The young investors of Under 30 in 2023 are putting their money to work in businesses that were founded by and for their peers who are immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQ+. These businesses range from tech startups focused on gaming to those focused on sexual and reproductive health.
Investing is all about having fun, according to David Brillembourg Jr.Dune Ventures’ 24-year-old founder dropped out of New York University to assist gaming startups in obtaining crucial venture capital funding to realize their goals. He started his own business in 2020, raising more than $100 million and investing $50 million in companies like virtual reality games studio Ramen VR and game clipping Service Medal.Tv.
“I played games as a child. Brillembourg asserts, “I understand games.”I still play games throughout the day.
Brillembourg, the youngest finalist on the 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 Venture Capital list, sees his age as a benefit because it enables him to connect with bold and young gaming founders. However, he is also a member of a new generation of venture capitalists who demonstrate leadership in various ways, giving back to founders and each other and assisting in advancing a new generation of entrepreneurs in increasingly significant fields such as climate change and reproductive health care.
This year’s Under 30 list in venture capital also reflects a slow but significant shift in the demographics of startup investors: Twenty investors, including 13 finalists who identified as women, represented a record number of people of color on the list this year.
Additionally, the businesses they are funding show that shift. The founders of a company are just as crucial to Erik Lim, 29, as the business itself. Lim started Potluck Ventures earlier this year to create a space for the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community he wished he had as a child. Lim has invested in five AAPI-led businesses and raised several million dollars.
Still, his work is more than just writing checks: At Limited Ventures, 28-year-old Kai Cunningham wants to make startup investing more inclusive in his community. So the investor also put together a syndicate of more than 500 other community members to invest alongside him and reap the benefits. Through Limited, the African American investor assists entertainers and professional athletes in supporting their wealth. Limited currently has over 80 prominent athletes investing in the company, which has invested more than $20 million in startups and has become a more financially savvy and successful investor.
Maya Bakhai, the 28-year-old founder of Spice Capital, believes that anyone can become an investor. Bakhai, who previously worked for Kevin Durant’s 35 Ventures, refers to herself as a member of the “Robinhood generation.” As a result, she did not hesitate to establish a $10 million early-stage fund, with more than half of that amount coming from women’s limited partners. She focuses on founders of businesses that work in crypto, capital, and community to solve problems for the next generation of internet-native consumers.
Through industry-wide reports, podcasts, and meetups, 29-year-old Leonardo Arango and 27-year-old Alexis Alston of One Way Ventures and Lightship Capital support fellow investors of color. Others, like Felici’s resident Tobi Coker, 28, serve on the boards of organizations like BLCK VC. There are also those, like 29-year-old Hunter McNabb of 9 Yards Capital, who proudly mentors and advises founders who are LGBTQ+ or from other underrepresented groups.
Many are business owners, like Mohammed Amdani, 27, and Ammar Amdani, 24, of Adapt Ventures. Alix Ventures was established by Chas Pulido, 25, focusing on healthcare and 15 investments. Palo Santo, an experimental music project centered on psychedelics, was founded by 29-year-old Tim Schmidt. At her new company, Outset Capital, 28-year-old Ali Rohde wants to assist early-stage founders with one $200,000 check and an Airtable of target follow-on investors at a time.
Others, like Clarey Zhu, 29, have made a name for themselves at well-known venture capital firms. Zhu, a partner at TCV, has assisted Brex, Nubank, and ByteDance in deploying more than $1.3 billion. Morgan Cheatham, 27, was the youngest investor to represent Bessemer Venture Partners on a board of directors.
Within the ranks, you’ll also find up-and-coming leaders from big companies like Accel, Meritech, and ICONIQ.
What is shared by all of them: a spirit of entrepreneurship, a sense of purpose, and leadership qualities that transcend backgrounds, company size, and investment stage. That is perhaps best exemplified by David Byrd, a 29-year-old man nearly killed by a shark attack years ago. David Byrd quickly raised a $10 million fund to support semiconductor companies with a new lease on life. The software engineer who became an investor is now a partner at BlueYard Capital and assists founders of a new industry called decentralized wireless (Dewi).
Senior editor Alex Konrad, program manager Elisabeth Brier, and assistant editor Maria Gracia , Santillana Linares edited this year’s 30 Under 30 list. Kathryn Haun, CEO and founder of Haun Ventures served as one of our judges. In addition, initialized’s partner and founder, Garry Tan; Redpoint Ventures managing director and Under 30 graduate Logan Bartlettand Cleo Capital managing director Sarah Kunst, a former Under 30 All-Star.