Geek Ventures is the latest venture capital firm to launch its first fund and has $23 million in capital commitments to invest in immigrant tech founders at the pre-seed and seed stages.
Ihar Mahaniok founded the firm in 2021 after working for more than 20 years as a software engineer for companies, including Google, Facebook, WeWork and Lightning AI. Prior to starting the firm, Mahaniok was an active angel investor, getting in on the ground floor of companies like Instacart, PandaDoc, People.ai, Chainalysis, Airbyte and Jeeves.
An immigrant himself, growing up in Belarus, he saw how difficult it was for immigrant entrepreneurs to make connections within the U.S. venture capital ecosystem.
“Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not,” Mahaniok told TechCrunch via an email interview. “I want to create more opportunities for the amazing talent that originates everywhere in the world. Lots of them end up moving to the U.S. where they have the best environment to grow the business and then often grow their teams in countries of origin, which creates amazing job opportunities for talented people there.”
It was that connection aspect that also led Mahaniok to design Geek Ventures as a firm to build those venture capital connections. Through immigrant-focused networking events, founders have an opportunity to grow their professional networks and break into the U.S. market.
Mahaniok began fundraising for his debut fund back in October 2021 with the intention of only raising $15 million. He found limited partners resonated with his immigrant-focused thesis, as other VC firms have found, including One Way Ventures, Unshackled Ventures and BGV. Mahaniok closed the fund in June with $23 million.
Backing Geek Ventures is a group of investors, including Applovin founder and CEO Adam Foroughi, PandaDoc founders Mikita Mikado and Sergey Barysiuk and Decile Capital Premier Fund I.
Working with Mahaniok is Vadim Rogovskiy, who is splitting his time as partner at Geek Ventures and as co-founder and CEO of 3DLOOK, and investment analysts Maksym Strukov and Sviatoslava Luhovets. So far the firm has invested in 35 companies, including Filmustage, NewHomesMate, ShapesXR, FoodReady and Spice AI.
The team plans to invest in one or two companies a month and is targeting 60 total investments for Fund I, with investments ranging from $50,000 to $1 million.
“We look for the right balance between solving real customer problems now (or in the near future), and a very ambitious vision for the future five to 10 years from now,” Mahaniok said. “The best early founders can have a small working solution with happy customers now, and a picture of how they can grow it to a world-changing company later.”