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Stephanie Piris and Carolina Castro at the Techstars Startup Week in Philadelphia on Nov. 8. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Stephanie Piris and Carolina Castro at the Techstars Startup Week in Philadelphia on Nov. 8. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

A Startup Weekend for Latinos in Philly

The three-day event aimed at inspiring, developing and amplifying diversity in entrepreneurship will take place Jan. 24-26. 

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When Stephanie Piris and Carolina Castro decided to participate in the Techstars Latinx in Tech Startup Weekend event last October, neither of them really knew what to expect. Both saw it simply as an opportunity to learn. 

With Piris’ background in real estate, and Castro’s experience in the nonprofit sector, their only common goal was that they each knew that they wanted to make an impact within their community. 

As Latinas, they knew just how underrepresented the Latino community is in various fields of work, particularly in tech. Despite some progress in recent years, according to a report by Brookings, Latinos made up about 6.8% of the sector in 2016. 

With the landscape changing both in the U.S., and in the tech world in terms of the growing Latinx community, the Latinx community has taken the charge in increasing opportunities within tech. The Techstars Latinx in Tech Startup Weekend is just one of the ways the Latinx community has taken on that initiative. 

A Startup Weekend is a 54-hour weekend event that brings together innovators, entrepreneurs, makers, developers, startup enthusiasts, designers, and more to pitch business ideas, form teams around those ideas and develop them into concrete plans with help and feedback from mentors and experienced entrepreneurs. Teams then present their business ideas to a panel of judges who will then determine the winners.

Last year, Piris and Castro were part of the winning team of the Techstars Latinx in Tech Startup Weekend in Philadelphia. 

“Honestly, we did not expect to win,” Piris told AL DÍA, noting that their group was the smallest and the only all-women group formed during the weekend. 

“When we won first place, we are all surprised, but also so very grateful... also we formed a really good friendship,” she added. 

Initially, Castro pitched the idea of bringing together a community of people looking for opportunities within tech by creating a platform for professionals looking to enter into the industry.

With help from mentors, experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts throughout the weekend, that idea further developed into a single hub where people looking for new career and professional development opportunities could find valuable resources and information. 

“What’s interesting is that since that weekend, we have launched off into getting involved in so many different entrepreneurial projects. And we’ve always had the intention to come back to this concept of what this hub really looked like,” said Castro. 

This time around, Castro and Piris are using their experiences from last year’s Startup Weekend event to lead the event in 2020 as one-half of its organizing team.

“We realized that we do want to do something for our community, that there is a need for the Latinx community,” said Piris. 

“Startup Weekend is one of those types of initiatives that we think is going to help us jumpstart something else… and to freshen up more ideas in what we want to do in our entrepreneurial career together as a team,” she continued.

To this end, Castro added that the idea is to help more aspiring entrepreneurs launch startups. 

This effort is meaningful to both Piris and Castro not only because this is how they got their start, but also because it can be a great opportunity for others who are looking toward entrepreneurship to aid their goals and aspirations. 

“Doing this Startup Weekend, we’re creating another hub for people,” said Castro. “We [want to be] a part of creating hubs in Philly to really help activate the startup ecosystem.”

The goal is for the Startup Weekend to be just one of several startup events in the city throughout the year. 

“There’s definitely a need for the [Latino community] to be activated in entrepreneurism,” said Piris. “We will continue putting out events to help educate our community… [and] be that accelerator so that they can get all the tools and resources they need.”

The Startup Weekend in Philly Latino Edition will take place Jan. 24-26 at the 1766 Rittenhouse Campus. For registration and ticket information, click here.

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