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

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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.

The Rise of Argentina’s Startup Scene

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Right in the center of Buenos Aires, “Espacio Bitcoin” (Bitcoin Space) is a meeting Argentina’s Bitcoin community. It was started in early 2012 by Wenceslao Casares, an Argentinean entrepreneur who developed an online bank in the 90’s and today is the CEO of Xapo, a Bitcoin Bank.

At Espacio Bitcoin they organize developer meetups to share notes and information on this new technology. Franco Amanti, one of the leaders of the local Bitcoin community, set up shop there.  Franco is one of the founders of Bitcourt, a startup offering contract certifications in the blockchain, which is one of the tech infrastructure pieces supporting Bitcoin.

“Argentina and Venezuela are the two countries where Bitcoin is used the most”, Franco explains. It makes sense. Both Argentina and Venezuela have endured populist governments for years, closed economies and high inflation rates. However, winds of change are blowing these days. At least in Argentina. Mauricio Macri won the Presidential elections and became President in December 2015.  The son of an important Argentinean businessman, Mauricio is the former President of the Boca Juniors Soccer Athletic Club, one of the most important soccer teams in Argentina and former Mayor of Buenos Aires. Macri started his presidential term with measures to immediately open up the economy and insert Argentina once again in the global markets. These events have spiked interest in the Argentinean Startup scene, the only country in the region with companies that have IPOed in the NASDAQ. This article offers a glance into the who’s-who in the Argentinean Entrepreneurial Scene.

A Little Bit of History

In order to understand the Argentinean entrepreneurial ecosystem we need to start by looking at the 90’s when, after years of high inflation rates and a closed economy, Carlos Menem’s government propelled economic reforms to open up the country. This period coincided with the “Internet bubble” and Buenos Aires became the regional “dot com” hub . During that time, about 70% Latin America’s venture capital was concentrated in Buenos Aires. It was then that the equivalent of Silicon Valley’s “PayPal Mafia” was formed in Argentina.

A young group of entrepreneurs started the first “dot coms” in Argentina. Wenceslao Casares was one of them. Others include Marcos Galperin and Hernan Kazah, founders of MercadoLibre.com, eBay’s regional equivalent (where eBay is also a stakeholder) which IPO’d in the NASDAQ in 2007. Andy Freire and Santiago Bilinkis founded OfficeNet, which was acquired by Staples in 2004. All of them became inspirational entrepreneurial leaders in a country where, until then, people viewed the typical corporate managerial ladder as the only way for the middle class to move forward.

Silvia Torres Carbonell is the renowned Dean of the Argentinean Enterprise Institute (IAE) Business School, one of the most recognized schools in the region. She had a front-row seat overlooking  the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. “20 years ago people rarely talked about entrepreneurship” She comments. “But by the end of the 90’s  and the internet boom, becoming an entrepreneur became the path of choice”.

The 90’s did not end up well for Argentina. After a steep economic crisis, the country suffered a severe currency devaluation and defaulted on its public debts in 2001. In this traumatic context, Nestor Kirchner arrived to power, with a populist discourse aligned with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Kirchner was succeeded by his wife, Cristina Fernandez. In a hostile environment towards private enterprise, business  froze. Even during this difficult business environment, an entrepreneurial group led by Martin Migoya, Guilbert Englebienne, Martin Umaran and Nestor Nocetti started the tech outsourcing company Globant, which IPOed in the NASDAQ in 2014.

Throughout this decade, the Argentinean entrepreneurial ecosystem has been propelled by its entrepreneurs’ creativity, the quality of the local universities and the difficulty in raising capital; mostly due to public policies working against foreign capital investment in the country. In this context of foreign investment capital scarcity, the successful entrepreneurs from the 90’s “dot com” era became the main suppliers of capital to Argentina’s startup ecosystem  

Accelerator & Investors

Santiago Bilinkis, Andy Freire and Pablo Simon have spent a lifetime as an entrepreneurial group. During the 90’s they founded OfficeNet, and office supplies retailer, which they sold to Staples in 2004. In 2013, they starter Quasar Ventures, working under the “startup studio” format. Quasar looks for high potential entrepreneurial ideas and then chooses a team to execute them and bring them to fruition. They take 45% of the equity and the entrepreneurs take 55%. Their offices overlook the River Plate soccer stadium one of the most popular soccer teams in Argentina. Some of the most successful Argentinean startups in the most recent years were born and incubated there.

“Avenida.com” is the local adaptation of Amazon.com. They raised a Series C round in November 2015. Overall they have raised over U$D 50 million to date. Restorando, a restaurant table-booking platform similar to OpenTable in the US has raised U$D 24 million. One of Quasar’s latest creations is Rodati, which aspires to revolutionize the way car are bought and sold in Latin America.

“Argentina has a very good talent pool and a much lower cost than Silicon Valley” says Santiago Bilinkis. “That is why it is a great place to set up a platform to develop new projects aiming at both the regional and global markets”.

Quasar’s strategy is regional. It usually takes an idea or business model that works somewhere else and adapts it to the Latin American reality. They start in Argentina and then scale regionally. If they achieve traction in Brazil, with a 200 million people market, they can aim for a strategic buyer acquisition.

Quasar shows a typical strategy followed by many Argentinean startups. In general, they try to replicate the success seen in other geographies. Very few try to innovate globally. However, we find these cases too! The most salient one in Satellogic, a nanosatellites company founded by Emiliano Kargieman.

Satellogic, Running the Space Race from Argentina

Emiliano Kargieman is a serial entrepreneur in cybersecurity as well as a Venture Capitalist. While attending Singularity University in Silicon Valley in 2010, he came up with the idea for Satellogic. It is Headquartered in Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood, where half a dozen scientists wearing bunny suits similar to the ones you can find at Intel’s manufacturing facilities assemble satellites as small as a soccer ball.

“Developing and launching a traditional satellite takes about 10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars” Explains Kargieman. “We plan to launch a constellation of small satellites at a much lower cost, connect them and make them work as a network”. Over 100 satellites will continuously orbit Earth while taking High Resolution images. This way we will be able to take pictures of our planet in almost real time, for applications from marine routes optimization to oil pipes control and harvest yield computations.

Satellogic was incubated at INVAP, a state enterprise focused on space technology located in the Patagonia region. It has a distributed workforce in Argentina, the United States, Israel, France and the UK.

“This kind of infrastructure will change the way we related to our planet” states an excited Kargieman, a big fan of Stanislaw Lem, the Polish science fiction writer. “Space is going through a revolutionary phase. This industry is becoming much more competitive. A new space race”.

Venture Capital

Many startups in the Argentinean ecosystem start their journey applying to NXTP Labs or Wayra, Accelerator and Incubators that function with a similar format to Y Combinator. They take teams with some kind of prototypes or proofs of concept and invest U$D 20K to 50K in the venture. However, getting into one of these programs that not guarantee success. Problems arise later, when the need to raise a seed investment round of capital.

Mario Tapia, a specialist in the mobile market in Silicon Valley states: “a significant disadvantage for a startup located in Argentina is the lack of access to seed and angel investment financing”. Carlos Esnal, CEO of LugLoc, a company focus on luggage tracking comments: “in Silicon Valley, an idea written on a napkin can easily raise a million dollars. In Argentina, to get a million dollars the product needs to be much more advanced and show a lot more traction”.

These kinds of companies look for a seed investment round of about U$D400K to 600K. These amounts are usually raised from angel investment rounds in which each angle ponies up between U$D 50K to U$D 100K. The situation gets a little trickier if the company keeps growing to the point of needing venture funding.

“After the internet boom, when many funds from abroad came to invest, there was practically no venture funding in Argentina” comments Carolina Dams, Dean of Austral University’s School of Management Sciences and venture capital researcher. The VC funds did not trust Argentina which was nationalizing private pension funds and enterprises. One of the first post dot com bubble funds was CAP, which was formed by both private investors and the IADB.

“In 2007, when the CAP fund was launched, it was very hard to build a pipeline and deal flow because there were very few companies that fit the investment criteria for venture capital” points Manuel Mauer, CAP’s fund manager. “Today the ecosystem is much more developed, but still has its limitations. A traditional fund investment cycle of 6 to 7 years it’s usually too short for the timelines of a typical Argentinean startup. Moreover, there are very few potential buyers within the country to consider a strategic purchase of a company a viable investment exit”.

As opposed to many Silicon Valley funds, the CAP fund is a general fund, not specialized in any specific industry vertical. It holds investments in food, Telemedicine, Internet, and eCommerce. The CAP Fund participated in these investments with amounts from U$D 300K to 3 million. The ecosystem does not offer a big enough deal flow to justify specialization. The “Smart Money” and the experience to build companies with global ambition and not as abundant in Buenos Aires.

NXTP Labs

NXTP Labs is an accelerator created in 2011 by Marta Cruz, Ariel Arrieta, Francisco Coronel and Gonzalo Costa, following the Y Combinator format. They are Argentina’s most active early stage fund  and an important player in Latin America.

They have a portfolio of about 160 companies with founders from 15 different countries, with offices in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and the US. NXTP lab invests in a wide range of tech companies, such a eCommerce, mobile, gaming, new media and digital marketing. They invest U$D 25K in exchange for 2% to 10% of the company. Fintech is one of NXTP’s latest vertical focus.

NXTP Labs is raising a U$D 120 million fund. “It will help us invest additional money (between U$D 1 to 5 million) in about 32 companies, of which 70% are coming from our current portfolio” Explains Ariel Arrieta, NXTP partner.

Wayra

Wayra started in 2011 as an initiative from Telefonica Group. It has offices in 14 cities in Latin America and Europe. One of them is in Buenos Aires.

Wayra invests U$D 50K in each startup that makes it to their acceleration program, in exchange for 7% to 10% of the company. It offers entrepreneurs a great channel to commercialize their products through Telefonica’s mobile platform.

Wayra’s program is smaller than NXTP’s. They have invested in about 36 companies, in batches of 8 to 10.

Within Wayra’s investment portfolio we can find companies related to Internet of Things (IoT), education platforms and Big Data eCommerce solutions.

Kaszek Ventues

Kaszek was started in 2011 by Hernan Kazah and Nicolas Szekasy, cofounder and ex CFO of MercadoLibre. While founded by Argentineans and having an office in Buenos Aires, Kaszek’s investment activity in Argentina is small. They raised a U$D 95 million fund mostly from capital from the US, which they investment in 23 companies. They raised an additional U$D 135 million in January 2014 which they are still deploying today.

Some of their investments in Argentinean companies include Eventioz (ticket booking platform for events and shows, similar to Eventbrite in the US), Restorando and GoIntegro (Corporate HR platform) Kaszek focuses on Series A rounds investing amounts in the order of U$D 3 million.

Human Capital

In November 24th, 1960, the first computer in Latin America arrives to Buenos Aires, where it was used for simulation processing. It was 18 meters long and was installed at the University of Buenos Aires. They named it Clementina, because each time it processed a program it chimed the tones of the popular Clementine song. Manuel Sadosky, the mathematician leading the team, is considered one of the fathers of Computer Science in Latin America.

Argentina was always an advanced country in terms of science in Latin America. Argentina is the only country in Latin America with 4 Nobel Prizes in science categories. Universities like ITBA and UTN train very good software engineers. Many of them end up working in Silicon Valley, where salaries are more than three times the U$D 30K per year usually earned in the Argentinean market.

If Argentina is to keep its engineers, its needs to set up enabling policies for startups and attract foreign capital for investment. This is the large task ahead for Mariano Mayer, a startup attorney. Mayer has led many city government entrepreneurial initiatives in Buenos Aires, which former Mayor is the current Argentinean president Mauricio Macri. Today Mayer is the leader and responsible for all federal policy related to entrepreneurship.

“Argentina currently ranks very low on the World Bank’s Doing Business index.” Says Mayer. “The first phase involves changing the norm to enable and make entrepreneurship easier”.

This is the work being tackled by the new Entrepreneurial Law, supported by the Argentinean Entrepreneurs’ Association. The Law aims to simplify the paperwork needed to incorporate a business and boost seed investments in particular and venture capital in general. We can refer to Chile’s success case to see that this is possible and the kind of benefits it can bring. In 2010, Chile launched “Startup Chile”, a program that offers companies U$D 40K without taking any equity in return for companies to set up shot in Chile for at least a year. Many Argentinean entrepreneurs are heading over to Chile to start their companies, taking advantage of the seed investment in a country open to capital markets, with a clear legal framework and economic stability.

Startups Future in Buenos Aires

In the movie The Third Man (1949), the character played by Orson Welles says: “Italy, for 30 years under Borgia ruling, it went through war, terror, murders and blood baths, but it also produced Michelangelo, Da Vinci and the Renaissance. Switzerland, on the other hand, enjoyed a lovely time, with 500 years of peace and democracy, and what did they produce? The Cuckoo clock”.

Argentina’s history seems more similar to that of Italy than Switzerland, both because of the origins of its immigrant population as well as a recent past marked by blood and terror from a dictatorship ruling the country between 1976 and 1983.

Argentina provides contrast. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Argentina was the 8th richest country on Earth. After that it suffered decades of economic stagnation and political instability since the 1940s with Peron coming to power. After the steep crisis of 2001, it went through Kirchner’s populist ruling. Now, Mauricio Macri’s new government promises a new alignment with the West and an open economy to help boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In their book Startup Nation, Dan Senor and Saul Singer study Israel’s success case in entrepreneurship, a country that has massively developed its entrepreneurial ecosystem in the last 20 years. The authors note that one of the key elements of Israel’s success is Chutzpah, the Hebrew word for a concept that could be translated as the “creative energy to overcome obstacles”.

Pablo Brenner is a Uruguayan engineer who lived in Israel during the time the entrepreneurial ecosystem was forming there. Today Pablo is  the General Manager for Globant Uruguay: “There are some similarities and differences between Israel in the 90’s and Argentina in 2015” Pablo notes. “Both Israel and Argentina have good scientists and universities. “Chutzpah allowed Israeli companies to attain goals that seemed impossible to reach. Argentina is, without a doubt the country with most chutzpah in the region”.

Argentina’s history is one of individual’s success and collective failure. The land of Messi, Pope Francis and Jorge Luis Borges. While its citizens and venerated around the globe, Argentina has lived through decades of economic stagnation since mid-20th century. The new government promises economic integration with the rest of the world as well as setup the conditions for a country of 40 million entrepreneurs. This promise gives hope to many in this land known for its lands and beef, but which has much more to offer to the tech world.

AUTHORS

Federico Ast. Studied Economics and Philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires. Enterprise Management PhD Candidate at the Argentinean Enterprise Institute (IAE) Business School. Entrepreneur, consultant, investigator and journalist specialized in tech companies. @federicoast

Leandro Margulis. Industrial & Systems Engineer. Yale MBA. Entrepreneur, investor, consultant and business accelerator in Silicon Valley and emerging markets. @leanmarg

How Advertising is Evolving: From “In Your Face Ads” to Sponsored Experiences

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What is a sponsored experience?
One of the examples that comes to mind from the “real” world, is the Sephora makeup session: When a customer walks into the store to get a free makeup session using the products from brands Sephora want to promote, that’s a sponsored experience.

How can we create sponsored experiences in the mobile world?
Advertising needs to evolve. Smartphone screens are very small (even though they have grown into phablets), and display ads take too much of that screen real estate. Hersh Choksi, VP Products & Strategy at Flightly, an exclusive Twitter advertising partner, agrees: “Mobile has been much faster to adopt native advertising, which aligns more with the idea of a sponsored experience rather than an interruptive ad.”

In today’s digital world, we see a shift towards convenience and instant gratification. Sponsored experiences can be part of this mobile content, and would provide users a convenient experience on their smartphones without having to leave the mobile app or browser experience they are currently in. So how can we provide meaningful experiences for brands that relate with users?

Here are some examples and use cases for sponsored experiences in the mobile world:

1. Meeting Locations
Many of us use our smartphones to coordinate when and where we are going to meet with colleagues and friends. When we are searching for that cool restaurant or bar, wouldn’t it make sense for either the location apps or restaurants themselves to pay for placement right there, at your fingertips?

2. Transportation
Once we decide on the place and time, we need to get there! Why couldn’t there be a sponsored transportation experience at this time to take an Uber or a Lyft? This could be sponsored or subsidized by the transportation company, or for the transportation company could pay for the opportunity to surface at this time in the user’s screen.

3. Music for Fitness
Let’s assume you are one of those people that track their physical activity while exercising; using apps to track your ride or map your run, etc. Let’s also assume you like to listen to some music to “pump you up” and energize you while exercising. Today you need to open your fitness apps and then go and open another music app to find that music. What if Pandora or Spotify would offer you a sponsored “Work out music” option within the fitness app itself?

I wanted to show you through the examples above how sponsored experiences can be meaningful to users and not be considered interruptive.

How would you prefer to have Sponsored Ads served up to you?

 

Cornershop App shops 6.7 Million USD from Investors!

 

Silicon Valley Latino is proud to share the news that this Chilean-Mexican-Swedish startup Cornershop App for raising USD 6.7 million this past week from some big players here in the valley and overseas for their operation in Chile & Mexico.
We ask where do you see more money going to in the near future? Latino Startups who focus on all of America seems to be the growing trend as Latin America hosts more than 500 mm people. That is a big market!!

6 Latina Self-Made Entrepreneurs Seizing Technology and Building Winning Businesses

 

This article was originally posted on Hispanic PR Blog

6 Latina Self-Made Entrepreneurs Seizing Technology and Building Winning Businesses

 

Seasoned or budding entrepreneurs, all of these women have a few things in common. They’re Latina, self-made, have untraditional business models that have been built from the ground up, and are leveraging the tech world in smart and innovative ways.  They are without a doubt changing the face and perception of Latinas in business.  Here they are in alphabetical order:

 

  1.    Jessica Alba, The Honest Company – Making “Toxic-free” Trendy

Jessica Alba may be a well-known Hollywood starlet, but she has also proven to be a phenomenal business woman – growing her non-toxic, e-commerce business into a multi-million dollar machine with a current valuation of $1 billion.  The Honest Company’s product lines, which range from baby care products to household cleaners, are now also making their way onto retail shelves across America, including retail giant Target.

 

  1. Marie Forleo, B-School – Her Life As A Brand

Despite landing enviable positions on Wall Street and in magazine publishing, Marie Forleo could not shake off the feeling that there was something better out there for her. Naturally a people-person, she decided to take an online course and pursue a less familiar career path as a life-coach – a title that she admits she initially found to be “cheesy.” After deciding to develop a newsletter on the topic, Forleo leveraged her personal network to establish a loyal following.  Today, Forleo is a marketing and lifestyle expert, bestselling author, and Oprah certified business woman (yes, Oprah interviewed her).  She is teaching individuals how to succeed in business and life through B-School, an online business school for modern entrepreneurs developed by Forleo.

 

  1. Laura I. Gómez, Atipica – Tech Diversity Guru

In spite of having arrived to the United States at the age of 10 as an undocumented immigrant, Laura I. Gómez has proven to be a force to be reckoned with.  Gomez went on to graduate from a top college, receive U.S. residency, and work with leading tech companies including Twitter, YouTube, and Jawbone. She is now taking her tech know-how to the next level with her recently launched startup.  Her company, Atipica, helps the tech industry address its diversity challenge by working directly with hiring managers to improve companies’ recruitment and retention efforts.

 

  1. Maria Theresa Kumar, Voto Latino – Transforming The Latino Millennial Electorate

Since its founding in 2004, Voto Latino (VL) has registered nearly a quarter-million voters. Founder and CEO, Maria Theresa Kumar, started VL out of her apartment in New York.  Her vision: develop a platform that will empower Latino millennials through civic engagement. Today, VL is stronger than ever and recently launched what many are calling its most innovative program yet – VL’s Innovators Challenge. The program helps Latino millennials translate their “tech savvy” into technology work and is helping pave the way towards greater Latino entry into the Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math (STEM) fields.

 

  1. Michelle Rosado, Raging Babe – Engineer Turned Boxing Promoter

Michele Rosado may have started off as an engineer but her passion for the sport of boxing has led her down a road less traveled, perhaps untouched by most Latinas. Her company, Raging Babe – originally founded in Arizona – is taking the boxing community by storm and has significantly contributed to the resurgence of the sport in Arizona.  Today, Rosado is taking her business to an entirely new level with a Raging Babe online store, radio show, and a social media following that is helping to promote her brand to more than just your typical boxing aficionado. Rosado is blazing new trails for women and smartly leveraging technology to help build her boxing empire, which today extends well beyond Arizona.

 

  1. Lynette Spano, SCI Consulting – Triple Threat

After working as a receptionist for a software company, Spano’s interest in technology quietly developed into one of the largest woman-owned federal contracting companies in the country – SCI Consulting.  But serving as CEO of a multi-million dollar IT firm is not all Spano does, she is also a Latin recording artist – a path she pursued after suffering from a life threatening brain aneurysm. In 2010, Spano founded Stars, Stripes, and Hearts, a nonprofit initiative that raises funds for Hispanic service members suffering from mental health conditions.

 

Laura Berrocal is a Contributing Writer on tech and diversity issues at Silicon Valley Latino.  Follow her on Twitter at @1LauraB

 

Tico Coffee Roasters bringing you a smile every morning

 

Is this your first venture/company?
Yes, this is my first venture. I was born and raised in Costa Rica; before I came to the USA I worked in several industries like the coffee industry, finances and agroindustrial biotech.

What inspired you to start your own business?

Tico Coffee Roasters is a boutique company that specializes in unique and exclusive coffees and the finest teas from around the world. Coffees are hand roasted in small batches and the teas are carefully curated to guarantee product freshness and consistency. Our goal is to provide a truly unique experience.

Tica Coffee Roasters

I grew up in a small family in the Central Valley in Costa Rica, surrounded by coffee
plantations. It was a joy to play there, to see the coffee pickers and the trucks full of the red cherries and to experience the delicious smell of the coffee flowers.

I have been drinking coffee all my life. I often share that when I was a little girl I used
to wake my mom up early on the weekends, so she could brew me some coffee! 🙂
It is part of our culture, coffee time is really an oasis in a busy work day, we pause and deeply enjoy this delicious drink.

I love nature and always wanted to follow a career that allows me to be in contact and working with nature and at the same time and to make a contribution to sustainability. I studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Costa Rica and worked with coffee farmers from whom I learned a lot and also learned to respect and admire the dedication they put into growing this crop.

Tico Coffee RoastersWhen I moved to the USA I was missing that connection and relatedness that happens in the neighborhoods or the coffee houses. I was missing that great cup of coffee. I visited many independent coffee shops looking for a better coffee and it was hard to find it.

I researched how to import coffee, about the equipment and so on. I really wanted to create beautiful flavors and to be sure of the entire process, value chain and the end result. So I chose to roast the coffee myself. And I said, if I’m going to start this I’m going to start with the best. I buy only specialty coffees which means they have 85 points and higher (out of a scale from 0 to 100 points – like in wine, coffees have scores and different qualities). I also buy only micro lots which is a coffee which comesA from a specific part of a farm, region and country.

For the teas, I also did a lot of research and tasted many of them. After a while a found the ones that I really liked; they are loose leaf teas that range from the traditional black, green and white tea to other more exotic, some fruit and herbal teas as well.

What type of impact do you envision your company having in the market?

I hope I can make a difference in the Latino market in the USA, in a way so that they see and value their coffee and tea. But specifically for coffee, I want them to learn  and bring them closer to a product that has a face and a real story of someone from their country.

I want to continue working with the traditional American market and share with them what Latinos are capable of doing, that we can and want to work hand in hand to bring innovative products of the highest quality to the United States.

I want to positively impact the life of farmers and their families and communities back in the coffee lands, that they are rewarded and appreciated for what they produce

And finally I want to provide a product that is sustainable and that is growing in harmony with the environment, coffees and teas that are healthy and share all this information with consumers so they can make wise purchases.

How did your team come together?

I have a degree in Agricultural Economics and another in Business which contribute to the success of fast pace in sourcing coffees and developing and nurturing the relationships with our farmer and partners as well as creating partnerships in the Bay Area to expand our impact.

My husband and I wanted to build a business together and something that we both felt passionate about.  He is German and has fallen in love with coffee and with Costa Rica. In the numerous trips back home he has appreciated more and more the work of coffee farmers and he even became a judge for a competition called Cup of Excellence that allows our company to find exquisite coffees.  He is a successful engineer who brings all his knowledge in IT, and previous entrepreneurial experience to our team.

How has your journey been so far?
It has been an amazing experience! I have learned a lot especially because I jumped into this idea soon after I moved to the USA.

We are now selling not only online (direct and on Amazon) but also in several specialty supermarkets and are providing our products to restaurants, cafes, wine bars, tea houses and spas in the Bay Area.

When I see my customers happy, then I know we are helping them to create an experience with their end consumer, then I know it is worth the effort.

What would you like the community to know about you and your company?

I would like them to know that this is a latino woman owned business who is working directly with farmers in different countries in Latin America, that is making a difference for people in those countries improving their income, their communities. I would like them to know that for every product I bring, I have thought of them here in the US because I have listened what they like, what they feel proud of, where they come from and that they would like to drink coffee from their home country…. I’m still working on some origins!!

I also want to share with them that here is no middle man intervening in the negotiation since we buy directly form the farmers. We go every year to visit the coffee plantations and we can see how they grow the coffee, talk with them about the sustainable practices they use, we can see if the reuse resources at the farm level and also if they are incorporating new technologies that will help them reduce resources like electricity or water. We also provide them with new ideas and help improve their practices, so they also can get better results in their products and with that improve their lives and their communities.

What advice do you have others that are thinking of starting their own company?

I would tell them that if they have the opportunity and they are really passionate about what they do, if they feel deep inside that what they want is going to make a positive impact, then they should go for it. I would tell them also to be patient and have love and compassion for themselves. Being and entrepreneur is not easy and implies a lot of sacrifices but here is where your passion has to be big and strong so it will keep you going despite the bad moments that will happen.

Also, please share anything that you may feel that may be interesting for our readers.

We have some workshops and presentations about coffee and tea, like processing, origins, brewing methods, coffee cupping, coffee and tea tastings. They are open to the public so everybody can come to learn and have fun. They are always announce in our website, newsletter and social media

www.ticoroasters.com <http://www.ticoroasters.com/>

www.facebook.com/ticoroasters <http://www.facebook.com/ticoroasters>

www.twitter.com/ticoroasters <http://www.twitter.com/ticoroasters>

www.instagram.com/ticoroasters <http://www.instagram.com/ticoroasters>

www.pinterest.com/ticoroasters <http://www.pinterest.com/ticoroasters

Make My Quince modernizes the planning of your Quince!

 

What’s your elevator pitch? What problem you trying to solve?

  • MakeMyQuince is the first to bring online event planning and crowd funding to Quinceañeras. Our goal as a company is to build trust and provide great customer service to the Latinos; our entry point to the Latino market is through Quinceañeras. A Quinceañera is a once in a lifetime event and Make My Quince creates their solution of guiding Quinceañeras and their parents through the planning and funding of their family event.

Team Intro Kick-OffHow do you see your start-up disrupting the space it’s in? What type of impact do you envision your start-up having in the market? What inspired you to do your start-up? 

  • Make My Quince is taking planning tools, such as visualization, checklists, and budgeting, and bringing them together with the option to padrino fund items needed to create the perfect Quince event. We used the idea of padrino sponsors used traditionally by some Quinceañeras and applied it to our event planning service. Make My Quince is disrupting the way Quinceañeras and their families plan one of the most important events their families will celebrate and refining it to be available online or moblie. Latinos (teens and their parents) are already online and on mobile; Latinos are early adopters to new tech trends and top engagers on social platforms. The Latino market is a starving market as well as one of the most influential in purchasing power. Make My Quince strives to provide great service to our users and exceed their expectations in the planning of a Quinceañera.
  • Our inspiration behind Make My Quince stems from our experiences with Quinceañera events. Families are currently planning Quinceañeras the same way they did 20 years ago; we see Make My Quince making this planning process more efficient and fun. We also have the vision to use Make My Quince to empower Latino teens and their parents to practice skills such as budgeting, fundraising, and decision-making together as a family.

venturescape MMQ team

Is this your first start-up venture? How did your team come together?

  • Our team has a variety of individual professional and personal experiences and have all attempted entrepreneurship in the past. Make My Quince is the first start-up we have worked together on as a team.
  • Our team met at StartUp Weekend Sacramento in November 2014. Co-founder Fatima Ruiz pitched the idea of “crowdfunding for Quinceañeras” and as a team we developed a business plan, revenue streams, brand identity and won 2nd place that weekend. We have continued as a team since November 2014. We have had three focus groups and each one lead to big “AHA” moments – these have shaped our direction and validated the need and desire for our service.

 

How has your startup journey been so far?

  • After winning second place as StartupWeekend Sacramento in November, our team came together weekly to work on our project “Make My Quince”. We did not think that less than five months later we would be pitching Make My Quince, now an incorporated start-up, to serial entrepreneurs and leaders in the Silicon Valley. We have received great feedback and excitement from our daily interactions in pitching Make My Quince as well as learned what our users want from us. Our users want guidance on one of the biggest events of her life, while having the independence to make her event her own and Make My Quince will make this happen.

 

What would you like to achieve during your time with Manos?

  • We are communicating with users on a daily basis and adjusting our features to make them the best they can be for our users. We hope to have Make My Quince ready to be tested as an application and redesign our website. We also are looking for key Quinceañera vendor partnerships. Our first month at Manos Accelerator has been very enlightening. The access to a great network of mentors and networks have been influential in shaping our direction as well confirming the problem we are solving as Make My Quince.

 

What type of funding are you looking for?

  • We are currently looking for bridge funding of $500,000 for the development of two application and new user acquisition.

 

If you are part of a Latino owned startup and would like to be featured and connect with our Cultura Ambassadors please reach out to us via our website or any of our social media channels.

 

 

SmileyGo bringing smiles to Nonprofits & Corporations

 

SmileyGo (smileygo.org)

  1. What’s your elevator pitch? What problem are you trying to solve?

SmileyGo (www.smileygo.org) is the tech platform that is integrating the corporate world with the nonprofit sector, matching the philanthropic needs of a company with the requests of a nonprofit. We are creating opportunities to bring positive results in the fulfillment of CSR efforts and societal needs across the globe.

So, what is the problem? Nonprofits spend more than 40% of their time plus an allocated percentage of their budget on fundraising, which often distracts them from focusing on their mission. At the same time, companies spend a tremendous amount of time and money on PR and marketing, often searching for nonprofit alliances and community outreach opportunities to align their brand with. This diverts their focus from meeting and exceeding their customer’s needs and expectations. Ultimately, Corporate Philanthropy is difficult work and that is why we are working on a product that will automate and facilitate this process, while maximizing social impact on a global scale.

Via SmileyGo, we are streamlining the CSR process and helping companies do philanthropy more efficiently, via our low-cost, online platform, while generating greater social impact and smiles around the world.

SmileyGo at Manos Accelerator launch

  1. Is this your first start-up venture?

SmileyGo is the first for-profit global venture for many of us. Having a diverse team working together to solve a global problem, we all bring different experiences to our team, and most importantly, we all share a passion for helping others make the world a better place. Pedro started a non-profit when he was 16 during high school: www.yatayperu.com, a social enterprise connects teachers in American Schools in Peru with local Andean children in the highlands. Michael also founded two ventures, Conservosmart, a solution for kWh usage within homes, and MultiSite Professional (http://www.multisiteprofessional.com), a reliable, personal option for website development. Maria who is passionate about civic technology founded encire in 2014, which is an online platform that connects users to key information on the issues that affect their social, political, and economic lives. Dante founded esQela.org last year, an ed-tech platform to empower Latino students in their Quest to attaining higher education. By working together, we leverage our passions and experiences to develop a unique solution to making it easier for companies to make smart investments with long-lasting social impact.

  1. What inspired you to do your start-up?

The SmileyGo Team shares an innate desire to help others at a global scale. We all possess the SmileyGo DNA: passion, drive, and energy. We all have a passion to help others, the drive to revolutionize corporate philanthropy, and the energy that is required to change the world. In particular, the life experiences of Pedro David Espinoza and Dante Alvarado-Leon revolved around giving back to their communities. Both having lived in developing countries in Latin America saw the need to create solutions to help those in need and took action at a young age. Pedro’s main inspiration came from looking at all of the opportunities and positive impact his mother’s nonprofit created for young women in Peru. When he met Juana, a young woman from the Anders region of Peru, who told him that her future was going to work on a farm, Pedro and his mother helped her and opened the door for many opportunities for her. In the end, Juana enrolled in a higher education institution and graduated as an engineer. Similarly, Dante was inspired by the stories of children he met at an orphanage that he volunteered with his family in Mexico. Dante recalls the words of one of the children in an orphanage in the city Tijuana who told him, “I want to be like you and help those in my community when I grow up.” Ever since that day, Dante continued to give back to his community through service and by using his education to help those around him. These two stories combined with the diverse backgrounds of all of the members of the SmileyGo team led to the creation of SmileyGo, a global venture aiming to stimulate companies to give back to nonprofits at a global scale.

4.  How do you see your start-up disrupting the space it’s in?

SmileyGo is taking the lead in showing that companies as a whole can give back in a meaningful way that has a lasting impact. Other organizations may encourage individual employees to go volunteer or make donations toward a certain non-profit. However, at SmileyGo we want to make sure that companies – not just the individuals that comprise it – are socially responsible and that the resources being donated are being used properly. We strive for a simple, straightforward process that creates transparency. This transparency won’t only be helpful for consumers and companies, but will hopefully get non-profit organizations to effectively allocate and manage resources. Ultimately, we wish to revolutionize the way business is done, and prove to the corporate world that business is not only about making revenue, but it is also about creating impact, and that companies can do well by doing good.

  1. What type of impact do you envision your start-up having in the market?

We see SmileyGo as the catalyst for companies to do well, while maximizing social impact worldwide. By directing philanthropy toward charities and non-profits that will effectively use it, we aim to encourage more corporations to give back to communities in need around the world. Here at SmileyGo we are revolutionizing the way business is conducted. We want to make companies more aware of the needs of the world, and make it easy for them to become catalysts of change. Essentially, we are streamlining the process for both the non-profits and companies and helping them collaborate to help each other out. By matching the requests and needs of a non-profit with the resources and funding of a company via our tech platform, we will be able to foster a win-win situation and help companies make smart investments that will have long-lasting impacts on the non-profits.

  1. How did your team come together?

The co-founders, Pedro David Espinoza and Dante Alvarado-Leon brought together a diverse and talented team that shares the same vision and passion for a global cause. SmileyGo naturally attracts those who are passionate about corporate social responsibility and want to see a change in the way businesses give back to society, help non-profits in their struggle for resources, or a combination of the two. Our team is comprised of students from around the world, from the U.S., Mexico, Colombia, China, India, Africa and many other places. Most of us met at the University of California, Berkeley, and since then we have become a family of student leaders and young entrepreneurs with the vision to change the world, the heart to help others, and the spirit to dream big.

  1.     How has your startup journey been so far?

The start-up journey has been quite a thrill thus far. We are always making progress, but the progress has been far from anything like a straight, upward line towards success. The journey has been filled with twists, turns, loops and sometimes backtracking too. But through the entire process, we learn more about our company’s goal as a whole and have a deeper understanding of what we need to implement to create the best possible product. We are not the typical startup that rushes, seeks money and never sleeps. We rest, we bond, we are a family of winners, students, young leaders and learners. We have had to make many sacrifices to develop and create a global solution to corporate philanthropy, however, we have a passion for what we are doing that drives us to keep on going. To sum it up, our journey so far has been one of the best experiences in our lives. All of the work we put in every day, all the miles we have traveled together, and all of the time we have spent together to make our idea come to life has shown us that SmileyGo is our passion. We, the SmileyGoers, all share a common dream to work together as a family of young leaders and entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, we want to inspire and encourage others, especially our generation to dare to dream big, to be innovative, and to embark on their own entrepreneurial journeys to develop solutions to the challenges that we are facing today, while always remembering to smile.

  1. What would you like to achieve during your time with Manos?

During out time in the Manos Accelerator, we hope to achieve a clear direction in which we will head, so we bring to clarity to the problem we are solving, the solution we are providing, and how we can be sustainable throughout the process. At the moment, we are working towards developing an attractive, innovative, and concrete business plan that will allows to develop an efficient platform. One thing that Manos has definitely helped our company with–as a result of mentors and the number of resources we’ve been given–is setting a stable and simple foundation for what we aim to do and how we will implement an effective plan to create our tech platform to produce greater social change. By Demo Day, we hope to have a working and updated prototype so that we can begin connecting the corporate world with the nonprofit sector.

  1.     What type of funding are you looking for?

We are looking for seed funding, so that we can build the most efficient and reliable tech platform and stimulate our progression with SmileyGo. By the end of the summer we will possibly look for angel investments, if needed.

 

If you are part of a Latino owned startup and would like to be featured and connect with our Cultura Ambassadors please reach out to us via our website or any of our social media channels.

Dream Tuner empowers unsigned Musicians

 

We had a chance to visit with Dream Tuner and ask them about their startup being accelerated at Manos Accelerator in San Jose.  Are you a closet musician waiting to be discovered?

  • Is this your first start-up venture? You could say that it is at this scale. I had a couple of businesses in college and during my MBA that would generate extra income such as getting web designers in South America to develop pages for US companies at a lower rate (2006-2010).

Dream Tuner

What inspired you to do your start-up? I can say that music plays an essential role in my life, I still remember listening to The Beatles White Album and Let It Be with my mom and brother in our house when I was 7 years old, while She and my dad were getting divorced. Music became an outlet for my brother and I. He picked up the drums and I the bass guitar and for many years I guess that kept us sane from all the craziness that was going on.  Later on we had to go to college, get jobs and basically grow up, and left behind the instruments but we never left the music. The Aha moment came when I was visiting my family and my kid brother (ten years younger than me, from my mother’s second marriage) asked me to give him a ride to the local college station so that he could drop off a demo of his band to a DJ. That is when I realized that so much had changed thanks to technology and the internet but musicians were still dropping off their demos as had been done by young musicians since the early 60’s and 70’s.  I knew that I had grown up and had given up on the dream, but why should so many others follow that same path.

 

  • How do you see your star-up disrupting the space it’s in? Dream Tuner wants to empower the unsigned musician. We want to help them achieve their dreams while making it easier for their music to be discovered. At the same time we want to target listeners that label themselves as trendsetters, evangelists mavens. That one friend you have that is always promoting new music. We feel that both of these, the artists and these types of listeners are under served. We want music to be for the people and by the people.

 

  • What type of impact do you envision your start-up having in the market? We want to be the place to go for unsigned musicians to catapult to the next level. In baseball terms, we want to be the farm to help them make the leap to the big leagues. What product hunt is to app discovery we want to be to music discovery.

 

  • How did your team come together? Our team is composed of 2 brothers. A drummer and a bass player. I came up with an idea and called my brother in Los Angeles ( I was in Austin TX) to tell him that I had an idea in my head for about a month. it made sense to talk to him since he had studied music production and now worked at a music production company. We took it from there and kept developing the idea to a business plan even after I moved to Miami. After that, it just made sense that I should move to LA where my co-founder is and where so many musicians arrive every day with huge dreams and hopes.

 

  • How has your star-up journey been so far? It has been quite a ride. From a simple idea in Austin Texas, to winning a pitch contest in Miami, to developing the idea and then being in Silicon Valley. We never thought we would make it to where we are and the journey has always been uphill but exciting. We have learned a lot and have been questioned by many and have even been called naive by others for pursuing this dream, but we carry on. You learn to think fast, adapt, be persistent and know that for every 1 startup that makes it there are thousands that fail, in a way, it resembles musicians, for every one band that makes it there are thousand that see their dreams crushed.

 

  • What would you like to achieve during your time with Manos? Learn and keep learning. The ecosystem in Silicon Valley is like no other in the planet. The ideas that are generated here change the world and we want to be a part of it. We want to take full advantage of the opportunity Manos has given us to create a great product and at the same time collaborate with other startups. We hope to share our vision at Dream Tuner with the world soon.

 

  • What type of funding are you looking for? We are currently looking for angel investors to help with seed funding.

Manos Accelerator 3rd Cohort Kick-Off

 

Recently Silicon Valley Latino had the pleasure of attending the Manos Accelerator 3rd Cohort Kick-Off where the 2015 Spring Class was presented to the community. This time the Kick-Off was hosted by Ernst & Young at their San Jose offices and it featured five exciting new start-ups.

AMG_1062Dream Tuner – out of Miami, Fl, is a platform dedicated to helping independent and unsigned musicians achieve their dreams,

MakeMyQuince – out Sacramento, Ca, is the first solution to bring online planning tools and crowd-funding to Quinceaneras

 

Shovel Apps –out of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a flexible open source CMS and App Maker that lets you create awesome mobile applications for Andriod and IOS without coding skills

SmileyGo – out of Berkeley, Ca, is a social enterprise that connects businesses and non-profits via its technological platform

The Exchange – out of San Francisco, Ca, is creating synergy between digital and physical realities through wearable technology.

 

Over the next few weeks we will feature each of these start-ups one at a time so stay tuned!