New Organization Seeks to Bridge the Gap for Hispanics in Tech
The group is housed under the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce umbrella
The winning team of the Hispanics and Technology Venture Capital Pitch night, InScribe's Ana Hernandez (middle) and Katy Kappler (right), with Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Mike Ferrufino (left).
Across the country there is a movement to increase diversity throughout a number of industries, particularly in technology. But right here in Colorado, there is a new organization, called Hispanics and Technology, formed as a passion project for Pedro Meza and James Foy, directly tackling the issue of increasing and empowering more Hispanics to join the tech industry.
“I was tired of being the only Latino in the room and frustrated that I had no place where I could express who I really was. I was always adapting to the dominant culture and it was a challenge,” says James Foy, whose day job is as a sales executive at a systems integrator company.
According to Foy, Hispanics make up 7.1% of the technology workforce, but account for close to 30% of the Denver population (U.S. Census, 2018).
Foy and Meza founded — or as Foy says “bootstrapped” — the group, which is housed under the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce umbrella, a little over a year ago with the goal of creating and building a community where Hispanics can raise each other up and encourage the community to enter technology.
Foy also hopes that by getting more Latinos into technology it will solve some of the “social problems that plague my culture and my people,” by giving the community more role models in high-achieving places.
During its first year, the group has hosted monthly meetings and is growing toward rolling out a formal website, launching mentorship programs at high-risk schools, building significant partnerships with the community and on July 15 it hosted its first annual Venture Pitch Night.
Venture Pitch Night was an idea conceived of in partnership with Rockies Venture Club (RVC), a Denver angel group founded in 1984.
According to Peter Adams, the executive director of RVC, the partnership gave the club an opportunity to get great Hispanic-led companies in front of its investors and “hopefully elevate the entire Hispanic community within our state.”
“We have a strong commitment to diversity,” says Adams. “Venture capital has a long track record of being not diverse and being pretty toxic in terms of just focusing on white male culture.”
The event gave four Hispanic-led tech startups — Wigo Trips, InScribe, FreeRange and Jujotech — the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of potential investors. While each startup has a technology focus, they represent a variety of ideas.
Wigo Trips is a platform that incites meaningful connections through travel, founded by Jaqui McCarthy and Adam Coulon. InScribe is an app, created by former Denver public school teacher Ana Hernandez and a former education and technology professional Katy Kappler, that uses AI to connect students to the resources they need to succeed. FreeRange is the only FDIC-sanctioned blockchain holding bank, founded by Joseph Pitluck and Amber Terrasas. Jujotech is an augmented reality solution for creating a connected workplace and employees, and was founded by Rafael Gutierrez.
According to John E. Dominguez, a partner at Bridge Haven and one of the evening’s judges, “All four of the companies and entrepreneurs were high quality and exciting,” he says, elaborating that “JuJo Tech has a strong technical team and developing IP portfolio, FreeRange has perhaps the most disruptive vision, Wigo Trips has perhaps the biggest market opportunity.”
Ultimately the winner of the night was InScribe. “The Inscribe team seems to be executing the best and had the most impactful pitch at the event,”says Dominguez. The company won a cash prize, legal services from Launch Legal, conference room time at VentureX and tickets to Sabor.