Long before Angeles Investors became one of the largest and fastest growing angel groups in America, its CEO David Olivencia was a first-generation electrical engineering student from the Southeast Side of Chicago.
He always loved to solve problems, but earning his engineering degree instilled in him a confidence that continues to impact the way he approaches life. “I always tell people, if I can get through differential equations and calculus, I can solve anything,” he laughs.
His analytic mind and passions for technology and networking propelled Olivencia to some of the world’s leading technology firms including Verizon, Oracle, Ford, and Accenture, where he worked for over twenty years. Along the way, he watched start-ups like Google, Facebook, and YouTube grow rapidly, and, after receiving his MBA from the University of Notre Dame, the impact that growth had was eye-opening.
“The investors, founders, employees, and communities did very well because of it,” the CEO says.
In addition to spurring growth, he admired how these start-ups were leveraging technologies that he loved and spent his career working on with the purpose of changing the world. He wanted to be part of it. That’s why he started investing in two to three companies each quarter, helping them address challenges and supporting them however he could.
As Olivencia watched them expand their business, he honed his investment skills as part of an informal angel investor group, the Irish Angels, comprised of Norte Dame alumni. There and across other platforms, he invested in approximately seventy startups, including two unicorns and ten with valuations over $100 million.
Throughout Olivencia’s career and investment successes, he started to notice that there weren’t a lot of Latinos investing alongside him. There also weren’t a lot of Latinos or underrepresented founders among the new start-ups cropping up in every industry.
But he knew that would change.
“With my math background, I knew that the population numbers were growing and that it was only a matter of time before more start-up founders were going to be of Hispanic background,” he reflects. “That’s what sparked the idea to position an angel group to find, fund, and grow Hispanic founders and cofounders. If we created that kind of group, the numbers were on our side.”
He was right. In 2020, he and some of his colleagues founded Angeles Investors. The company, which aims to grow the most promising Hispanic and Latinx ventures, has grown to over 175 members and has invested about $5 million in 20 start-ups. Its portfolio includes a builder of artificial intelligence software integrations, a company that offers financial solutions for gamers, an app that aims to improve the physical and emotional health of children and more.
One of the many company accomplishments Olivencia is proud of is the work Angeles Investors has done with Canela Media, a minority and woman-owned media company, which reaches more than 20 million Hispanics across its Spanish-language sites and influencer database. Today, its ranked as the fourth largest Hispanic ad-focused company.
“The owner came to us and had been turned down by close to one-hundred venture capital firms and we connected her with a few firms, got her some seed funding, and the company took off like a rocket ship,” he says. “One of our members became her CFO because she fell in love with the vision. Then, we helped raise money for the Series A round, and I’m proud we were able to place a board member [at] Canela.”
The CEO continues, “The owner calls us her angel. Because if we weren’t there at that time, the story may not have been the same.”
Olivencia and his colleagues are currently working to launch a fund, create an accelerator, and create more advisory board opportunities for its portfolio companies with the Latino Corporate Directors Association. Additionally, the company is building partnerships with leading US venture capital firms to help it scale and impact its mission.
Those looking to see the kind of career success Olivencia has experienced should read his book about networking and take notes. In it, he outlines how vital relationships are to career success. Once you establish them, they need to be continuously nurtured, he urges.
He also advises young people to be deliberate about their goals and to make them “SMART,” which is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.
“People always say they have goals like losing weight, but sometimes they are too vague” Olivencia. “But how you make it SMART is by saying, ‘I want to lose ten pounds by May 1, and I’m going to do it by doing x, y, and z every day.’ Then, you reflect on that goal every day.”