#CreoEnTi Featured Entrepreneur Evelyn Brito

 

What inspired you to come up with this idea? What problem are you trying to solve?

A lot has changed in the Latino community from the old to the new generations. I’ve also noticed that these changes are causing health issues due to lack of affordable produce. The Bodega Makeover Project’s idea came to me when I visited a corner store back in 2013 to buy vegetables for my daughter. My options the n were stored boxed produce that was rotten. I remember feeling so fed up with the limited choices of fresh produce in the Latino community; yet I couldn’t find anything to change the situation. The most frustrating thing about it was the fact that it was the third bodega I had visited that day. Instead of remaining frustrated, I decided to reach out to the bodega owners to hear their side of the story and provide me some enlightenment. Their explanation was the same as what I had been hearing ever since my childhood from family members who had worked in bodegas: many of these bodegas lack of financial resources.

 

What’s your business model and how do you plan to monetize?

Keep It Simple Productions (KISP) connects sponsors with qualified bodegas to participate in the Bodega Makeover Project. We play the liaison role because we are in a better positioned to advocate for Latino communities seeking healthier food choices for themselves and loved ones.

 

How are you different from your competition?

KISP is based in Massachusetts, and currently we’re the only production company that focuses in bringing fresh produce into communities that heavily rely on bodegas.

 

Where do you see your business in one (to three) year(s)?

People of color are misrepresented in the entertainment industry. KISP would like to use its platform for these communities to highlight their stories through documentaries, web series, featured films, etc.

 

Who are your socios (business partners, co-founders, etc.)?

Under the Bodega Makeover Project we partnered with Alex Cuevas who’s the co-executive producer. In Lynn, Massachusetts, the mayor, city councils and local organizations, all are exclusively supportive of KISP and the Bodega Makeover Project.

 

Have you received any investments?

KISP has received in-kind and financial support for the bodega makeover project

 

What is your biggest challenge?

The challenge for any creator/entrepreneur is being able to delegate. With time I’m learning to delegate tasks and organize my schedule better in order to be more effective.

 

What advice would you provide to other emerging Latino tech entrepreneurs?

The Latino community needs more entrepreneurs and I strongly encourage and welcome it. We often think because we have a great idea things will automatically workout. That’s not the case. Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of hard work, sacrifices and dedications. Hence I would like the Latino tech entrepreneurs not to let failures stop them from reaching their dreams. Contrary they should accept, welcome and learn from them. When self- doubt arises, invest that energy on your objectives and the end results instead of nurturing the negative feelings.

#CreoEnTi

Cultura Ambassador Leandro Margulis & The Partnership Mindset

It’s been almost a month since I joined the TomTom Enterprise team as the VP of Business Development and Product Marketing. A time for new discoveries, I’m looking forward to what the future at TomTom will bring.

In this article, I want to share what makes this opportunity so exciting for me – and hopefully for you too.

A new chapter

Anyone who meets me knows that my two passions are connecting people and accelerating business growth. In my new role at TomTom I get to do both.

Combining Industrial & Systems Engineering with Strategy & Business Development (shout out to fellow Yale MBAs!), I see myself sitting at the intersection between Product and Business. I look at Business with the “product hat”, figuring out the proper end use case and then aligning all the pieces of the puzzle (internal to the company and external via creatively structured partnerships) to match the custom needs of our clients.

Leading the Business Development and Product Marketing team gives me the opportunity to implement this way of doing business, leveraging TomTom’s technology and data assets to fulfill a partner’s use case.

Casting the light

With 25 years in the making, TomTom has highly advanced Enterprise mapping capabilities and API products. My role is to make sure that these come to life in our partner’s products and services. In doing so, your success will be our success.

I truly look forward to bring TomTom into the spotlight and let everyone know that, when partnering with us, the sky is the limit.

Why TomTom

It’s easy to find companies that excel at the services they’re providing. But it’s very difficult to find one that does so putting you, the client, first.

TomTom does both.

We have best in class solutions for location-aware technologies. From cloud to mobility, analytics and smart cities, TomTom Enterprise is on a mission to harness location data to empower businesses around the world.

If you are looking for a global partner with global coverage, search no more. Whether the size of Uber or just beginning your start-up growth journey, you will find a trusted partner in us.

I am proud of the benefits we offer to all of our partners, which I personally enforce:

·     Fair pricing with pay-as-you-grow or personalized plans with no lock-ins or limits.

·     Personalized support no matter your plan and location.

·     Guaranteed ad-free online services and a privacy policy which puts you in control of your data – always.

·     Full-feature location services no matter your company’s size.

·     Modular, flexible and platform-agnostic APIs and SDKs which allow full customization.

My promise to you

To current and future business partners alike, my promise to you is a relationship based on respect and understanding.

Be ready to find an advocate in me. I’ll walk in your shoes until they become my shoes. I’ll be your voice inside TomTom so that our solutions fit you like a glove.

Just like they do for Microsoft, Uber and Pitney Bowes.

What next?

Ready for the next step or want to learn more? Let’s connect!

Tech Startups: Strong and Sturdy, Yet Social—Kind of Like a Barstool

What does a successful tech startup have in common with a piece of furniture? Quite a lot.

 

I know startups. You know, tiny, scrappy companies built on a novel idea, lots of sweat equity and late nights/long hours—and low-paying, humble beginnings that can pay off big-time in the end. Been there, done that—I’ve founded, built, and sold several startups with profitable results, and I’ve also joined other entrepreneurs’ startups as an executive to help them grow. Prior to my stint as a serial startup entrepreneur and leader, I also worked in and around huge corporations as a management consultant with Deloitte.

 

One commonality I found across the traditional corporate world and the decidedly un-traditional startup world is the importance of relying on a sturdy, reliable framework for business success. Every successful business relies on some kind of framework that supports the overall objectives and products of the organization. Just like a car can’t run without a chassis to support it, and a skyscraper can’t rise into the stratosphere without a framework of steel girders to hold it up, a business can’t run without a solid plan and system in place that guides its trajectory.

 

I am Yale MBA, which is probably about as traditional a business background you can get. Suffice to say I like frameworks that are reliable, predictable, and proven to work in the real world, time and time again. Even the most unconventional startups I’ve worked in still had a steady framework and solid business plan. Having seen many successful startups through different development and growth stages in my time, I’ve discovered that tech startups which reach the next level of success tend to center themselves around three main prongs: Business, Product, and Engineering. Each one of these prongs are roughly equal to the other, with a healthy tension between them, with one prong slightly dominating over the others (for example, I view LinkedIn as Product-Driven, while most would agree that Google is Engineering-Driven).

 

By having three strategies constantly supporting one another, successful startups are like a stool. I’ll even go a step further and say they’re like a barstool at your favorite watering hole—because just as a barstool keeps you centered and upright even if you have one too many beers, a balanced, three-pronged business approach gives you the baseline support and stability to branch out and take the risks necessary for a successful startup, while offering additional support. You’ve probably noticed that if a barstool has one leg that is a little lopsided—even to the point that the stool becomes wobbly—the other two legs are there to capture your weight and keep you from toppling onto the floor.

Here’s a simple graphic of the Three-Legged Business Stool: Business, Product, and Engineering:

Business, Product, Engineering

As you can see, the stool isn’t held up simply by the points where each leg meets the ground. There is also a healthy tension between each leg, as indicated by the arrows. As I mentioned earlier, there is also a dominating leg that determines not only defines the overall culture of the company, but also the type of business features, products and technology that the company develops.

 

In the above graphic, the B for Business is at the top of the triangle. An example of a Business-dominant startup, in my opinion, is Uber. While the Uber app is a Product that requires Engineering, the main reason anybody uses Uber is for its Business model—which is offering ridesharing transportation at accessible price points all over the world. See where I’m going with this?

 

On the flip side, let’s go back to Google, which I mentioned earlier. I consider Google an Engineering-driven company, where the focus is building technology and the culture entirely revolves around the software engineers’ needs and wants. By focusing on Engineering, Google was and is able to build a Business that offers innovative Products (the Google search engine, Google Apps, and ancillary content sites like YouTube) that have a massive impact all over the world.

 

As a third example, let’s talk about LinkedIn. I consider LinkedIn a Product-driven company. LinkedIn is not focused on building features or technology. Instead, they focus on building great products—namely, their career communications/media network (free and paid versions) and their subscription-based professional training applications. While LinkedIn does build some unique technology and features for its communication platform, they do so only in support of the career-based networking products—and any technology they develop is designed with that use case in mind, rather than as a standalone product. From an organizational and cultural perspective, Product-driven companies like LinkedIn tend to see their in-house product managers as the “mini-CEO” of their own product (for example, LinkedIn’s Notifications or Premium subscription features). These product managers (or mini-CEOs) bring in engineering and business resources as needed for product enhancements and do the necessary coordinating between these resources.

 

Let’s take a step back and return to Business-driven companies for a moment. While next-gen companies like Uber definitely fit into this category, many Business-driven companies are from the older generation of business-services models. These companies focus on business needs to inform their product roadmap and then build their business offerings (and pricing) accordingly. This strategy results in a strong resource focus on the business service itself—in Oracle’s case, cloud-based software and platform support services. Although Oracle is quite different from Uber in that it is a more traditional software company that sells its products to businesses rather than selling rides to individual consumers, I would still consider Oracle a Business-driven company under this framework, a software-as-service Business-to-Business (B2B) model. Whatever their model, Business-driven companies have a great eye for corporate development opportunities by making strategic acquisitions and integrating those acquisitions to help them further dominate their business category and stand out against competition.

 

Turning now to the tech startup community, anyone who has spent much time in the Bay Area can tell you that most startups are Engineering-driven these days—at least in the beginning. New tech companies are excited to “crack the code” on a specific business or social problem they would like to solve via an innovative use of software design, applications, or interactivity. Sometimes “cracking the code” solves a business need in and of itself, but other times the engineers are just excited about the intellectual challenge of building a novel technology application. As the technology evolves and the team develops, however, questions often start arising about that technology. You’ll hear conversations around the office that sound a lot like this: “Is this tech is going to be a feature? Is this going to be a product we can sell? Are we even a company at all?” These identity crises are a normal phase of the startup development process, but not all startups get through this phase successfully. in the long run. The element that separates the startups that become the next Googles or Ubers of the world from the ones that look for a quick sellout and exit into anonymity is vision. If you’re ever considering investing in or working for a startup, ask yourself: do they have the vision to push through those growing pains and identity crises to develop a truly breakthrough product that stands alone—or maybe even revolutionizes an entire sector? The answer can make all the difference in whether it’s a successful business venture or not.

 

Lastly, it’s important to note that the most successful startups learn to shift their business focus ­and the dominant leg on their proverbial barstool—in order to move to the next stage of growth and development. A startup that was Engineering-driven in its infancy will eventually need to move its focus to being Product-driven as it grows and matures, thus applying their technology to specific use cases and user experiences. In my opinion, any company that aspires to being high-growth must eventually become Product-driven. Any technology company that builds great products and fulfills a nimble, customer-driven use case (Business-to-Business or Business-to-Consumer) with compelling user experience will succeed.

 

In that way, in the final analysis, successful companies are socially adept and sensitive to the needs of their customers and users. Just like the charismatic, confident, intriguing person sitting on the barstool on a Friday night who never has trouble getting a date or making a new friend, successful startups start from a solid foundation but distinguish themselves with a mixture of novelty and compelling innovation.

Luis Villa – SVL Cultura Ambassador

 

Silicon Valley Latino is proud to feature our newest Cultura Ambassador, Luis Villa from San Luis Potosí in Mexico. Luis is driven by his latest entrepreneurial endeavor Villa C. Luis and his wife Marisol recently visited with us here in Silicon Valley and we were thrilled to visit with him at Stanford University along with some iconic Silicon Valley institutions such as the Facebook and Google campuses. While pitching potential investors for Villa C, Luis was able to visit the Bay Area and not only meet with potential investors; he was also able to meet with other Cultura Ambassadors who offered him encouragement and support. Luis was able to be inspired first hand at one of Silicon Valley’s Inspire Higher Panel Discussions.

Bringing craftsmanship and unique designs from talent around the world and giving them a global stage in the marketplace is what Villa C is all about. The idea was hatched when Luis shared software design courses with fashion designers at The Universidad Interamericana para el Desarrollo. Luis quickly realized that the genius that toiled in the classroom needed a marketing and sales platform to feature such young amazing talent. He quickly started putting together Villa C. A marketplace for International, young designers.

The idea is to take the necessary steps in finding quality, locally made garments and presenting them through their e-commerce website in a way that’s fair to market and in a way that gives merchandise a sophisticated brand look. The Villa C website coordinates taylor-made solutions for custom garments direct to customers.

Through Villa C, designers will have access to key distribution, manufacturing and collaboration tools and services normally available only in more sophisticated supply chain solutions.

Luis Villa and his start up Villa C are dedicated to offering unique designs from custom designers around the world. This revolutionary idea helps them reach an audience looking for locally made and hard to find goods in a new global market place. His venture is well underway and he certainly has bright horizons ahead as Villa C is expected to officially be launching soon, including the possibility of participating in the next Boot Camp at Manos Accelerator. Manos Accelerator is a mentorship-driven accelerator program that provides “hands-on” education, business resources, infrastructure, capital, and guidance for promising Latino led startup companies, moving them towards a fast track to success.

We are excited to share this journey with all our Cultura Ambassadors. Stay tuned for more exciting news on Luis Villa and Villa C.

 

 

SVL presents Declaration Day August 23rd

 

 

In partnership with San Jose City College, Silicon Valley Latino is proud to present its inaugural “Declaration Day” on August 23rd at the San Jose City College Milpitas Extension. Declaration Day is a unique and special event where local Latino scholars will be recognized for their academic excellence surrounded by their family and community.

This event was inspired by observing the manner high school senior athletes hold press conferences to declare which university and football program they have selected. In a similar fashion, Silicon Valley Latino will feature scholars who will also declare the universities that they have selected. The principal difference is that Silicon Valley Latino will feature these young women and men based on their academic achievements as opposed to those on a football field.

In addition to declaring their university selection, they will also declare that they will give their best academic effort earning their degrees and that upon graduation they will find a way to give back to their community. Silicon Valley Latino will make the commitment of stay engaged with these scholars and keep our community posted on their progress.

Silicon Valley Latino and San Jose City College invite the community to come out and celebrate these young women and men as they prepare to leave their homes and venture on their higher education journeys.  You may RSVP via Eventbrite link.

We look forward to seeing you then!

HITEC Making Great Strides – Pushing Up and Pulling Up

 

HITEC is the Hispanic IT Executive Council and one of the most relevant and impactful organizations in the country as they Push Up and Pull Up their members and the communities they engage in. It was founded to increase Hispanic representation in the diversity-challenged IT industry.  HITEC is also a premier global executive leadership organization of senior business and IT executives who have built outstanding careers in information technology.  Its premiere network spans the Americas and is focused on building stronger technology and executive leaders, leadership teams, corporations, and role models in a rapidly changing, flatter, and information technology centric world. These global leaders include executives leading Global 1000 corporations while others lead some of the largest Hispanic-owned IT firms across the Americas.  HITEC enables business and professional growth for its members and fills the executive pipeline with the next generation of Hispanic IT leaders.

This has all been made primarily possible through the vision and leadership of Andre Arbalaez (President) and Alberto Yepez (Chairman) as well as through the dedication and support from numerous distinguished Board of Directors many of which work for Silicon Valley High Tech companies. In addition to having excellent leadership awards and recognition events in markets like New York, DC, Miami and Silicon Valley (soon also in Dallas and Guadalajara, Mexico) they also offer their members a comprehensive emerging executive program. Most recently they’ve launched the HITEC Foundation that will provide scholarships to Latino students who are interested in pursing a STEM degree.

Silicon Valley Latino salutes the great work this organization has accomplished and continues to lead. We are also proud to note that many of our Silicon Valley Latino Cultura Ambassadors (Guillermo Diaz Jr, Ileana Rivera, Ramon Baez, Juan Carlos Gutierrez) have taken an active part in propelling HITEC to new heights while others (Pepe Gomez, Anne-Marie Olholm-Azzi, Jorge Titinger to name a few)  have been behind the scenes.

Once again, we congratulate and salute HITEC and look forward to collaborating with this great organization again in the future.

Adelante!

Featuring Manuel Romero’s timely “Alza La Mano” video on election day!

We are delighted to feature Cultura Ambassador, Manuel Romero’s, great and timely video “Alza La Mano” on this election day. Alza La Mano translate to “raise your hand” however the message really translates beautifully to raise your voice and vote especially for those who are not able to do so during this election.

Manuel writes a beautiful song with such a strong message of love and unity. We would also like to thank Maggie Madueno, Director of the Saint Maria Goretti Children’s Choir and the Children’s Choir for collaborating with Manuel on this special project. We’re also loving the video as it was also beautifully produced with amazing images.

Manuel we wish you much more continued success! Adelante!

 

27 Million Strong That’s Who We Are!

Yes, we are 27 million strong and on November 8th we will have an opportunity to demonstrate that we do participate in the electoral process and that we are a valuable constituency. We will have the opportunity to demonstrate that we are a community who deeply cares about the direction of this country.   We will vote for freedom, equality, unity and to silence the ignorance. On November 8th we have the opportunity to exercise our right to vote and contribute to this great democratic process.

We ask that if you haven’t already cast your vote by then, that you come out on November 8th and exercise this highly valuable right.

Tu Voto Es Tu Voz!

This video encompasses our values and our value.

 

Last day to vote for Sandra and her team – Real Lives Real Runners!

Cultura Ambassador, Sandra Carranza and her team at Evoq Media submitted a video in the “Real Lives. Real Runners” online voting contest and they’ve made it as one of the finalists. If they win, their video will be shown at the NYC Marathon telecast.

We encourage you to vote for Evoq Media’s video “I Coach” before 9:00PM (PST) October 20th via the link below:

https://poll.fbapp.io/rlrr

We thank you in advance for supporting our Cultura Ambassador!

 

New Grad or Seasoned Pro? How to Get Stellar Recommendation Letters at Any Career Stage

Recommend

You’re all ready to land that great new job, or a slot in a prestigious graduate program. You’ve got your resumé polished, your new suit pressed, and your game face on. You know how to give a firm handshake and you nailed the interview. Just when you think you’ve got it all in the bag, the hiring manager (or admissions officer) asks you for at least three  professional recommendation letters professional references. So how can you make your references stand out and be memorable?

The typical way to think about references is to ask someone “superior” to you in hierarchy, someone that managed you or a professor. It is always recommended that it is someone that worked closely with you so they have something meaningful to say other than a standard letter. But is there something else we can do to make our references and recommendations stand out for the right reasons—namely, who can help you seal the deal?

Don’t panic. You probably already know several people who can serve as your professional references—even if you’ve never held down a “real” job before. Or anyjob, for that matter. But you’ll need to choose carefully. Landing your first job or getting into a coveted college or grad-school program is a high-stakes game, so you don’t want to blow it by giving bad references.(So if your hard-partying fraternity brother who barely graduated offers to be a reference, you should probably pass. Ditto for the two-faced drama queen who gossiped about you behind your back at your last summer job—her motives are probably not honorable.)

When seeking references, people always ask someone professionally “superior” to them—i.e., someone that managed you at a job. It could be your boss at a summer job—the director of the summer camp where you served as youth counselor, for example. Or the owner of the restaurant where you waited tables for three summers, or perhaps the residence-hall director where you worked part-time at the front desk. If you didn’t have a part-time job while you were in school, a trusted professor could also serve as a professional reference. (Going to college full-time is a career of sorts, too—and professors take on the role of your boss at that gig). This is what people usually do, but how can we make our references truly serve as a differentiator for us?

Whomever you choose, your references should always be someone that worked closely with you, so they have something meaningful to say about your personality, work ethic, skills, and talents. Try to find people whom you really “wowed” with your skills and abilities and who will talk enthusiastically—and sincerely— about how great you are, whether it’s a former boss you helped get out of a jam by working extra hours, or an instructor you impressed with your quick thinking when she put you on the spot in class.

References: The Next Phase

The above advice is great for people just entering the professional workforce or higher-level academia for the first time. If you’re a little further on in your career, though, it can sometimes be harder to get professional references than it was before. You might have lost touch with your professors or college-job bosses, for one thing. Meanwhile, your current boss probably doesn’t want you to quit, let alone give you a glowing reference for your next job! It’s why many young professionals find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place that prevents them from moving ahead in their careers.

If you find yourself in this all-too-common predicament, don’t freak out. If you’ve just spent two years at your first entry-level job after college and you’re in search of a stepping stone to the next big thing, consider obtaining a counterpart reference instead of going to your current boss or immediate co-workers.

What’s a counterpart reference? Basically, it’s finding someone at another organization – likely someone you do business with on a regular basis. Whatever your current job, chances are good you’ve built some relationships with professionals at other client companies with which your employer does business. (Or if you work for a very large company, government agency, or nonprofit, you probably work with people in other departments or divisions.)  These are people who have come to know you, your work style, your reliability, and your professionalism. Even though these colleagues are not necessarily your “superiors,” as professional colleagues they are often your best source for references as you move along your career path—and since they aren’t your direct boss or co-workers, they likely won’t have a personal agenda against you moving up the career ladder! (Your counterpart colleagues are often the most supportive of seeing people they like working with get ahead, because it often benefits them as much as it does you.)

How to Get a Counterpart Reference

Here’s an example from my own career. When I was applying to get into business school, I was working for Deloitte as a management consultant. In addition to getting the typical recommendation letters from my managers and professors (all of whom I had good relationships with), I also got recommendation letters from some of my client counterparts I’d worked with during my time at Deloitte. It was easy for me to ask these people directly for references because I believed that if someone I worked closely with was happy with the consulting work I’d provided them as a change agent and value-enhancer, they would also be happy to write  a professional recommendation letter for me. Not only was I right in that assumption, the recommendation letters I received from my client counterparts were head and shoulders above the other ones I received when it came to enthusiasm, details and quality.

Long story short, when you make a positive, measurable, “dollars-and-sense” impact on the professional work of your clients, they will be more than willing to return the favor.

You can also apply this same strategy when requesting LinkedIn recommendations for display on your profile. The more recommendations you have, the more your profile will stand out—and with many of today’s job recruiters doing “stealth” searches for their next hire on LinkedIn, you’ll want yours to look as attractive as possible.

Wherever you are in your career, always be on the lookout for your next professional reference. The more value you bring to the table in your career, the easier they will be for you to obtain. The most in-demand professionals are the ones that people at all levels enjoy working with.