started our venture to develop a plant-based protein ingredient that is cost-efficient, superior in taste and functionality while having no negative impact on the earth.

Photo credit: Plantible Foods

 

Subsequently, we worked together with the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, to identify the plant-based protein that would cater to the needs of both consumers and companies exposed to the plant-based meat- and dairy alternatives industry. And we arrived at this particular plant-based protein that behaves just like an egg white and therefore enables food formulators to create superior plant-based products. Having identified the required protein, we started to search for the most sustainable and scalable source of this protein, and that is how we arrived at the world’s most sustainable and nutrient dense crop: lemna.

Our next step was to master the art of lemna cultivation, and we therefore rented a greenhouse in the Netherlands to start our learnings, which soon resulted in us having the opportunity to take over a 6-acre farm in Southern California, where we currently continue our cultivation experiments and are able to produce small scale samples of the desired protein ingredient.

Why did you choose Unshackled Ventures? How have they impacted your company for the better?

One of the things that we really liked about Unshackled was their willingness to dive deep, learn as much as they can about the company as well as the opportunity and even come down to visit our farm in Southern California. In our eyes, their dedication to understand what we are working towards really appealed to us. From the beginning they positioned themselves as a friend and mentor, helping us understand instead of telling us what to do. What popped out from the start was their capability to understand, relate and strategize in a timely fashion. They are always reachable, approachable and make time to help you get on your way as fast but thorough as they can.

How has Unshackled Ventures been an advocate for your company?

I wouldn’t say they are just an advocate for the company, actually they are just as much an advocate for us as founders. From the beginning they opened up their network to us, introduced us to potential strategic partners and motivated us to believe in ourselves and execute our mission in the best way we possibly can. Having said that, they haven’t been only advocates to the outside world, but they also have advocated on our behalf to our other investors. They have always been extremely positive about us and hopefully will continue to be. This has resulted in additional comfort amongst other stakeholders, as investors appreciate the credibility that a party like Unshackled brings along.


Bluefield

Focus: Precise, always-on methane leak detection via microsatellites

Website: www.bluefield.co

What is the mission of your company and how did you start?

We are on a mission to keep the Earth cool with precise, always-on methane leak detection via microsatellites. We’ve made a technological breakthrough allowing high detection sensitivity by a compact remote sensor that’s mounted on a backpack size satellite. 

Photo credit: Medium

 

Why did you choose Unshackled Ventures? How have they impacted your company for the better?

We chose Unshackled Ventured because of their focus on technology startups founded by immigrants and the collaborative way they engaged with us. They connected us with other excellent investors which got us more funding as well as connected us with stellar advisors with industry expertise which led us to obtain substantial revenues from clients. 

How has Unshackled Ventures been an advocate for your company?

They took and arranged many meetings with investors and talent that wanted to hear about what it’s like working with us. Unshackled Ventures helped us every time we asked, even when we had questions within a few minutes notice such as intros, improving our presentations, legal, human resources, etc. They also highlight our work and progress in conferences and within their growing, impressive network. 

 

Want to learn more about what NVCA is doing to help immigrant entrepreneurs? Read our latest update here