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 Weekends are 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 Latinx is an ethnic designation, rather than a race, but 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 4 cities, brought together 300+ community members, launched 30+ prototypes/startups, in 54 hours — all over just 1 weekend.
Each city provided curated accelerated 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 4 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 119MM 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 local community leaders, national partners like Techstars and others who share the goal of 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.
I continue to be humbled and inspired by all of the community leader organizers, mentors, coaches, and sponsors who made this happen. It really takes a group of dedicated, give first mindset, and less talk more action community leaders — to you all — THANK YOU.
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!