On March 6th, I had the privilege to attend Latin@s in Tech, a day long event that preceded the 2014 SXSW Interactive conference along with 100+ Latino community members. The mission of the meeting, organized by the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Kety Esquivel, Principal of Esquivel McCarson Consulting, was to address issues that impact Latino’s participation in technology.

While Latino’s low involvement in STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) professions and the technology industry in general, have been well documented over the years, I found a number of statistics to be particularly disturbing:

8% of AP Test Computer Science takers were Latinos
7% of science or engineering degrees are awarded to Latinos
7% of the entire STEM workforce is Latino
4% of software developers are Latinos
Less than 1% of startups who are venture-backed have a Latino co-founder


Latin@s in Tech, was a well thought-out and organized event where interactive conversations from the panel and audience provided many great insights. Highlights include:

  •  The Leaky Tech Pipeline, a new video from the Kapor Center for Social Impact, does a good job of summing-up the holes in education and opportunities that most minority groups face.
  • Belen Jealous, former NAACP president and Maria Hinojosa executive producer of Latino USA challenged event participants to dream big and find ways to use tech to address top problems facing the Latino community.
  • Rosario Dawson of Voto Latino, Julio Ricardo Varela of Latino Rebels and Elisa Batista of Moms Rising shared the ways they are reaching out and engaging Latinos via social networking. Also, they discussed the importance of storytelling and bringing real voices into the online conversation by using multiple platforms and actionable tools—online petitions, Twitter chats, engaging content that can be easily shared or promoted.
  • Mitch Kapor of Kapor Center for Social Impact shared his impressions about the challenges that start-up founders from other backgrounds and native languages (someone different from a-Mark-Zuckerberg) will face. Kapor’s words provided a great reality-check about the barriers that exist for Latino start-up founders.
  • Sierra Club and Presente showcased the power of a compelling digital campaign that combines partnership and on the ground organizing.
  • A Mobile Technology panel with Nydia Gutierrez of Mobile Future, Roell Vento, CEO Silver Fox Studios, Juan Rodriguez, Co-founder FlashValet and Danilo Campos, Mobile Developer, where I had the honor to moderate. The panel explored the ways mobile technology opens new business opportunities and supports the Latino community. Key takeaways included: rapid growth of mobile adoption among Latinos, predictions of continued rapid adoption and opportunities to better serve mobile-first Latinos with improved mobile user experiences.

One of the important outcomes of the pre-conference was the ways the event helped motivate SXSW to offer a Latinos in Tech Track. It was a bit in it’s own barrio (neighborhood)so to speak, with a twenty minute walk away from the action but the new Latino track hosted 21 panels that provided many more Latinos with an opportunity to showcase their experiences and work at SXSW.  While not perfect, it was a great start to seeing more Latino Tech representation at SXSW.

The Latino Digital Landscape: Insights & Solutions was one of the SXSW Latinos in Tech panels. It focused on conversations about social enterprises, with Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, founder of  MomsRising; Mitch Kapor, of the Kapor Center for Social Impact, a leading angel investor; and myself. The panel was moderated by Kety Esquivel.

  • Kristin offered great information on the ways MomsRising are reaching out and engaging diverse populations via social activities.
  • Mitch Kapor shared the reasons why he focuses on funding socially driven start-ups, created by underserved communities, who want to help their communities. He highlighted recent investments like Plaza Familia founded by Ana Roca Castro to address the education gaps and specific needs of the Latino community.
  • My presentation focused on opportunities for Latinos in Technology that help Latino’s within education, civic engagement and health care communities. Below are the slides I presented:

There are many other large opportunity areas for Latinos in Tech to help their community including serving the unbanked or underbanked population. In my opinion, not all Latino startups may have the resources to focus on solving issues for the community-at-large. Every step, no matter how big or small, makes a difference.
Here’s to a great year in tech for Latinos and an even bigger presence at SXSW next year. Time for more Latinos to find their inner geek!
A big thank you to Nespresso, Sierra Club, Mobile Future and Dropbox for sponsoring Latin@s in Tech, as well as helping to fund scholarships, making it possible for more Latinos to be part of the events in Austin.
A shout out to Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media (LATISM) for being such a great community partner and helping to build awareness for the Latinos in Tech events at SXSW.
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