Entrepreneurs are Core.

The why: our mission

Shinya Akamine founded Core Ventures Group to support world-class entrepreneurs in building valuable businesses in 2012 and shortly afterwards recruited Joanna Drake as a Co-Founding General Partner. They are an experienced operator team who work closely with a concentrated portfolio of founders from Core Ventures Group seed stage funds – CVG I vintage 2012 and CVG II vintage 2015. They draw from our entrepreneurial experiences and diverse human capital networks to help start-ups overcome early market challenges and build not just breakthrough products, but solid sustainable businesses.

Tragically we lost Shinya in 2019. He was irreplaceable as Founding Partner of Core Ventures Group and we put future CVG funds on hold, while Joanna continues to support CVG founders in their company building and board service. We are proud that so many of the CVG founders have become category leaders across a broad spectrum of industries – from mobile marketing to consumer lending to transactionless shopping.

We put our financial and human capital to work.

An engaged investment model

We invest in relatively few companies and work closely with the founders on strategy and operations. We are rigorous in creating actionable strategies and supporting continuous improvement. We remain calm at all times, because every start-up faces serious challenges and surprises.

Leadership and experience are at the core.

Founder focus

We invest in curious and ambitious founders of the highest character and integrity who are committed to assembling well-rounded business and technical teams. In our experience, these are core strengths upon which great companies are built. We primarily invest in seed stage companies with proven business models and advanced technologies.

We leverage our diverse and global partner network.

  • “It has been a privilege working with CVG. Rarely do you find investors with such an eagerness to lean-in when you require, give you space when you do not, and with such a profound sense of confident humility and collaboration. If I ever find myself starting another company, they will be the first ones I call.”
    Sean Knapp Founder & CEO, Ascend.io
  • “Founders need more than just capital - we need smart people in our corner. Joanna and Shinya have been instrumental in our growth as an organization. Their battle-tested methodology for finding product market fit saved us immeasurable time and headache. In addition to operational guidance, they consistently go the extra mile to leverage their networks when we are searching for talent or need key customer introductions.”
    Lauren Pufpaf Co-Founder & CMO, Feed.fm
  • “CVG has been among the best investors I have had the pleasure of working with. As seed investors, CVG has been instrumental in helping us raise most of our capital, including a credit facility of $90M, assembling a world class executive and advisory team, and building our knowledge platform... They are ready to roll up their sleeves to see you succeed. Above all, the CVG team are true partners and friends, and the most kind, humble, and friendly investors we know.”
    Adalberto Flores Founder & CEO, Kueski
  • “CVG has distinguished itself as a particularly valuable resource as we've grown our company. Shinya and Joanna are skilled thought partners bringing their entrepreneurial and operational expertise to bear. They are very proactive at opening up their extensive global networks to help with commercial deals, strategic partnerships or fund raising opportunities. Liftoff's value has been boosted by having CVG in our corner.”
    Mark Ellis Co-Founder & CEO, Liftoff
  • “Joanna and Shinya bring years of operating experience to venture investing. Shinya has worked closely with our team to develop and analyze go-to-market strategies.”
    Bismarck Lepe Founder & CEO, Wizeline
  • “From day one with CVG I felt that we were on the same side of the table. Because Shinya and Joanna have operational backgrounds, it was a lot like having two CEO coaches during the beginning of OMC's history. I've benefited greatly from their specific feedback at critical times, and there have been points when they helped me make moves earlier than I would have known to take action. I highly recommend working with them, as they are never too busy to connect, but they have world-class talents as business leaders.”
    Danielle Applestone Founder & CEO, Other Machine Company
  • “The founders/investors relationship is a marriage with very little dating and no option for divorce. The Core Ventures Group team are both entrepreneurs and investors which gives them the unique ability to understand and work with start-ups. CVG is a great supporter in good and bad times. They have been an amazing part of our team operationally and as advisors.”
    Julian Bellanger Co-Founder & CEO, Prevoty

Who We Are

The Core Ventures Group partners are serial entrepreneurs who have founded and built world-class companies from the ground up. We source our investment opportunities and related talent searches from rich relationship networks that we have nurtured via direct involvement in over 50 Silicon Valley companies over 20 years each.

Joanna Drake

General Partner

Joanna entered the business world from Stanford University as a management consultant with Booz Allen’s Media and Technology practice. She became a serial start-up executive beginning in the late 1990s. She has launched many world’s “first” award winning media technology products: personalized video newscasts from ReacTV, advanced set top box media services via Moxi, and Viewer Created TV at Current TV. Her most recent executive role was running the Western operations for leading Japanese public mobile company DeNA as COO. Joanna is a board member of the most prominent female Executive group C200 and the preeminent angel investor group Broadway Angels.

Shinya Akamine

General Partner (In Memoriam)

Shinya Akamine earned B.S., M.S. and Ph.D., degrees from Stanford in Electrical Engineering. He was recognized by Stanford for being one of its most prolific inventors. Shinya was part of the team that opened the first McKinsey & Company’s Silicon Valley office. After successfully mastering business spreadsheets as a management consultant, he went on to play executive leadership roles at four Silicon Valley venture-backed technology start-ups, including serving as GM at Cygnus Solutions (sold to Red Hat) and serving as Founder and CEO of Postini (sold to Google). Shinya speaks four languages: English, Japanese, Spanish and Founder.

Guy Barbaro

Finance Advisor

Guy Barbaro is a hands-on financial consultant specializing in helping early stage companies build their finance and accounting systems from the ground-up. He brings experience from in-house roles at several start-ups, including Current TV and Listen.com, and has also played key roles in S-1 filings for an IPO, and two acquisitions. Guy has seen many of his clients become acquisition targets or grow into larger successful operations. Post-graduation, Guy worked as an auditor for Deloitte + Touche, after which he spent a decade working in various management positions at a large consumer bank.

Ben Black

Fund Advisor

Benjamin Black is a Co-Founder and Managing Director of Akkadian Ventures and a 16-year private equity veteran. Prior to Akkadian, Ben co-founded New Cycle Capital to bring socially responsible investing to sectors like clean energy and social finance. He started his private equity career on the investment teams at Maveron and Rosewood Capital where he focused on branded consumer products and services. Prior to his private equity career, Ben was a member of the founding team of Harris Interactive.

Alice Chan

Marketing Advisor

Alice is an entrepreneur at heart. She’s founded and run businesses and worked inside early and late-stage startups. She started her career in London in the early 90s, and arrived in Silicon Valley just in time for the dotcom boom. She has a passion for marketing and communications and starting fires. She’s held a number of acting VP of Marketing/CMO roles and is known for quickly figuring out what needs to be done to drive a business forward, and then making it happen.

Marie Drez


Marie Drez brings over 20 years experience in finance and administration working with venture capital firms here in Silicon Valley. She recently ran the finance and administrative functions for Noventi Ventures and currently acts as the CFO for several firms in the Bay Area. She has a passion for working with emerging managers and their portfolio companies. Marie moved to the Bay Area during the dotcom boom and began her career in venture after spending over ten years in banking in Los Angeles. She received her B.S. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Sharon Olexy


Sharon Olexy has raised over half a billion dollars for emerging Internet, Consumer, and Financial Services companies. She has served as the COO of LendUp, a FinTech company for the underbanked, creating over one billion in new credit opportunity for the 56% of Americans shut out of mainstream banking. As an executive sponsor of both the “Lean In” and “LGBTQ and Allies” Employee Resource Groups, Sharon was selected by the San Francisco Business Times as one of the 2017 Business of Pride OUTstanding Voices for her efforts to drive diversity at the C-Level. She is currently on the Board of Kueski whose mission is to extend safe, transparent lending products to the emerging middle class of Mexico and is also an advisor to Wonderschool, a marketplace platform that expands the preschool ecosystem for families and educators. Most recently Sharon was a guest lecturer at UCLA teaching entrepreneurial finance.