An initiative by a Latino philanthropic organization is helping advance equity, capital and resources to Hispanic startups by building an open-source registry and spotlighting a list of Latino startup founders.
The aim of the registry and the list is to make Hispanic startup founders more visible to investors who traditionally source opportunities through venture accelerators or through their own personal networks.
The initiative is spearheaded by Hispanics in Philanthropy, an organization that provides philanthropic resources and investments to Latino entrepreneurs and groups across Hispanic communities in the U.S. and Latin America.
“It should be unnecessary for us to have to call out that there’s an amazing talent pool out there. It should just be a given,” said Jorge Calderon, managing director at Hispanics in Philanthropy and managing director at Inicio Ventures, an impact fund focused on bridging the wealth gap by providing funding to Latino startups.
Though funding to Latino startup founders grew from $1.7 billion in 2017 to $6.8 billion in 2021, Latino startups accounted for a little more than 2 percent of all investments, according to Crunchbase.
Latino and other entrepreneurs of color traditionally have limited financial resources to kickstart their projects, Calderon said, including an insufficient network of people who could help during the critical early stages of a business or project and facing longer timelines to secure funding.
Because most investors are not Latino or people of color, the access to their financial pipeline “has really been kind of within that fishbowl of their same demographic,” said Calderon. “We’re essentially telling all these investors, “Here they are, there’s no more excuses.”
Inicio Ventures created a fellowship program with several graduate students to build a startup registry in the hopes of eventually identifying every single Latino founder and startup in the U.S.
The fellows looked into discovering Hispanics who weren’t part of the traditional venture capital pipelines, usually found in certain universities or in California’s Bay Area; Austin, Texas; or Boston.
“Latinx folks are everywhere,” Calderon said. “There’s going to be great folks defined in some of these smaller regions and locales.”
The registry will serve as an open source for the public and potential investors.
Latino startup candidates who are eligible to be included in the registry are those who haven’t yet received more than $1 million in funding but whose projects been deemed to be scalable in overall size. The startup founders’ individual background and life experiences will also be taken into account.
After learning of many of the founders’ compelling stories, Inicio Ventures has launched its first 100 Rising Latinx Founders to Watch list, showcasing ready and investable Latinx startup projects and the faces behind them.
A few featured in the list include Esteban Gorupicz, of Argentinian heritage, who launched the world’s first crowdsourcing platform for audio labeling in Spanish and went on to found Atexto, a software platform aiming to improve speech recognition technology that takes into account different languages, accents, tone of voice and way of speaking. Charlene Peña, a Massachusetts-based Afro Latina and Dominican entrepreneur, designed the Afrona, a hat that fully covers curly hair and protects it without flattening it.
“Within the last year or two, there’s been just a lot more interest trying to discover and uncover Latinos and Latinas across the U.S., and it’s just kind of building steam,” Calderon said.
Alongside the registry and list, Inicio Ventures holds a series of pitch events focused on Latino pipeline development that involves collaboration between Latino entrepreneurs, asset managers and others to figure out how to support and increase their voices and power within the startup community.
“This is an opportunity with all of our work to really catalyze a point in time,” Calderon said. “It feels like there’s a tipping point where people are really intentional around bringing more minorities and women into VC [venture capital].”