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Valley Strong invests $1.5 million with Kern Venture Group

Valley Strong Credit Union

Valley Strong Credit Union has committed $1.5 million to Kern Venture Group’s next fund (KVG) to support investment in the Central Valley. The money will be used to establish a $10 million fund to target early stage seed investments in startup companies looking to turn revolutionary ideas into disruptive businesses.

Through its own investment arm, Valley Strong Ventures, LLC, would become a general partner, joining eight other entities that also have contributed to the fund.

“We are pleased to make this investment in our region as it fulfills our mission of ‘helping people and communities prosper,’ “ said Nick Ambrosini, President / CEO of Valley Strong. “Combined with our current investments in workforce education, energy perseverance and the B3K Prosperity Initiative (a public-private regional collaboration that articulates a shared strategic vision and investment plan for economic growth and inclusion in Kern County), we foresee a brighter future for our communities.”

Kern Venture Group was founded in 2018 by David Higdon and John-Paul Lake, two men with deep roots in Kern County and extensive experience and expertise in business and bringing leading-edge ideas to fruition. By providing access to capital, KVG hopes to spur the new business formation and survival rate in the Central Valley and offer investors an attractive return, its founders say.

”Partnering with Valley Strong is a great fit for KVG because of our shared commitment to supporting entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Central Valley,” Lake said.

This isn’t their first venture into entrepreneuralism. The group began investing in startups in 2019 from its first fund, a $2.15 million fund aimed at companies located in Kern or founded by entrepreneurs from Kern or which have a product or service that will positively impact the region. Two investments in the first fund went to local companies, Vinergy and Mill It, which have gone on to raise nearly $3 million of additional capital from other investors as they successfully grow their revenues.

“Our research uncovered that entrepreneurs in Kern County struggle to sustain growth and quality job creation compared to peer regions. A big reason is the lack of some basic ecosystem supports, including connections to investors with patient capital,” said Marek Gootman, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution who has been shepherding the B3K Prosperity initiative. “This type of fund is a strategy proven to spur business dynamism and more inclusive outcomes, especially with KVG dedicating a portion to minority and women founders.”

This is Valley Strong Ventures’ first investment partnership with community stakeholders. Formed in 2020, its goal is to leverage members’ deposits to bring greater benefits and improve their financial standing.

About Valley Strong Credit Union

Valley Strong Credit Union operates 27 branches, serving more than 210,000 individuals, with approximately $3.5 billion in assets. It remains one of the largest financial institutions headquartered in the San Joaquin Valley.

About Kern Venture Group

Kern Venture Group is the first seed stage venture fund headquartered in Bakersfield. It currently manages a portfolio of over 20 startup companies with an investment thesis focused on supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Central Valley.