In 2014, the University of Oregon came out with a report called "Capital Scan," revealing which regions of the state were least likely to get venture capital. At the time, Nitin Rai was the founder of an Oregon angel group that grew out of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs), an entrepreneurship group whose founders have ties to the Indus region. The angel group had had three notably successful exits from unconventional founders -- two were women, and one was African-American. Word got out, says Rai, and he was approached by the director of a large trust who asked if he would be interested in setting up a fund. That fund became the Elevate Capital Fund.
At about the same time, the city of Portland was looking for a manager for its inclusive startup fund, and Rai eventually got the job. Both funds launched in 2016. The Elevate Inclusive Fund invests in entrepreneurs who are women, African American, Latinx, members of the LGBTQ community, veterans, and those who have immigrated to the United States within the past 10 years. A $3 million fund, it combines public and private money to invest in the greater Portland metro area.
The inclusive fund typically writes checks of $25,000 to $75,000. The Elevate Capital Fund, at $10 million, takes the Capital Scan report as inspiration. It invests in all the founders who would qualify for the Inclusive Fund, but also will invest in those who live in geographic areas where venture capitalists typically don't venture. It writes checks of $50,000 to $500,000. The funds invest across sectors, and have backed Blendoor, a job matching app designed to eliminate bias; Hemex Health, which makes a malaria testing device; and restaurant company Garden Bar.