Alexandria Lafci faced several housing problems growing up in Section Eight housing. She and her family moved around a lot when she was young and after college when she started teaching in low-income schools, she realized how severe the housing shortage is in the U.S.
Lafci recalled to Fast Company that about a third of her students were homeless, or housing unstable, for either all or part of the year. Due to this, it was very difficult for them to pay attention and to actualize their full potential, and their families suffered also. “It’s really hard to attain a job or retain a job if you don’t have a stable address,” Lafci said.
That was how she was inspired in 2014 to co-found New Story, a nonprofit building housing in low-income communities in areas like El Salvador. Lafci led her team to pioneer new technology like 3D printing for homes. “I was the COO, and so I was doing everything on the ground from negotiating land, grants with governments to infrastructure, getting communities ready to the actual construction from ground up to managing micro mortgages,” she said of her role.
Today, Lafci is behind Hometeam Ventures, a new VC fund whose aim is to look for startups interested in making construction more affordable and sustainable through the use of breakthrough technology. The fund, which seeks to close the housing gap, recently raised $18 million backed by investors like Alexis Ohanian. This is one of the largest raises for a Black female general partner, Fast Company reported.
Lafci said she started thinking about a VC fund when she realized that New Story’s mandate wasn’t working with for-profit startups. “The startups needed money, and I wanted to invest in them. I thought they could have impact. I thought I could influence them. So, I started just talking to some of our advisors, some of our donors, like ‘Hey, what do you think about the idea of a venture fund?’ It was a little bit of an identity crisis for me honestly, for a couple of months,” she said.
Venture capital had felt so financially oriented and not impact-oriented for Lafci but she later understood that she could have some of the largest impact on housing through finding companies that can transform how buildings are constructed.
Lafci’s Hometeam Ventures’ initial goal was to raise $5 million to $10 million but it ended up raising $18 million. That is significant, considering there are not many Black women venture capitalists, let alone those who have their own fund, she said.
Black investors make up only 4% of venture capital investors in the U.S., according to a report from BLCK VC, while Black women make up only 1%.