VC 414 launched at the start of the year with one mission in mind: to help underrepresented founders grow their businesses and create generational wealth. Founded by venture capitalist and angel investor Jennifer Abele and former BMO Harris executive Raquel Filmanowicz, the city’s newest early-stage venture capital firm is the product of several years of personal interest in helping founders who are often overlooked for VC funding, including women, people of color, veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Abele, who is married to former Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and has spent the bulk of her career in the realms of government and higher education, became interested in entrepreneurship and venture capitalism later in life. She has made several private investments, including backing Milwaukee-based COnovate Inc. and Milwaukee-based Xena Workwear. Filmanowicz, who spent 11 years at BMO Harris Bank in roles involving corporate philanthropy, commercial lending and venture investment, also developed a passion for entrepreneurship later in life. BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Ashley Smart recently sat down with Abele and Filmanowicz to discuss the founding of VC 414 and their goals for the firm. Below are portions of the interview, edited for length and clarity:
What sparked your passion for venture capitalism?
Abele: “In serving disadvantaged communities and looking at how we can build economic prosperity, we realized to truly make an impact, we needed to go further upstream and give people the tools to build wealth, to build their own economic prosperity.”
Filmanowicz: “Getting a chance to get to know these entrepreneurs and understanding their journey was so rewarding and really touched my heart. I was like, ‘I want to do more. I want to go deeper and help them grow and scale and be successful.’”