Latinos, an emerging force in Silicon Valley
Numerous partnerships accompany new Latino entrepreneurs to further their success in the difficult world of start-ups.
Latinos are further looking, risky, innovative. Many of them arrive in Silicon Valley with the illusion of starting a new career in the Valley of Opportunities. Although new international technology poles have emerged, Silicon Valley is still the place to be. Not surprisingly, this area continues to receive a third of the total venture of capital investment throughout the United States.
Gretel Perera, Eduardo Vivas, Alejandro Carrasco, Javier Verdura ... are just a few of the many Latin names that resonate in Silicon Valley. According to The Economist, by 2015 the valley housed 99 companies valued at more than $ 1 billion. However, the Latino presence in the technological sector of the valley remains a minority. Not only in number of employees, but also in entrepreneurs. According to a survey conducted by the Stanford Business Graduate School, of 1,800 businesses, only 1% of business created by Latinos in the US between 2007 and 2012 were financed by venture capital.
The role of immigrants
In early 2017 we saw Silicon Valley rise up in protest against President Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies. It was in January that this zone, little prone to manifest itself before announcements or political changes, raised its voice to protest to measures that could have a great impact in its industry.
To understand these protests, it is important to know what prompted the industry's anger. The formation of Silicon Valley and its subsequent success at worldwide level have its reason of being in the arrival of immigrants. Over the last few years, the United States has attracted talent from around the world to operate in the valley. The result of this policy translates into names now known as Uber, Instagram, Tesla, WhatsApp, Yahoo! and even Google. All of them were founded or co-founded by immigrants who came to the United States looking for the best environment to develop their idea.
Therefore the protests of the workers of the technological sector had nothing to do with the state of their wages or their work situation but rather with the necessity of having that high percentage of foreign personnel that fills their ranks. This is, in short, a current demand similar to what the investor Paul Graham already said back in 2014. In Graham's words, "The United States has less than 5% of the world's population. Which means that if the qualities that make someone a great programmer are evenly distributed, 95% of the great programmers are born outside the United States."
The talent that fills the ranks of Silicon Valley lies outside of it and closing the borders means shutting the talent.
Latinos in Silicon Valley
Alejandro Carrasco came from Bolivia to the United States to do an MBA at the University of Texas in Austin. After finishing, he moved to Miami to do independent consulting for startups, and then settled in Silicon Valley, a place that caught him. "Here they don’t care how much money you have but what you have done to have it. Everyone wants to help you because they know that if a startup is doing well, it favors everyone. It's a unique ecosystem that will never be reproduced anywhere else in the world. "
Like Alejandro, thousands of Latino professionals have come to Silicon Valley to find the perfect ecosystem in which to develop their company. And it’s not easy. To the existing competition is added the complaint that white men dominate the system. And that is that the valley has never stood out for its fame around the meritocracy.
In order to help Latino professionals disembarking in Silicon Valley, a number of initiatives have been developed, including Manos Accelerator. This organization was born in 2013 with the objective of supporting the Latin entrepreneurs who come to the valley. Behind it is co-founder Eduardo Ávila, who lived in his own flesh the loneliness of the Latino businessman in the United States. Eduardo and his partners decided to create an institution to accompany the Hispanic entrepreneurs in their path, providing different resources, facilitating access to investments and supporting those for whom it was more complicated. They also managed to associate with the giant Google for the use of different tools and funds.
Each year, Manos Accelerator selects a handful of startups to offer them a mentoring program that includes hands-on education, business resources, infrastructure, capital, and success orientation. At the end of the program, participating startups present their product to their own network of angel investors, small investors and venture capital firms.
One of the entrepreneurs participating in the Manos Accelerator program is Alejandro Carrasco, founder of the startup Dream Tuner, a web platform that helps independent musicians get in touch with musical discoverers. In Alejandro's words, "it was a week in which there was a mentor who helped me a lot in changing and polishing the idea." However, Alejandro admits that all the information on how to create a startup and start working can be found online, and that accelerators are an important help as long as they are well organized, they can teach you something and connect with the people you are going to need along your path.
Much has been said about the role of women in technology companies. Without going any further, in 2014, companies like Apple or Facebook even dared to propose to their employees plans to finance the freezing of their eggs in order to delay their fertile age; a controversial measure, which basically sought to clean up the gender differences that mark recruitment statistics within large technology companies and increase the percentage of women who work in them.
The shortage of women in Silicon Valley remains a problem. According to data provided by Facebook itself, 65% of its workforce is made up of men. A figure that could be even more unbalanced in the rest of Silicon Valley, considering that only 5% of the startups are founded by women.
Latinas are also struggling to make a living in this environment and do so mainly through an organization called Latinas In Tech. Gretel Perera and Rocío Medina founded this organization, present in Austin, Mexico and Silicon Valley itself. Back in 2014, both professionals from the technological world began organizing different meetups to meet more professionals in the sector. They noted that there was a clear interest in their calls, which increasingly attracted more women. Currently, more than 1,000 women from 12 different countries are part of this organization.
Every two months, Latinas in Tech meet to discuss issues that affect their positions as successful businesswomen or networking. A reflection of the power that this group has achieved is that today large companies give them spaces to meet. Without going any further, their next event will take place at the Airbnb offices in Silicon Valley.
Despite how difficult it seems to be to make his way in Silicon Valley, the Latino who decides to undertake this path will find more support than in the past. The initiatives we have already named include new ones such as El Valle de los Tercos, a podcast that talks about Latino life in Silicon Valley, the Latino Community Foundation of California and the Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit that brings together leaders in the sector.
New tools that are intended to help make the path easier. Although, and as Alejandro Carrasco comments, your origin should not be bounding nor a credential. "I don’t want to be part of a category, I simply consider myself an entrepreneur. I think that because of being from another place one has another perception of the world and that helps a lot to overcome obstacles ", says Carrasco. This is, without a doubt, the best philosophy when crossing borders.