By Jacob Maranda – New Mexico Inno Reporter
November 14, 2023
A nonprofit aimed at helping Native American founders access capital just got off the ground, founded through a partnership between a Santa Fe-based venture fund and an investment firm in Tennessee.
The nonprofit, called the Native American Capital and Investment Alliance, or NACIA, aims to support Native founders through a blend of resources focused on accessing equity investment and alternative debt funding. Those resources include financial training sessions, networking events and an “internal directory” of companies and investors, said Kelly Holmes, one of NACIA’s co-founders.
Holmes, a member of the Mnicoujou Lakota Tribe, earlier this year helped launch Skoden Ventures, a Santa Fe-based venture fund that plans to invest in early stage creative and creative technology entrepreneurs — especially those who are traditionally underserved. Alice Loy, the CEO of Santa Fe-based nonprofit Creative Startups, co-founded Skoden alongside Holmes.
Creative Experience Santa Fe, a national creative economy conference that Creative Startups hosts annually in The City Different, is where Holmes and NACIA co-founder and Patawomeck Tribe member Dean Newton announced the new Native-focused nonprofit.
Newton is the chairman of Relevance Ventures, a Nashville, Tennessee-based venture firm with a portfolio of two dozen companies, according to the firm’s website. Holmes told New Mexico Inno she, working closely with Dean Newton and his brother, Cameron Newton, started to come up with the idea for NACIA in May of this year.
“We thought, ‘What if we created an association or an organization or an alliance, some central space, that provides training, mentoring, tools, to help Indigenous founders access capital?'” Holmes said.
Holmes founded and grew her own entrepreneurial enterprise — a Native fashion publication called Native Max Magazine — with little traditional startup support, she said. That’s helped inform both her work so far with Skoden Ventures, and her new work with NACIA, she told New Mexico Inno.
“There are pockets of support out there,” Holmes said. “It’s just not a lot in what I learned on my journey, unfortunately.”
A big part of NACIA’s work going forward, Holmes said, will include mentorship for Native startup founders or fund managers who want to see their businesses or funds grow. That’s something she said is “so very rare” in the Native American entrepreneurial space.
Another part of the nonprofit’s work will include facilitating collaborations between capital investors and alternative debt lenders. That’ll help tailor financial products for Indigenous founders, according to a Monday news release on the new nonprofit.
The acronym NACIA is a conjugation of the Spanish word “nacer,” meaning “to be born.” The nonprofit’s full name unifies capital and investment “as allies in a common cause,” the release notes.
That’s a point echoed by Holmes, who emphasized the nonprofit wants to pull together founders and investors around the same goal — increasing Indigenous representation in places like corporate boards and venture firms, and increasing accessibility to capital for Native founders.
In that sense, too, NACIA’s work will be complimentary to the work of Skoden Ventures, Holmes said. Loy, Skoden’s co-founder alongside Holmes, is part of NACIA’s founding board of directors, along with Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, Cory Littlepage, Spencer Foust and Cameron Newton.