Pedro Espinoza and his power of networking
Pedro David Espinoza, a successful entrepreneur from a village in Peru, has captured the attention of the most influential CEOs in the world.
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When you invest in women of a country, a village, a community, it grows and develops
Pedro David Espinoza is a TED Speaker, Entrepreneur, tech investor, and bilingual author. He was born and raised in Peru and moved to the United States at 18 on scholarships to attend the University of California, Berkeley in San Francisco.
Noticing the lack of representation on campus forced Pedro to break barriers to excel.
“We have to work harder, twice as much or three x or four x, to be at the same level with our counterparts,” reiterates Pedro, who credits this with helping him embrace his Latin heritage.
His first professional connection was while he was a college student. While at the Golden Bear Cafe in Berkeley, Pedro noticed an older man wearing a suit and decided to approach him. After proper introductions and learning that he was Frank Baxter, the former United States Ambassador to Uruguay, former CEO of Jefferies & Company, and a Board member of the University of California Berkeley Foundation, they began to converse in Spanish.
“Two different generations, ethnicities, political parties, religions, faith, socioeconomic status, network—we clicked,” Pedro explained. “I shared my startup idea, my tech company idea—he gave me his business card, and I followed up. I send him newsletters, emails.”
Pedro took the time to foster a relationship with Frank, who was launching a seminar on Latin American civic history but didn’t know any Latin American international students that could attend.
Pedro already had friends from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, and Peru, and decided to invite them all to attend Frank’s seminar.
“You don’t need a title to be a leader. You don’t need to be a CEO to help another CEO,” Pedro emphasized. “The key for me was seeing him as a human, seeing him as a friend, forgetting that he’s a multimillionaire CEO, a powerful person.”
Pedro never imagined that Baxter would become a key player in his venture, solidifying the importance of networking and sponsorship.
You Don't have to BE to BELONG
Dreaming in Percentages
Experiencing rejection from JP Morgan, Deloitte, and McKenzie, prompted Pedro to rethink his plans of seeking employment.
“Because no one seems to care for me or deems me hirable or employable,” said Pedro referencing his inability to get employed or even considered for countless internships. After taking a technology entrepreneurship course at Stanford the summer of his Freshman year, he went from dreaming in percentages to becoming the percentage of the few Latino immigrant entrepreneurs in America able to start a successful tech company.
At 19, he learned how to launch a tech startup. His first tech company SmileyGo, an app that indexed the data of 1.3 million nonprofits in addition to having users in over 25 countries, was backed by Baxter, the company’s first investor.
As the CEO and founder, Pedro was responsible for raising capital and hiring people—over 30 team members. He was on the Hispanics Shark Tank and Univision in Español and countless media platforms speaking about SmileyGo and fostering relationships with prospective investors through networking.
Later, he created another company focused on consulting to work with Google, Oracle, Amazon, and Microsoft as a TED and keynote speaker.
“I became a successful entrepreneur, author, speaker, through failure, through being comfortable [with] being uncomfortable,” Pedro assures.
Fueled by a motivation to network, Pedro started investing and funding the next generation—startups founded by Latinas. Thus far, Pedro has invested in nine companies.
“You have to be industry agnostic—investing from autonomous vehicles like Kiwi to insurance tech like Noyo to legal tech like Paladin, music tech like Feed FM,” said Pedro. “As a venture capitalist, as a tech investor, you have to invest in the potential and character of the entrepreneur.”
He explains that it is about the team, the values, the potential, and whether or not the entrepreneurs have the grit and resilience to rebuild.
Pan Peru USA
His emphatic nature made the visionary focus on accessibility, innovation, and sustainability, creating Pan Peru, a venture that empowers women to become entrepreneurs.
“I believe in paying it forward and giving back,” said Pedro, emphasizing how privileged he was to graduate from the University of Berkeley with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus on Technology Entrepreneurship, complete a Certificate in International Management from Stanford University, and be part of class of 2023 Harvard Business Analytics Program.
Therefore, using Pan Peru to “help women, specifically Latinas, Hispanic females, to become entrepreneurs in my home country” is extremely special and important to him.
“When you invest in women of a country, a village, a community, it grows and develops,” Pedro reassures. “We started the program with one female entrepreneur, product design, and marketing ideation. Today we have almost 100 female entrepreneurs in the program.” Their goal is to reach ten thousand.
Pedro emphasizes that having that diversity of thoughts and gender, and ethnicity fuels innovation in his company— 75% of Pan Peru’s board of directors and leaders are female, people of color, and come from underestimated backgrounds.
He mentions that 2021 marked Pan Peru’s most successful revenue stream— e-commerce, which helped female entrepreneurs put out different alpaca products, sweaters, and scarves, helping them grow their online business.
Using the power of networking to raise capital from companies like Western Union, First Republic Bank, Bristol Myers Squibb, Salesforce, and many Fortune 500 companies through grants, checks, and donations to “help equip these women to grow their LLCs through microfinance, funding, and lending,” Pedro explained.
“I believe that when we empower these women to become entrepreneurs, we’re investing in their future,” said Pedro.
Pan Peru also teaches women and their children some English and Microsoft Office, Apple software, and Outlook—as many women are single mothers and have children with HIV or Hepatitis.
In an effort to connect the many companies that support or volunteer with Pan Peru, Pedro hosts impact trips to Peru, Machu Picchu, the Amazon rainforest, the river in Peru, and community service trips.
“I think we can dream and dare to think the unthinkable to achieve outstanding results,” Pedro reiterates.
Differences that Make a Difference
The bilingual author wrote Differences that Make a Difference with Jorge Titinger and contributions from Eric Schmidt, Reed Hastings, and Dan Schulman.
Pedro interviewed 150 CEOs as writing contributors to address how inclusion fuels innovation—Baxter was the first CEO he approached because he was his first investor. Baxter introduced Pedro to four other CEOs, enhancing his community and network.
He is working on his second book called The Real ROI: Return on Inclusion, which focuses more on the senior leadership board level—Michael Dell, John Hennessy, and James C. Morgan are some of the CEOs Pedro has interviewed.
Pedro is also launching a podcast called The Finish Line about the resilience of failing forward. Every week he will interview leaders like Carol Chris, the Chancellor of Berkeley; Monica Losano, the first Latina to be on the Board of Directors of Apple; and General David Petraeus, former director of the CIA.
Pedro’s mission to empower and invest in women has paved the way for others to recognize his efforts. He has received several recognitions in the past five years.
His first recognition was the Leadership Award by UC Berkeley 2013-2015. In 2017, he received the Entrepreneur of the Year award by the University of California, 2020 Applied Materials Distinguished Support on Inclusion, Amazon Mexico Bestseller #9 Human Resources Book, and 2020 Best Business Book by Latino International Book Awards.
Additionally, in 2021 was named Silicon Valley Business Journal Latinx Leadership Honoree, Vice Curator for World Economic Forum - Shapers - in Palo Alto 2022, HITEC 100 Award (Top 100 most influential Hispanic tech executive in the world 2022), 2022 LinkedIn Creator Accelerator Program Awardee in Tech & Innovation, and most recently the 2023 HITEC 100 Award (Top 100 Most Influential Hispanic Tech Leader in the World).