Episode Summary

When Nitin Pachisia launched a startup in 2012, he had no idea he’d spend six months trying to figure out how he could transfer his visa from his previous employer.

It bothered him that immigration issues were taking up precious time that he could have spent on his product or talking to customers. Manan Mehta (Nitin’s current co-founder) had dealt with similar problems. Though Manan is an American citizen, his partner at a previous startup was not, meaning they had to deal with immigration-related delays, too.

Nitin and Manan saw a huge opportunity to fix this problem. So, they started Unshackled Ventures, an early-stage VC firm that invests in immigrant founders and helps them secure visas faster. They have one very simple goal: accelerate the success of immigrant founders.

In this episode of “How I Raised It,” Nitin talks about how they successfully raised $30 million for Unshackled Ventures — one $5 million fund and one $25 million fund.

The goal of their first fund was to prove their key hypotheses, and most of that money came from high-net-worth individuals and very successful entrepreneurs. Their second fund consists of big checks from family offices and 94 individual investors.

For the first $5 million, Nitin and his co-founder did a lot of research around which segment of investors would be the best fit. He also emphasizes the importance of building relationships, not just for securing an investor and leveraging their network, but also for getting people to invest further down the line, if they aren’t ready when you first meet them.

Also discussed in this episode: communicating Unshackled’s value proposition, what Nitin looks for in founders, how their immigration backbone is helping them scale, and more.

How He Raised It

💰 Who: Nitin Pachisia

💰 Company: Unshackled Ventures

💰 Where to find him: Twitter | LinkedIn

💰 Money quote: “We’re selling money, which is a commodity. You still have to prove as a new fund that, when you want to invest in a company, they’re going to take your money.”

💰 Noteworthy: At least two people on the Unshackled team view every pitch they receive, whether it’s cold outreach or a referral. They don’t take referrals more seriously than cold pitches. In fact, their very first investment was cold outreach.

Capital Gains

[1:24] Origin story 👉 After launching his own startup in 2012 and wrestling with immigration policies, Nitin and his co-founder founded Unshackled Ventures in 2014 to help immigrants more easily start companies in the United States.

[4:16] Network is key, especially at the beginning 👉 Unshackled Ventures serves as the “friends and family” investing round for their founders, since most immigrants come to the U.S. through the school or corporate system and don’t have a very big network.  

[8:00] Solving for time 👉 The fact that Unshackled helps immigrants more swiftly navigate the immigration process is a huge value add, as it allows them to better optimize their time.

[13:52] Activating investor networks 👉 Once Nitin and his co-founder secured an investor, they would ask that investor to connect them with specific individuals in his or her network.

[22:04] Highlighting the opportunity 👉 When raising fund two, Nitin and his co-founder made sure to clearly communicate to investors how Unshackled’s unique value proposition could corner the market of immigrant entrepreneurs.

[25:39] Keep building relationships 👉 During round one, Unshackled was still too small for some investors Nitin met, but he stayed connected with them and they invested the second time around.

[30:18] Regularly revisit how you spend your time 👉 The Unshackled team regularly scrutinizes their input and output to ensure they’re dedicating the right amount of time on their portfolio companies, sourcing, and investing.

[40:09] Let go of control 👉 As an entrepreneur, Nitin was used to making every decision about the company; but as an investor that’s not the case, and he had to learn his true place in his portfolio companies.

[44:08] Founders with the highest upside 👉 Nitin looks for entrepreneurs who are confident, curious, quick learners, secure about what they don’t know, inclusive, and able to make decisions with limited information.

Top Quotes From the Episode

“We truly believe that the founders we’re backing will succeed anyway, with or without us, but we can speed up their journey.”

“When you’re building something new, you have to stay focused on the absolute sweet spot type of customer.”

“We don’t care who is referring you. We actually under weigh the value of the referral itself and over weigh what we learn about the founders.”

“We’re still learning, but the beauty of our team is that there’s a lot of different perspectives and personality.”