Startups

Early-stage founders: Meet D.E.A.L.S., an angel investment network from a DC native

Darius Clair is the founder of D.E.A.L.S. Venture Group, an angel network for early-stage investment that he wants to build into a community-connecting haven.

Darius Clair of D.E.A.L.S. Venture Group.

(Courtesy photo)

DC native Darius Clair honed in on five characteristics when creating the angel investor network he launched last year: dreams, entrepreneurship, ambition, lifestyle and sacrifice — or D.E.A.L.S¬†for short.

These characteristics begat the name of D.E.AL.S. Venture Group, which Clair said is an early-stage investment network. He developed it to connect founders to both funding and one another. While it’s largely focused on angels and startup founders so far, Clair likes to think of the entity as a community builder — not just an investment agency.

D.E.A.L.S. is industry agnostic, Clair said, though he claims a particular penchant for sports tech and wants to see more funding in hospitality and Web3. Instead, the network primarily looks to invest in founders from underrepresented communities who are creating something unique.

“We’re targeting underrepresented and diverse, early-stage ventures — anything that has a disruptive idea and the potential to really disrupt the market and be really innovative,” Clair told Technical.ly. “Ideally, we’d love to catch them at, like, their seeds.”

So far, D.E.A.L.S. has brought seven angel investors into its network, deployed $50,000 in 2022 and begun three in-progress investment deals. It’s also hosting monthly pitch calls with its network and collaborated with both AARP Innovation Labs and Evolved Development.

Clair additionally hopes to support founders with more than financing. He aspires to grow the network enough into 2023 that founders can more seamlessly find the coach, CMO, technologist or whatever other role they need to make their startup successful.

While the venture group serves founders across the US, Clair also wants to build a funding pipeline and community in DC specifically.

“There’s value in collaborating, there’s value in the collective working together,” Clair said. “But then, also in that, harnessing that power really to figure out: How do we streamline some of the headaches and the processes and challenges for folks that are going to come behind us, who have other ideas, so those ideas don’t die on the table?”

For founders looking to grow their startups, he suggests being really strategic about building relationships. Whether they’re with other founders, investors or related industry connectors, he recommends not writing off opportunities just because they don’t seem valuable at the time. He noted that money shouldn’t be the only qualifier in determining the value of a relationship.

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Opportunities, Clair added, don’t even mean that they’re something to help you and your company. Sometimes, they’re about adding value to someone else.

“We have a saying that behind every opportunity is a relationship,” Clair said. “If you are able to build those relationships effectively and efficiently, you never know what will come from that.”

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