This week on The First Close, we interview Nasir Qadree, founder and managing partner at Zeal Capital Partners, an early-stage fund based in Washington, DC. Nasir founded Zeal Capital Partners in 2020, as a solo GP, to invest in diverse management teams building companies focused on education, employment, and financial health, by taking a differentiated approach leveraging its signature Inclusive Investing™ strategy.
Nasir started his career as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, then moved on to work as a senior associate at State Street. While balancing his work in finance, Nasir decided to invest in a coffee shop and co-working space called The Bee’s Knees Baking Company, which became a hub of entrepreneurial activity. Meeting entrepreneurs at The Bee’s Knees sparked Nasir’s interest in mission-related technology businesses impacting sectors such education and financial health.
Nasir’s developing passion for these concerns led him to then–U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker, whom he advised on scaling tech-enabled innovations in low-wealth communities across New Jersey. Shortly after, he became special assistant to the commissioner of education for the Connecticut State Department of Education, where he led the state’s technology and infrastructure programs, introducing innovations across Connecticut’s K-12 and post-secondary systems and workforce.
Following his time in government, Nasir pivoted to venture capital because he wanted to source and invest in founders who were working on solving the problems he observed while in the public sector and the public markets. He served first as head of education at Village Capital, and then as director of social investments at AT&T. With this foundation in place, Nasir launched Zeal Capital Partners to focus on financial inclusion and the future of work.
Nasir and his team at Zeal have a rigorous approach to leveraging the firm’s unique competitive advantages—its DC location and its networks in growing tech hubs—to partner with diverse founding teams at the earliest stages of their development.
In Zeal Capital Partners’ very first newsletter, Nasir wrote, “It was important we led with inclusion, not diversity, so that we could be even more proactive and intentional about widening our lens. This approach begins with our team and extends to include the makeup of our companies, geographic regions we proactively invest in, aligned LPs, and measuring social impact outcomes via our proprietary impact framework.”
In this episode we discuss:
- Nasir’s career journey as an Atlanta native and first-generation college graduate who found his way to finance and venture capital
- The unique competitive advantages of being in Washington, DC and focusing on emerging tech hubs
- Zeal Capital Partners’ proprietary impact framework
- The importance of networks and communities, including the Kauffman Fellows Program and The Brookings Institute.