By Laura DeMassa, Big Red Ventures Fund Manager ‘23-’24
Noramay Cadena is the Co-Founder and General Partner of Supply Change Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage, high-growth companies at the intersection of food, culture, and technology.
Cadena started her career as a mechanical engineer and worked in the aerospace industry for over a decade. As an engineer at Boeing, Cadena brought products to market, including satellites, Internet, DirectTV, radio, and even the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner airplane.
While bringing products to market as an engineer, Cadena became excited with the potential speed of innovation, especially by new and nimble players. In 2015, she went on to found her own venture capital firm with an angel investor, MiLA Capital. Their firm ran accelerator cohorts for and invested in early-stage hardware, deep tech, and manufacturing companies. In 2019, Cadena also co-founded LatinxVC, a non-profit organization that supports the Latino/a venture capital ecosystem.
Once the capital at MiLA Capital was fully deployed, Cadena gravitated toward food technology because of its potential impact on society. Cadena and her former MBA classmate, Shayna Harris, made an angel investment in a food company that would uncover a significant opportunity for venture capital. In late 2020, they joined forces and founded Supply Change Capital.
At Supply Change Capital, Cadena and Harris honed a framework for fairly evaluating companies to reduce bias. The framework, called FOODS, parses Supply Change Capital’s investment thesis to address environmental and health crises through early-stage, high-growth food technology companies. The FOODS framework focuses on the Founding Team, Opportunity, Operations, Dynamics, and Sustainability. To meet the last factor, Sustainability, Supply Change Capital assesses a company’s impact margin and whether it creates an environmental or health impact, or improves diversity in the food and agriculture industries.
According to Cadena, promising founders are curious, data-driven, and have clear and steadfast values. Such founders are eager to learn from others’ experiences and are willing to consider other points of view, even if they at first disagree. Such founders are entrenched in the data about their product or service and able to leverage data to make strategic decisions. Finally, such founders are committed to their core values, as shown by their thoughts around company culture and the hiring and empowerment of employees.
Aspiring venture capitalists can be similarly described. Cadena recommends that students interested in venture capital get their feet wet in the industry by reading, listening to, and digging into as much about the venture capital industry as possible. For example, she recommends building maps for markets of interest to track who the key investors, universities, cities, networks, and communities are in the space.
Supply Change Capital has had over 20 MBA Fellows join the firm from a variety of graduate schools, such as the University of Chicago, Stanford, MIT, UCLA, Pepperdine, and Northwestern. To excel in venture capital, Cadena recommends becoming deeply embedded in a venture capital firm. Be eager to attend meetings, get to know portfolio companies, and learn how the firm partners think and work. Moreover, learn to anticipate the needs of the firm and how to carry projects forward to the next step. Ultimately, Cadena recommends meeting others across venture capital firms and growing an organic network of peers.