GP Interview: Sean Mendy

Sean Mendy is a partner at Concrete Rose Capital and lives in the Bay Area. This is his Emerging Manager interview.

👉  Big Learning Up Front (B.L.U.F.): In order to inform founders about how we can help them specifically, we now onboard them with a dedicated presentation that tells them how we do things and how they can use us. Most VCs never give presentations about their own capabilities.

Sean, tell us about yourself 

I’m a Silicon Valley native. My experiences in the different neighborhoods that make up this community have shaped my understanding of how technology/venture can and should shape the world. 

Out of college I co-founded a tech-enabled diversity recruiting platform. The business ultimately failed but the experience of raising money and building something from scratch was invaluable. I later joined Causes, the social impact platform that began as an app on Facebook. Another invaluable learning experience.

I then spent a decade in social impact, most notably at the Boys & Girls Clubs. I worked alongside the CEO to redesign the BGC model to close opportunity gaps for low-income, Black and Brown youth in Silicon Valley, and recruited an amazing roster of tech leaders to join our mission. It was fulfilling work, but 3 years ago I realized after school education programs alone weren’t going to address the systemic problems that kept me awake at night. I believe the root cause of inequality in our country comes down to who has historically had the opportunity to build wealth. People of color just haven’t had access to these opportunities. Concrete Rose was founded to get more people of color engaged in the greatest wealth generating opportunity of our time: tech and venture capital. 

I incubated our fund under the guidance of Alan Waxman as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Sixth Street, and I serve as a Venture Partner at Jeff Weiner’s fund Next Play Ventures. The transition from impact leader to investor would have been far more difficult without these experiences. 

Other things that are important to know about me: I’m married with two kids (ages 2 and 4). I’m a lifelong Jay Z and Golden State Warriors fan. I still work with several nonprofits and one I want more people to know about is Mt. Tamalpais College at San Quentin, the first independently accredited college to operate within the US Prison System. 

Describe your fund, Concrete Rose

Concrete Rose is an early stage (preseed to A) venture firm focused on funding underrepresented founders, investing in companies serving underrepresented consumers, and partnering with founders (of all backgrounds) to build diverse teams. We’ve invested in 25 companies to date and our typical check size currently ranges from $250k to $750k depending on stage. 

There’s two core ways we add value to our portfolio companies:

  1. Partnering on diversity, inclusion, and culture efforts. We work with founding teams to codify their culture and ensure that it’s inclusive, then we help them recruit from the right networks to build diverse teams. 

  2. Providing access to social capital by connecting our founders to the Concrete Rose Network of operators, investors, and public figures. We have an incredible roster of folks like Andre Iguodala, Jenn Tejada, Reid Hoffman, Zander Lurie, Ann Wojcicki, Andrew Braccia, and many others who make themselves available to our portfolio companies as advisors, connectors, and collaborators. The network has been game-changing for our founders. 

Finally, we commit 50% of our carry to the Concrete Rose Foundation, which reinvests in the community by making grants to nonprofits connecting underrepresented talent with opportunity. We want more funds to make commitments like this. 

Share 1 process improvement you’ve used individually or as a team which has made you a better fund manager

We’ve done a lot around optimizing the engagement of our Network. Even when founders have made the decision to work with us *because* of the Network, we’ve found they often keep their heads down building and aren’t fully aware of all the ways they can leverage it. So we recently started onboarding founders to our portfolio in a much more structured way. We take founders through a deck outlining how the Network can support with everything from mentorship to customer introductions. This has led to some great conversations about what type of supports our founders are really looking for and helped us identify what to prioritize. We recently had a founder tell us it was the best presentation he had ever seen from a VC. He then confirmed it was the only presentation he’s ever seen from a VC. 

Which founder from your portfolio has had the greatest impact on you and why?

This is an impossible question! I think I’d have a different answer depending on the day, maybe by the hour. The past several weeks have been pretty draining, for people of color especially. The most important lesson learned from our founders is to prioritize being supportive to them as human beings first. Being a founder is hard and you are constantly forced to compartmentalize. Our job is to demonstrate compassion and support them as they lead their teams and build their vision. Last week I had a founder share a note he received from an investor that was totally tone def and inappropriate - sent during a really stressful time. I don’t want anyone at Concrete Rose to be that kind of investor.

What’s 1 thing you wish you knew before you became a VC?

There will always be another deal, focus on the next play. 

Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you recently fell deep into

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about mental health. We’ve met so many companies focused on the issue and I really had no idea who had the right solution. What I’ve realized is that 1) there’s a true crisis with 40% of adults having behavioral/mental health issues and untreated mental illness costing the US $225B annually. And 2) there are opportunities to address this crisis in some non-obvious ways. As I’m looking at companies across sectors I’m now constantly thinking ”how does this impact mental health?” There are going to be some massive companies built that will have real impact here - in consumer and healthcare but also in enterprise and edtech. I’m also excited for new, healthier social products that are being built today by founders who saw the mistakes of the last generation of social media. 

Name 1 GP and 1 LP everyone should learn from -- and whom we should feature next

  • GP: Theresia Gouw has been a great teacher. She’s had such a diverse set of experiences as a GP. She gave critical feedback on our first pitchbook, helped us refine our thesis, and still gives us guidance as we look at new sectors and build our portfolio. Other GPs who have been game changing advisors and also invested in our fund are Josh Kopelman and James Slavet

  • LP: Efrat Turgeman of SVB is an LP every emerging manager should meet. Efrat and her colleagues Julia Feldman and John China are amazing resources as they help new GPs avoid learning lessons the hard way. They support emerging managers as they build a franchise vs simply raising a fund.  

  • You should feature Maria Velissaris of SteelSky Ventures next.

Finally, what are the 3 best emojis?

💪🏾  👀   ✅


Sean Mendy is now on the EM roster at EmergingManager.vc. << View all these EMs, learn from them and then teach me some new things.   

Thank you Sean for spending the time with me on this, and thank you to our mutual friend Dan Bomze for the initial introduction. Sean's contact: sean@concreterosecapital.com, @seanmendy or LinkedIn. 

Thank you - Reilly (@reillybrennan or rpb@trucks.vc)