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Relevance Ventures Fund IV eyes $75MM target, Native founders pipeline
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RELEVANCE VENTURES of Brentwood has set the target for Relevance Capital Fund IV at $75MM.

Its filing yesterday shows $50.6MM in the Fund IV till, thus far.

Fund IV's current $75MM target represents the upper end of the range suggested by Relevance Co-Founder, Chief Investment Officer and Managing Partner Cameron Newton, in a 2018 VNC interview.

Cameron Newton

In March 2021, we asked Newton's thoughts on targets for an eventual Fund V, and beyond. He told VNC that -- given his firm's goal of becoming known as the "first call" for founders -- its targets for an eventual Fund V would probably be in the $75MM-$125MM "sweet spot."

By the following August, his brother, Relevance Co-Founder and General Partner Dean Newton, told Tribal Business News that Fund V might well warrant a target in the $200MM-$250MM range.

Dean Newton also told that news outlet that Relevance had for some time been planning to increase emphasis on building a significant portfolio pipeline of Native American founders.

At this point, we'll remind readers that VNC has previously reported on the deep regard brothers Dean and Cameron Newton have expressed for their Native heritage, reflected in their memberships in the Patowomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia.

Dean Newton JD

In a November 2023 interview with Dean Newton, VNC gained fresh appreciation for the Relevance founders' interest in both Native American entrepreneurship and in investments in the Wellness sector.

The firm has long had Wellness entrants in its otherwise diverse portfolio -- including The Good Patch (La Mend Inc.), Ombre (Quantbiome Inc.), travel-wellness play Vacayou (WWSG Travel Inc.), Rootine (Claya Inc.), SunBasket Inc., and Diet ID (Tangelo Market LLC).

Relevance's interest in an influential role among Wellness investors was reinforced, when VNC research showed that Dean Newton had recently published via InBusiness a column titled, "Food as Medicine: Venture Capital's Appetite for a Healthier Future," located here.

In that article, the author said, "The food-as-medicine movement is an area where positive social impact, investors' returns and sound public policy can all align. It's not just a promising investment opportunity, it's a chance to participate in a paradigm shift that promises to redefine our approach to health and well-being for generations to come."

He also asserted, "By working together to enable affordable access to the nourishing food for everyone, we can build a future where healthy food for all isn't medicine, it's the status quo. Many venture investors have leapt onto the 'impact' bandwagon while doing little to drive social change. The food-as-medicine movement is an area where positive social impact, investors' returns and sound public policy can all align. It's not just a promising investment opportunity, it's a chance to participate in a paradigm shift that promises to redefine our approach to health and well-being for generations to come."

NATIVE PIPELINE

Two months before his "Food as Medicine" article appeared, Dean Newton told VNC that he thought Food, Wellness and related categories are likely, over time, to prove especially relevant and attractive to American Indian and Alaska Native entrepreneurs.

Hopefully, all the foregoing provides readers a better sense of the drivers behind the Newton brothers' recently announced collaboration in standing-up a New Mexico-based nonprofit organization.

Kelly Holmes

In 4Q 2023, they joined with entrepreneur Kelly Holmes (of the Mnicoujou Lakota) in announcing the formation of New Mexico-based nonprofit 501c3 Native American Capital and Investment Alliance (NACIA).

Holmes and Dean Newton are founding members of the NACIA board of directors.

NACIA was formed to address the persistent nationwide "capital gap" between Native American entrepreneurs and heretofore-conventional sources of equity investment, venture capital, debt, and other financial alternatives, among other goals.

NACIA plans to provide training, mentoring and tools to help Indigenous founders gain business traction and improved access to capital.

Asked about Relevance Ventures' own investment in Native-led businesses, Dean Newton said that in the early-stages of that pipeline's maturation, first-looks will probably go to companies that have begun generating revenue and are prepared to recruit later-Seed or Series A or B capital investment.

He acknowledged the likelihood that, initially, the most competitive Native candidates for equity capital investment and-or NACIA assistance are likely to emerge from founders who are members of federally recognized tribes, which typically have greater aggregate wealth that non-federally registered tribes.

Separately, Holmes is also co-founder of Colorado-based Skoden Ventures, which is regarded as the first female-founded Native American venture fund in the nation. She is also publisher of NativeMax fashion media for Native American and First Nations people.

The Skoden website highlights startups that it says it has supported.

Coincidentally, the Skoden list includes Mixtroz, which was conceived 10 years ago, then launched in 2015 by mother-daughter cofounders in Nashville-Franklin. In 2018, Mixtroz also established its presence in Birmingham, Ala. Related VNC coverage.

Skoden Ventures offers programming and services for U.S.-based Indigenous, Black, Brown and women entrepreneurs who meet its criteria and aim to help build "an economy that works for everyone."

A year ago, prior to forming its pact with the founders of Relevance, Skoden Ventures published commentary regarding jeopardy posed to potential vast sums of potential wealth from businesses founded by entrepreneurs among Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

Holmes was also quoted last November by Tribal Business News, saying, "Our mission transcends the mere provision of capital; it's about nurturing a system that understands and respects the unique cultural and business dynamics of Indian Country. We are empowering our people to be architects of their own economic destiny." Similar coverage of NACIA appeared in People of Color in Tech.

NATIVE TENNESSEE

VNC research indicates not one of the nation's 574 federally registered tribes is based in Tennessee.

Last September, U.S. Rep. Abigail Davis Spanberger (D-Va.-7) and a bipartisan group of four cosponsors submitted legislation -- which if passed could benefit the Newton brothers' tribe -- titled, Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia Federal Recognition Act, HB 5553, which includes a description of the tribe's 425-plus-year history.

Months ago, the bill was referred to the House's Natural Resources Committee, where its consideration remains unscheduled, according to online records today.

Earlier this year, Spanberger's staff posted text of a CNN report on the Patawomecks' long-running effort to obtain federal status.

More than 28,000 Tennesseans are counted as having Native American heritage, but it is our understanding that none who reside in Tennessee are members of federally registered tribes, and are thus not eligible for benefits accorded members of federally registered tribes.

The Native American Indian Association of Tennessee announced several years ago that it has plans to build a Native American Indian Cultural Center at 1466 Bell Road, in Nashville.

Earlier this month, Metro Nashville Mayor Freddie O'Connell expressed interest in the well-being of NAIATN.

The State points residents and tourists to the "lasting legacy" of Native American here, while Nashville's early history documents the presence of Native Americans in Middle Tennessee for centuries.

A source told VNC that the project awaits federal funds, and does not receive State or Metro Nashville funding. The NAIATN now operates from an office on Spence Lane.

NOTES:

The Minneapolis Fed is among agencies that have supported analyses of Native American entrepreneurship. Other resources here.

Relevance Ventures' Fund III (vintage 2014) came in at $12.5MM and 2011-vintage Fund II drew $5.5MM.

In 2018, we reported that entities operating under the Relevance umbrella have at times included NEST-TN, the TNInvestco fund; Marcum Capital; and, Voyent Partners superangels Fred Goad and Jim Kever, based in Brentwood.

Relevance was the only Tennessee venture capital (VC) firm included in Inc. Magazine's list of "Founder Friendly Investors" committed to serving founder-led companies in both 2022 and 2023. Related release.

Nashville-based private-equity firm Petra Capital Partners was listed in 2022-2023 by Inc. Magazine Founder Friendly listings of PEs.

Other Relevance Ventures coverage here. VNC


. last edited 30 March 2024 0856 - broken links corrected.

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Tags: Abigal Spanberger, American Indian, BIPOC, Cameron Newton, Congress, Dean Newton, Diet ID, First Nations, founders, Fred Goad, Freddie O'Connell, government, heritage, Jim Kever, Kelly Holmes, Marcum Capital, Mixtroz, Mnicoujou Lakota, NACIA, Native American, Native American Capital and Investment Alliance, Native American Indian Association of Tennessee, NEST TN, NESTN, Ombre, Patowomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia, Petra Capital Partners, Relevance Capital, Relevance Ventures, Skoden Ventures, SunBasket, The Good Patch, TNInvestco, Vacayou, Voyent Partners


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