DEI / Investing / Venture capital

Zeal Capital has a new managing director for pre-seed investments

DMV native Stefanie Thomas will oversee the VC firm’s portfolio for sourcing, investing in and scaling early-stage tech startups.

Stefanie Thomas. (Courtesy Zeal Capital)

If you’re an early-stage founder in the DC area, there’s a new name you should know.

Stefanie Thomas is the new managing director at DC’s Zeal Capital Partners. A native of the area, she comes to Zeal following a role as a founding member and investor at Impact America Fund. At Zeal, she’ll oversee the pre-seed investment strategy and investment portfolio.

Thomas told that her father was a serial entrepreneur when she was growing up, which inspired her to work in that space. Though Zeal works with founders across the country, she said she’s excited to work in and develop DC’s ecosystem.

“My goal is to source amazing, exceptional management teams that can be part of the portfolio and work them through that process of diligent investment and post-investment support,” Thomas said. “We really want to make sure that we are looking at how we can not only bring capital to those who are building for the future but really be thoughtful and take a leadership role around how we talk about what it means to do that in a very inclusive way and approach that we take.”

She’ll be supported by two new hires as well: Richard Odior, the former head of strategic scaled services at Meta, and Bianca Phillip, who comes from a role at Goldman Sachs.

Thomas helped grow the Impact America Fund from $7 million in capital to $110 million and evaluated over 1,500 companies. Before this, Thomas cofounded Women Who Launch, an entrepreneurship platform for women founders, and was a VP at Citigroup’s global banking division.

Now, she wants to prioritize not only investing in founders but being a leader in building the future. That includes expanding partnerships with other investors and showing the outcomes of inclusive investing. For her part, she wants to create a pipeline where companies in her portfolio can eventually seek additional investments as they develop.

“I can support the overall Zeal franchise by creating a pipeline for the categories that they are looking at across health, equity, future of work and fintech,” Thomas said. “As the companies in my portfolio mature, they become a part of that feeder pipeline for the Zeal core to look at, and potentially make investments in at, the later stage.”

As far as what she looks for in startups, Thomas said a big starting point is the founding team — making sure they understand market gaps and opportunities but also having an eye on the future and where things are headed. She also thinks it’s important that founders know what their skill set is and where they might need to bring teammates in to complement it, as well as look for folks who are collaborative and open to feedback.

But for now, she’s excited to work with colleagues to execute Zeal’s vision and be part of Zeal’s footprint in the DC tech world.

“DC is one of those emerging cities where there’s a great density of talent and just very intelligent, ambitious professionals,” Thomas said. “It’s a very diverse city, and it just takes VC firms like Zeal really putting a flag here and saying, ‘This is our city and we want to be a part of its expansion.’”

Companies: Zeal Capital Partners

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