2020 has put a spotlight on the VC community’s pitfalls and its potential. For Stefanie Diaz, the year has brought new startup opportunities front and center. As she told Hypepotamus, “we’ve never seen every industry be so disrupted all at once…companies that were once these novel ideas are all of a sudden essential.”
In the midst of all the change and uncertainty of 2020, Diaz also noted that we are “really seeing investors and thought leaders in this space double down on the importance of shifting the flow of capital.”
This new focus comes as Diaz dives into her next opportunity as Partner at Atlanta’s Zane Venture Fund. Zane invests in early-stage and tech-enabled startups with diverse leadership teams.
Diaz has been connected to the Zane team since the beginning as an advisor for Founder & General Partner Shila Nieves Burney. Diaz said that accepting the invitation to become a partner was “100% Shila.” Both Burney and Diaz connected over their Puerto Rican roots and formed a strong support system as Zane launched. “It really is Shila’s tenacity and her leadership and what she’s been able to create in this time that made me want to support her.”
Diaz joined Zane after the team announced its first investment in North Carolina-based Inirv this past November.
Diaz’s Road To VC
Diaz took a unique route into the investing world, which has given her insight as a startup employee and founder.
After receiving her MBA, Diaz joined a pharmaceutical startup that she helped grow to over $100 million in ARR. In 2015, Diaz launched her podcast Mastermind Your Launch. Her most recent podcast, She Conquers Capital, has had guests including Brad Feld of Foundry Group, EnrichHER founder Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, and Patientory founder Chrissa McFarlane.
While hosting a podcast may seem like a non-traditional route into the investing world, Diaz said that interviewing founders and leaders has helped her ultimately pivot into investor relations and investing. “You have to be curious. Put your voice out into the world in order to start making those connections. And then you have to look for where you can offer value and be of service,” she said.
In addition to her podcast, Diaz is also Co-Chair for TiE Atlanta Angels, an Advisor at Atlanta Tech Village, mentor at Techsquare Labs’ Atlanta Startup Battle, and founder at Powered by Verve and The Women Only Experience (WOE) both of which she continues to run.
Thoughts on Deploying Capital
After years of speaking with founders and starting her own entrepreneurial endeavors, Diaz knows how to ask the right questions to find the next group of talented and diverse startups.
For her, it comes down to seeing a founder execute and iterate early on. “You can see founders who don’t overthink, and once they get feedback, they execute. By 8 o’clock that night they are saying ‘yup, I did what we talked about, what’s next?’ I love seeing that type of energy in a founder because it indicates their level of confidence in their own success. It also signifies their commitment to the stakeholders who come on board to support their vision.”