Carmen Palafox is definitely a Student Always. She’s audited a class at Haas every year since she graduated, taking courses with lecturers Whitney Hischier, Bryce Hoffman, Andrew Isaacs, and Maura O’Neill.
“Auditing classes at Haas helps me continue to develop my own skills,” says Palafox, partner of venture capital firm MiLA Capital (aka Make in LA). “For example, in Maura’s course I learned about venture finance from the entrepreneur’s perspective, which has made me a better coach for the startups we invest in.”
Unlike many venture capital firms, MiLA works with entrepreneurs to develop the hardware side of their business, supporting them as they navigate the path from initial prototype to manufacturing. It focuses primarily on seed-stage companies that participate in its four-month High Touch Accelerator program—which covers everything from customer discovery and going to market to manufacturability and team building. Along with mentorship, MiLA kicks in an initial investment up to $150,000.
“We help startups manage the journey from proof-of-concept prototype to mass manufacturing,” Palafox says.
On a larger scale, Palafox sees her work at MiLA as a way to diversify the startup world, making room at the table for entrepreneurs and investors who have often been underrepresented, such as women and minorities. Her work is attracting attention. Recently she was named by Los Angeles Magazine as one of 13 women making the city a better place.
“When I look at where wealth is being created, it’s in the private sphere,” she says. “It all goes back to access: You have to be invited to participate in a financing round, and I have an opportunity to extend that invitation.”