Two out of 10 Latino businesses in the United States operate in the state of California, according to Stanford University. But there are still regions of the entity, such as San Francisco Bay, little explored by the Latin American community, says Jolynn Vallejo, director of LatinSF, an initiative focused on bringing Latin American companies to the region to maintain cultural diversity and reverse the exit of talent.
“Companies like Google, Airbnb and other technology have brought personnel from other countries that are not Latino and, in the end, Latinos have gone to other cities, such as Texas, Kentucky or New Jersey,” explains Vallejo.
Since its creation in 2014, LatinSF has helped 14 Latin American companies, five of them from Mexico -BuildBinder, Cala, Maniak, Machina and Tresalia-, to open offices in San Francisco, which means being closer to investors, talent and innovation. “We have brought 6.5 million dollars of Latin American investment and 193 jobs have been created to date,” says the directive.
It’s an advance, the specialist acknowledges, but the goal is more ambitious: it wants to show that San Francisco is more than restaurants and cleaning companies, which are the most common Latino businesses in that city. The initiative is aimed at attracting companies that develop technology, fashion design firms, fintech start-ups and large manufacturers.
“We are a global city for China and all of Asia. In contrast, for Latin companies, we are the third or fourth in importance, says Vallejo. We want to be number one and, from that, connect the ecosystems. ”
A soft landing
Since February 2018, when he took the management of LatinSF, Vallejo has traveled to several Latin American countries inviting start-ups to settle in Silicon Valley. “The mayor pays my salary,” he says. “We make trips and events through sponsorships and we have quite a large networking.”
When the start-ups decide to go to San Francisco, the agency helps them for free to open their offices in accelerators or coworkings. In addition, through the alliances that it has established, it provides them with support to obtain lawyers, accountants and other services necessary for the operation.
“A desk in a coworking costs from 650 dollars to 1,600 dollars in Silicon Valley, we have agreements for 300 dollars,” says Vallejo. The initiative is in talks with the owners of collaborative workspaces to obtain a price similar to that which entrepreneurs pay in their countries of origin, so that this is not a factor that inhibits them from operating in San Francisco.
“We are also looking for agreements with large companies to offer them housing.” Although she does not mention the companies she is negotiating with, the director of the initiative says that they are working to create a “house-hub” for them to live there. Latin American entrepreneurs.
The support service to enter the foreign market also includes contact with investors willing to invest up to one million dollars in a start-up. In 2017, the United States captured about 83,000 million dollars of investment in venture capital, according to data from the Pitchbook firm. “And throughout the Latin American region we did not even reach 2% of that total,” says Vallejo.
Networking is another important support, says Miguel Ángel Velarde, founder of the Jalisco start-up Thincrs. In April, her technology talent training and recruitment company was admitted to the Balero acceleration program and GSVLabs in Silicon Valley, where she came into contact with LatinSF.
“Networking in Silicon Valley is very complicated because it is not such an open community, so this kind of support is very helpful,” says the entrepreneur, whose company founded in 2016 has trained more than 400 young people with programming courses. He has inserted them into companies such as Intel, Oracle and IBM.
Vallejo says he works so that the value offered by LatinSF is greater. With representatives from seven Latin American countries, including Mexico and Brazil, they will create a common front that connects local start-ups with other markets through the support of their sister agencies ChinaSF and SFAsia. “By joining we can also sell ourselves as a single region to investors,” says Vallejo.
Also published on Medium.