If there’s anything Cheryl Campos doesn’t like, it’s being put in a box. As a model and venture capitalist, she’s touched many different professional spaces—spaces that, at first glance, might seem diametrically opposed to one another. But to Campos, there is one thing that unites the many varied aspects of her career: her determination to do whatever she sets her mind to, and to do it in service of her community.
“People want you to do one thing,” she says. “And that’s frustrating. I want to be the person that does it all.”
Raised by a single immigrant mother from Peru, and in a home that experienced economic hardship, Campos learned to think expansively at a young age.
“My mother raised my brother and me up to believe the world was our oyster,” Campos recalls. “My brother and I ended up going to Harvard. She was so adamant on us reaching our potential, and that education was the key [to our getting] out of our perilous economic situation.”
Campos agreed with her mother about the importance of fulfilling her potential—she knew that if she didn’t push herself to be all that she could be, she would regret it. And even if she didn’t see many people who looked like her in the roles she wanted to be in, she still knew she could one day become the multihyphenate she aspired to be.
That was Campos’s goal after graduating from Harvard University cum laude with a BA in economics and a secondary degree in French. She took the first steps toward realizing her goal of becoming a “multihyphenate” when she took on modeling gigs in New York City while simultaneously working in investment banking and private equity. She went on to secure modeling/acting work with the likes of Tom Ford, Cole Haan, and Macy’s while also making a pivot into tech and venture capital.
According to a report from the National Venture Capital Association, only 4 percent of partner-level US venture capitalists identify as Latino (a decrease from the 5 percent noted in 2018). Campos credits her ability to break into this coveted industry to the determination and passion that have carried her through every other part of her journey.
“It’s about leading with genuine curiosity and caring about helping start-ups,” she says, recalling how she built a following by sharing insights and thoughts about the VC world on Twitter.
Today, Campos is an advisor at Republic, an investment platform dedicated to democratizing the private markets. It’s a unicorn company she’s been with for more than four years, helping to build its brand and venture community from the ground up as head of venture growth and partnerships.
Campos’s pivot from private equity to the VC sector had everything to do with community—and the impact she knew venture could have on founders of color. “Republic was my way in,” she explains. “Venture presented a really interesting opportunity to support founders at their earliest stages and at the same time, allow for underrepresented founders to get access to capital they might not otherwise have access to.”
The impact of this kind of work shows—30 percent of the companies that have received funding through Republic’s retail platform have women founders, and 15 percent of funded companies are led by Black and Latino founders.
Campos is also a cofounder of VCFamilia, the largest community and nonprofit venture supporting investors. Just like her entry into venture capital, Campos’s decision to create this organization was grounded in curiosity. Specifically, her curiosity about the answer to one question: “Where are the rest of us Latinos?”
“Within venture capital, it seemed no one was talking about Latinos, and we felt invisible,” Campos says. “When you feel lonely and have no sense of belonging in the industry, you’re more likely to leave.”
Campos saw the low representation of Latinos in the VC industry as an opportunity. In January 2021, in the days leading up to the pandemic and right before the months-long period when people desperately sought out community and connection, she took the community-building experience she had fostered at Republic and, along with her cofounders, launched VCFamilia. Today, the organization stands at three hundred investors and is still growing.
This kind of community is important in more ways than one. Campos believes that the key to Latino entrepreneurs’ ability to reach the next frontier of investment is encapsulated in two words: unity and intersectionality.
“It’s important to understand we are multiethnic, multiracial. Those differences help us stand out. And it’s by uniting that we can excel in this game,” she says. “Make sure you are doing the work, pushing us forward as an affinity group while extending your hand to support the next person that comes through.”
In the days ahead, Campos will be working to add another title to her multihyphenate crown—graduate of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. “This is my way of paying it back to my mom and saying thank you,” she says.
5 Steps to VC Success
Cheryl Campos has five main pieces of advice for other professionals who want to break into the highly competitive venture capital industry:
- Create an expertise that will allow you to be a value-add to a VC firm
- Start talking about your expertise via a blog or social media
- Understand how you can leverage your network for a VC firm
- Engage in programs and communities that help onboard professionals into the VC space
- Be strategic about who you email to plot the next move in your career