By Andrea Perdomo, Techstars Network Catalyst for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
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 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 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.
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.”
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. Past Latinx in Tech Startup Weekend participants are especially encouraged to apply, but the competition is open to all!