As a Latina entrepreneur, I know the transparent walls that we face every day for being different. I know what it is like to be seen as an outsider and someone who doesn’t belong in a tech conference. Regardless, I found a community, a strong co-founder, resilient mentors, and a network that supported my growth—and I was able to succeed. I work every day to inspire other entrepreneurs to take these same chances. And I work to give them the tools they need to succeed.
The Latinx community is one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States. There are an estimated 58.9 million Latinx people in the United States. This is 18.1% of the U.S. population! This group is also one of the fastest-growing populations of consumers and tech users, making them a highly desirable market for tech companies. However, only 6.8% of those working in technology are Latinx.
The world of tech startups and entrepreneurship is not diverse, and this lack of diversity can be mostly attributed to limited access to capital, network, and education for these historically underrepresented groups, including those who identify as Latinx.
It is crucial that we break down those barriers and begin to work together to support our Latinx communities of innovators and entrepreneurs. We need to develop the next generation of Latinx tech leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors. And we are.
For the past four years Techstars has partnered with the Kapor Center to focus on this opportunity—city by city—as we co-launched Latinx in Tech themed Startup Weekends across the U.S. Together, we went from one city to five, and then to 10. Across all 10 cities, demand from Latinx communities for pathways to entrepreneurship is clear. The problems the Latinx community is tackling are large and meaningful.
These initiatives are making a difference. But why aren’t we seeing even more of these ideas grow into their full potential as high-growth companies? The data gives us a peek into the barriers that we still need to tackle.
The Growth is Huge
The number of Latinx businesses in the U.S. is growing at a rate that outpaces every other group.
A recent U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce study reported that there are nearly 4.4 million Latinx-owned businesses in the U.S., and together they contribute more than $700 billion to the American economy every year. Latinx-owned companies have grown at 31.6% since 2012—this is more than double the growth rate of 13.8% for all businesses.
Imagine this future
Imagine if we could support these Latinx communities with access to a supportive network of coaches and mentors.
Imagine if we could support these communities with access to capital and connect them to investors looking to fund diverse founders.
Imagine if we could support these communities with the education, resources, and tools to learn not only how to start their own businesses, but how to build their teams and scale their organizations.
We see incredible potential to create a positive global impact by empowering this community.
Systemic Gaps In the Pathways for Latinx in Tech
However while Latinx-owned businesses are growing fast, there is a leaky pipeline for Latinx people in tech.
The Kapor Center for Social Impact published a study in 2018 on “The Leaky Tech Pipeline.” This revealing report found that “The technology sector nationwide is overwhelmingly male (74%), White (69%), and Asian (21%), while female, Black, Latinx, and Native American/Alaskan Native professionals are underrepresented in the technology workforce relative to their proportion of the labor force and the United States population.” Together, black and Latinx adults make up 30% of the U.S. population, but only 7-8% of tech workers are black or Latinx. That’s a 22% gap to even proportionally reflect the U.S. population!
Kapor Center report suggests four ways to fix this leaky pipeline, which leaks away too much Latinx talent from tech jobs: Increase the education of STEM in Pre-12, higher education, Tech workforce, and Entrepreneurship & VC. According to the Kapor Center report, “Race and gender disparities exist in enrollment in computing majors, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. Enrollment in computing majors is tied to access and participation in AP CS classes in high school.”
What We’re Doing
Through Techstars Startup Weekend, we continue to work towards increasing access to entrepreneurial education, growing Latinx startup communities, and providing the tools and resources for all entrepreneurs to succeed. We aim to support the Latinx community so they can become entrepreneurs and inspire the next generation to do the same.
Through this series of Latinx in Tech Startup Weekends with community partners such as the Kapor Center, we are creating opportunities, inspiring innovation and bringing large communities together to solve today’s biggest problems. An intentional and intersectional strategy to foster more representation of Latinx entrepreneurs is critical.
Find ways that you can support your startup ecosystem and help make it inclusive through our Latinx in Tech Startup Weekends. If you’re in the area, we invite you all to see this ecosystem in action October 8-11 in San Francisco & Oakland at LTXFest.
Are you a Latinx entrepreneur who is ready to continue your growth? If so, sign up to be selected for the LTX Fest Inaugural El Poder Del Pitch Competition <link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSew8QH2TgfOBls5UMflBFo1wiCuKMRxueTJvw4qzDQaqoDnKg/formResponse> Past Latinx in Tech Startup Weekend participants are especially encouraged to apply, but the competition is open to all!
One of the first projects I got to work on when I joined the Kapor Center in 2016 was helping to launch the first Startup Weekend: Latinx in Tech here in Oakland. We brought together more than one-hundred Latinx entrepreneurs, coaches, and mentors over the course of a three-day weekend to conceptualize product ideas, pitch them, and form teams to turn their ideas into action.
Startup Weekend is a powerful way to turn tech dreams into reality over the course of just a few days.
This one was particularly important to me and my colleagues, however. The Latinx community is the second largest ethnic group in America, made up of 52 million people and yet there still are very few initiatives in the tech space directly serving our communities.
I say “communities,” rather than the “community,” because as the 2016 Latinx Startup Weekend showed, we are incredibly diverse. It’s one thing to know that Latins is an ethnic designation, rather than a race.
This diversity was wonderfully apparent at the first Startup Weekend, where we saw Latinx entrepreneurs from all different racial backgrounds bring their own lived experience to the table. It was a deeply powerful event, and we soon received requests from other cities to bring this energy to the national stage in 2017.
Last fall, I was excited to collaborate once again with my colleague and friend, Carolina Huaranca to make this a reality on a larger scale, when we partnered with 2 national organizations, Techqueria and Techstars, to reach our target audiences in brand new cities with large Latinx populations..
How We United the Latinx Population Across America
Our vision for the 2017 event was to bring together participants in Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and New York to design tech solutions to the specific problems affecting the Latinx communities in each city
In less than three months, we went from event concept to formalizing organizers in five cities with weekly advisement to bring 300+ community members across the country together in one weekend.
Navigating the Unexpected
Of course, things come up. Late into our planning we were faced with the unexpected as Hurricane Irma hit Florida, stalling the Miami Startup Weekend organizing team. After working hard to rally, the team on the ground ultimately decided to pull out and focus on crucial community rebuilding efforts.
We hope to welcome them this year as they are strong representation of our community who exemplify strength and resilience. Only a few days later Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, affecting even more of our organizers and participants.
But one thing tech knows how to do is to pivot.
Organizers encouraged participants to tackle recovery issues using tech and entrepreneurship, and in three of our cities, top-placing teams focused on prototyping recovery and disaster relief solutions. It showed that the Latinx community can come together to channel their talents to help one another through action and innovation.
Despite all of the challenges, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago organizing teams led this first ever national Latinx in tech entrepreneurship initiative to success – we helped activate four cities, brought together +300 community members, launched +30 prototypes/startups in 54 hours.
Each city provided curated skill-building in lean startup methodologies with local ecosystem mentors that included local experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and industry experts.
Over the 54 hours of the event, we were able to activate an action-focused Latinx in tech community in four ecosystems across the country with strong leadership. Participation culminated in over 300 community members, including participants, mentors, coaches, judges, and volunteers.
We also got people talking about this new and exciting national initiative. Social media exploded in excitement and interest with 4.2k overall tweets, and over 100 contributors on the platform.
By the end of the weekend, over 30 new venture prototypes had been pitched, ranging drone technology to assessing infrastructure damage of natural disasters, to talent matching using digital platforms for small businesses, to creating a marketplace to connect doctors on a global scale.
We’re excited to have helped demystify tech entrepreneurship for our diverse, multicultural LatinX community and ignited desire for change and leadership in each city.
Only the beginning…
By 2060, over a quarter of the entire U.S. population will be Latinx. That’s about 119 million people, and over a trillion dollar market of creators and consumers that remains untapped.
We are excited to continue bringing more spotlight to the Latinx in Tech community through our efforts at the Kapor Center and in collaboration with partners, like Techstars and others who share the goal of increasing activating the potential of this inspiring community.
Through the last two years of Latinx Startup Weekends, we’ve seen how the lived experiences of our entrepreneurs make them uniquely qualified to identify problems specific to the Latinx community and design tech-enabled solutions.
This is where our story starts and we’re excited to see the continued growth and success of Latinx in Tech across America. Stay tuned for more details about 2018’s national initiatives!
This post was originally published in Medium.
The Latinx community in the United States is the second largest ethnic group in America made up of 52 million people. By 2060, over a quarter of the entire U.S. population will be Latinx – that’s about 119M people and over a trillion dollar market that remains untapped – until now!
The weekend of September 29th – Oct 1st, Oakland, Chicago, New York and LA are bringing 400 Latinxs and allies together for 54 hours to learn how to create their own startup. Participants will be mentored by some of the brightest minds in tech, business, and development.
Everybody is welcome to join this special edition! A few tickets are still available in all 4 locations.
More information and tickets:
In October, with the support of the Knight Foundation, Techstars Startup Weekend Latinx in Tech will take place in the city that has the most Latinx leading tech ventures in the United States: Miami. Stay tuned for more information!