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Wanna Make More Money? Invest in Women & Black and Brown Founders

Melissa Withers, RevUp Capital Managing Director

Bias in startup culture is pervasive. It’s systemic. In many places, the pandemic is only making it worse, turning back the clock on progress made over the years. Breaking free from this bias—and the exit-or-bust structure of equity—was a big part of why we created RevUp in the first place.

With RevUp, I wanted to invest in women, people of color, and founders working without the benefit of wealth or status. My friend and fellow investor Jo Tango calls those who must go farther to be seen “Distance Travelers.”

Let’s be clear: It’s not an act of charity to invest in these founders. It’s a way to make money and build great companies (see Jesse Draper's recent post on this). In our portfolio, these founders are top performers, generating some of the best returns for our investors. For me, it’s also about working with founders I am proud and lucky to know.

I was a latchkey kid, raised by a mom who worked long and hard to hold it down. I was the first person in my family to graduate college. The first person, and only woman, to earn a masters degree. This experience defines my work as an investor. It drives my thirst for innovation in investment. It’s not an axe to grind. It’s a path to clear. I believe in the Distance Travelers.

At RevUp, we are making progress! Last year, 60% of our investments were into women-led companies. 30% of investments since 2018 have been into founders who identify as brown or black. In 2020, we quadrupled the number of women LPs invested in RevUp Capital’s Funds, an overlooked part of an investment fund’s ‘diversity stack.’

With the close of our most recent fund, we have committed more time, more money, and more resources to founders historically ignored by the investment industry. Here’s what that means for companies who meet Operation Athena’s criteria:

  • We have dollars dedicated for investment into women-led companies and those where women have ascended into senior leadership / vested roles within the company.
  • We have dollars dedicated for investment into companies with black and brown founders, and those where people of color have ascended into senior leadership / vested roles within the company.
  • We have opened a dedicated application funnel and priority review process for companies that meet these criteria.
  • Companies entering the RevUp Capital’s diligence process via Operation Athena who are not funded will receive an explanation of our decision process (if wanted) with transparency into the reasons why the application for funding was declined.
  • For a subset of applicants that do not yet meet our eligibility requirements, we will begin in January to offer the Operation Athena Fellowship program, a 6-month mentoring and support program aimed to accelerate their journey to investment readiness (we piloted this program in 2019).
  • We will continue to advocate and rabble rouse for radical changes in how women and black and brown entrepreneurs are mentored, funded, and supported throughout their journey.
  • 50% of our fund’s dedicated open office hours will be held for founders that meet Operation Athena’s criteria (~10 hours a month). Meetings can be scheduled online and are offered on the first and third Thursday of each month. For scheduling instructions, email

If you know a company that fits this profile, please share this link or connect me with them via email.

If you ARE a company that fits this profile, see below for more about RevUp’s investment approach.

Shout out to my partners Allan Tear and Bill Cesare, who are as excited about this work as I am. Thanks to the RevUp team for all the work they do to help our founders succeed. Big love to the RevUp investors who make it all possible. Most importantly, mountains of respect and admiration for the founders in our portfolio who are setting a high bar for leadership and success in these difficult times. Without you, this is nothing.

Rock on,

To Request a Review
Submit your deck and supporting materials via email here. We'll make every effort to get applicants a response within 3 business days. See below for more information on RevUp’s general selection criteria and typical investment.


More About RevUp Capital

RevUp Capital invests in B2B and B2C companies that are revenue-driven and ready to double down on growth. We deploy cash and capacity to help companies grow from $1-3M to $10-30M, quickly and efficiently, using a non-equity, revenue-based model. Since 2016, we have used our battle-tested cash and capacity model to move companies up the growth curve, and together, break free from the constraints of equity-only funding.

Companies enter our portfolio with $500K-$3M in revenue, a strong growth rate, and a team that’s ready to scale.

Our typical investment range is $300K-$500K. We invest into a company's market-facing activity using a cash and capacity model. We pair our cash investment with 12-months of dedicated support from the RevUp Growth Platform: a powerful resource to build a data-driven growth engine, delivered by people who get the work done. Rather than take equity, companies return investment through a small percentage of revenue over time.

Still want more? Read this for additional information on how we invest here.

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