money on minorities
Maria Maso was frustrated with her investment opportunities in Houston. So, she's doing something about it.
Maso has launched the Business Angel Minority Association, or baMa, to gather established or brand new angel investors to move the needle on investments into minority-founded startups. The organization, which launched at a breakfast event at Amegy Bank's Cannon Tower during the Houston Tech Rodeo week, is now seeking investor members.
A native of Barcelona, Maso moved to Houston around seven years ago and started investing in startups a few years later. She tapped into a local organization, but didn't have a positive experience.
"I joined an organization in town, and I started to see deals. But I never made an investment in those deals. I faced two issues: They weren't inclusive enough and no one was telling me how to invest," Maso says.
She joined other angel groups around the world, wrote a lot of checks, and still was frustrated with what was available in Houston. She reached a breaking point in October and her friend and colleague, Juliana Garaizar, told her, "If you don't like it, change it."
So, baMa was born and has launched with lofty goals. Maso, founder and CEO, and Garaizar, president, want to round up 100 investors by the end of 2020. And they want these investors to write checks.
"We are not a networking organization. We are an investment organization. We are expecting at some point that you are writing a check to a startup," Maso tells the crowd. "If we are doing our job properly and we are showing you the right startups, you should be able to make a check at some point."
The organization's members will see deal flow and regular pitches and programming. At the launch event, three Houston companies — Kanthaka, on-demand personal training app, Security Gate, cybersecurity startup, and Pantheon, wellness program app — pitched to the room.
"This is a great opportunity — this is not impact investing or doing the right thing," Garaizar says. "This is actually going to generate money. Investing in diversity gives a 35 percent more ROI to investors."
BaMa already has plans to grow, Maso says. The organization will have a national presence with multiple chapters across the country.
"We are already discussing with Boston, Miami, and Palo Alto," says Maso. "We don't have an agreement yet, but my plan is by the end of the year open the second chapter."
But starting in Houston was intentional. There's so much untapped potential in Houston — money wise and in terms of startups.
"We are in Houston, the most diverse city in the U.S., and still our investment community doesn't look like our entrepreneurship community," Garaizar says. "The only way we are going to bridge this gap is if our investment community starts looking more like the entrepreneurship community."
For Carolyn Rodz, founder of Houston-based Alice and baMa partner, she's tired of hearing about the lack of minority investors and diversity of investments. This organization is about making a move.
"We've had enough talk with all these issues — how do we actually take the actions to move this forward," Rodz says. "I'm tired of hearing the same story year after year, and every time I hear the statistics, I roll my eyes. We know the story. We've heard it. Let's actually do something to change it."