Anti-Bias Fund: Q&A with SoLo Funds Co-Founder & CEO Travis Holoway
February 18, 2021 | Scott Murphy
We’re pleased to introduce you to one of AVG’s initial investments in the Anti-Bias Fund, which supports diverse founders and companies who help address systemic biases. AVG recently invested in SoLo Funds and interviewed Co-Founder and CEO Travis Holoway.
SoLo Funds is a mobile lending exchange that provides affordable access for loans under $1,000 over a duration of five to 30 days. Through its peer-to-peer marketplace, SoLo Funds facilitates “micro” loans between individual lenders and borrowers. The company is aiming to reinvent community banking while disrupting the notorious payday lending industry, which is known for charging usury-like interest rates to low-income, short-term borrowers.
New Anti-Bias Fund Open
The Anti-Bias Fund offers investors a portfolio of ~20-30 venture investments that are led by diverse founders/teams belonging or featuring a business model addressing systemic biases. Click below to review fund materials, along with case studies on AVG portfolio companies that demonstrate the kind of investments we might add to the Anti-Bias Fund. You can also book a call with a Senior Partner if you have questions or want to learn more.
What problems or opportunities is SoLo Funds addressing?
SoLo Funds is addressing the lack of resources that are available for small-dollar loans. You can’t walk into a bank and request a loan for $100 to make your utility payment or $200 to pay for rent. The number one way to secure a small-dollar loan under $1,000 is friends and family, but we know how stressful that is on personal relationships. When you think about the alternatives, such as a payday lender, the interest rates that are charged to individuals to secure that type of capital can be predatory, with average interest rates at 400%. We felt like there was an opportunity to unlock and deploy capital to help the people who need it most.
What inspired you to launch SoLo Funds?
I was inspired to launch SoLo Funds for two reasons in particular.
First, growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I watched an economy evaporate in front of my eyes. When I started my career post-college as a financial advisor, I would speak to individuals who were focused on growing their wealth, but I also would get text messages from friends or family members who needed to borrow $50 to put gas in their car.
Second, I realized that no one from my firm was calling blue-collar workers — people like my father. He worked at General Motors for 37 years and actually did have discretionary capital to invest. My firm was focused on people who made $250,000 to $500,000 a year. I wondered if we could help people like my father unlock some of the capital that’s sitting dormant in their bank accounts and allocate a small piece of that to those who need small-dollar loans.
What biases have you seen or perhaps even experienced in venture capital?
A founder from a diverse background is always going to have to do more and prove more to get support from the venture community. And since there has been such a lack of funding to more diverse founders in the past, they’ve obviously had fewer wins. When some individuals look at the trajectory of a company, and they look at a founder who’s African American like myself, they might not pattern match that with the last billion-dollar exit they saw. I completely understand that we need more wins, but we also need more opportunity.
There is a benefit to being overlooked and undervalued in some ways, largely because we tend to find ways to be more resourceful when we have fewer resources. I believe founders who are focused on making their dream a reality by any means necessary are going to find a way to stay in the game long enough for it to happen. I think that’s largely my story.
Will you share examples of bias you’ve experienced?
I’ve hired individuals who’ve been founders at companies in similar spaces who were able to raise significantly more with significantly less traction. For example, I know of a company that raised a $10 million Series A that was doing a tenth of the lending volume that we were when we raised a round that was significantly less.
Join our many upcoming Anti-Bias Fund webinars for opportunities to learn more on how to do good and do well by backing diverse founders/teams.
- The Challenges and Opportunities in Diverse Investing
- Meet the Portfolio: Conversation with Three Companies Backed by the Anti-Bias Fund
Watch our most recent Anti-Bias Fund webinars.
- A Conversation with Melissa Hanna: Startup Journey of an Activist-Entrepreneur
- Introduction to the AVG Anti-Bias Fund
Why is SoLo Funds a good fit for our Anti-Bias Fund?
SoLo Funds helps address the bias that the underbanked community is not creditworthy. Our goal is to collect enough data to prove to traditional institutions that these demographics are more creditworthy than they’ve historically been deemed. We want to use this data to create a path to upward financial mobility for our users.
We also provide more access to individuals who have been left out of traditional financial services. We’re proving that there’s a lot of money sitting out there that our lenders can put to work that may not be targeted by some of the larger financial institutions and advisers. The goal here is not for lenders to take all of the money that they have in discretionary capital or savings and deploy it on SoLo. The goal is to use SoLo as a part of an overall investment strategy that can help people earn returns.
Why did you decide to work with AVG?
It was largely the mission. What I appreciate about the Anti-Bias Fund is that AVG is actually putting its money where its mouth is. We noted a lot of press releases over the last 12 months from companies and funds who were going to focus on this problem, but I have not really seen the checks being written.
AVG actually made a statement about the inherent bias that can exist as a result of pattern matching, and looking at what we’ve seen before and what other people are telling you has worked for them. A lot of times, it’s not going to resemble someone like myself and some of my counterparts. When you consider opportunities that you may have not understood existed before, and you’re making a conscious effort to pursue them now, I think that takes a lot of courage and effort. As I continue to learn more about the work that AVG is doing, I think that it completely aligns with the type of people that I want to partner with.
AVG’s Anti-Bias Fund offers a portfolio of ~20-30 venture investments that are led by a diverse founding team or feature a business model addressing systemic biases. ~20% of the fund is reserved for follow-on investments. Minimum starts at $25K. Click below to learn more.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information. To see additional risk factors and investment considerations, visit avg-funds.com/Disclosures.