Sunday, February 7, 2016

Nuestra Comunidad: Venezuelan entrepreneur shares secrets of success

For business owner Miguel Castillo, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta were more than just a celebration of athletic achievement and global unity, they represented a key turning point in Georgia’s history.

“After the Olympics, Georgia’s population and economic development exploded, because people from other states began moving here. In 2000 I had four jobs at the same time,” explained Castillo.

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This Chilean Startup Wants To Change The Way Latin America Shops For Food

I meet Santiago-based economist and entrepreneur Jose Manuel Moller on the eve of a huge real estate move that will see him relocate, not just his offices, but two burgeoning start ups, an entire factory and also a hang out space for like-minded folk in the nearly-hipster-but-not-quite area of Recoleta, on the outskirts of Santiago in Chile. Moller’s ties to the area go beyond business, they’re personal.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The NYC Venture Capital Year in Review: 2015

Today, we take a look at the state of venture capital and angel funding during 2015, both in New York and nationally. Analyzing some publicly available data from our friends at CrunchBase, we break down the aggregate statistics for all funding deals by stage of funding (Angel/Seed, Series A, Series B, and Series C+, as well as venture non-specified rounds < $10M).

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What I've Learned: Growing Latino Businesses When Banks Won't

Sean Salas is the CEO and Co-Founder of Camino Financial, a credit marketplace helping under-banked small businesses access capital with a focus on servicing the fast growing Hispanic business segment. Sean has worked in private equity, investment banking and throughout his career has structured over $1.2 billion in debt financings.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Report: Hispanic entrepreneurship could mean $1.4 trillion boost to U.S. economy

The number of Latino-owned businesses have grown nearly nearly 50 times faster than non-Latino owned businesses, yet Latino businesses lag far behind in revenue compared to those owned by non-Latinos. The result is a $1.4 trillion opportunity for the U.S. economy, according to a new report from the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative.

On Wednesday, the organization gathered founders and CEOs of Mastec, Liberty Power, Senzari, Nearpod, Rokk3r Labs and Endeavor Miami to discuss the findings and what is ahead for its new national project that aims to provide industry research and education programs for accelerating Latino entrepreneurs.

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Can Mexico Give Startups An Edge To Capture The U.S. Hispanic Market?

I recently had the pleasure to present the Camino Financial story to the Ambassadors and Consuls of Mexico at their XXVII Annual Reunion in Mexico City.  The takeaway was simple: the U.S. hosts the LARGEST untapped Hispanic market in the world and it’s up for grabs right now.  The buying power of Hispanic consumers is approximately $1.3 trillion, making its economy larger than all but 15 countries (source: Selig Center for Economic Growth).  Meanwhile, Hispanic-owned businesses significantly contribute to the U.S. economy with over $661 billion in gross sales (source: Geoscape).  And with all the innovation occurring in the U.S., very few startups are focused on delivering value to the rapidly growing Hispanic community.  A recent survey from AngelList counted 89,405 U.S.-based startups: of these, only 15 focused on delivering services to the Hispanic market.  Here lies a GIGANTIC opportunity…

While I fundamentally believe 80%+ of what is required to capture any American market resides here in the U.S., we shouldn’t let this blindside us from exploring resources and influences across the border.  This is especially true when looking for a marketing or operational edge to capture the U.S. Hispanic market.  Below are 3 ways startups can leverage Mexico to build a Hispanic edge:

Design Complementary Products for Both the U.S. and Mexico
Designing a product or service that works in the U.S. and Mexico presents both an immense growth opportunity and a big challenge.  While this is clearly a challenge, we have seen many products become widely accepted across borders, such as tacos, tequila, and Vicente Fernandez (not joking).  But delivering transnational products goes way beyond tacos and entertainment, it can be as sophisticated as creating microfinance products and Ed Tech solutions (e.g. Camino Financial in 5 Years).

Mexico is a Center of Influence for Paisanos
After my discussion with Mexican officials, I was quickly approached with requests to visit several local consulates in the U.S. (Mexico has 50 consulates in the U.S.) to speak to Paisanos (first generation immigrants) looking for capital.  These invitations further exemplify the power of influence that resides in Mexico, as well as an opportunity to penetrate the U.S. Hispanic market.  It sounds far-fetched, but it’s true. This can be a huge capture opportunity for savvy startups focused on the U.S. Hispanic market.

Resources & Talent
Now, many Hispanics in the U.S. may not find relevance in, or may be detracted from, “Hispanic oriented” products.  However, Mexico has much more to offer than just serving as a center of influence for a certain number of Hispanics in the U.S.: it offers resources in the form of raw materials and talent.  While in Mexico, I met with two call center providers to help service my Spanish speaking customers in the U.S.  First, I was blown away by the level of management sophistication, technology, and access to motivated talent.  Second, I was intrigued by the opportunity of saving 50 cents on the dollar.  While I do not believe the ultimate cost solution for startups or BIG corporations is to outsource work to countries with a lower cost of labor, I do believe businesses should allocate finite resources in certain areas to maximize the customer experience.  In the case of catering to Spanish speaking customers, Mexico offers a huge opportunity to deliver a seamless telesales and customer service experience.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that entrepreneurs and business owners open their eyes and look across the border, as this may be the key to unlocking untapped value among Hispanics in the U.S. and beyond.

Source: Alfredo Lopez

First Down Funding Connects Clearly With Spanish and Latin American Business Owners

WASHINGTON, DC , Jan 25, 2016 (Marketwired via COMTEX) -- First Down Funding has quickly established itself as one of North America's premier alternative lenders for small and medium-sized businesses, with an adaptive model and wide range of merchant services designed to assist businesses at all stages -- from those just being founded to the well-established that are seeking to expand. In addition to reliability, stellar financial advice and excellent customer service, First Down Funding (FDF) has also been known for their flexibility, often able to get clients approved and funded within 24 hours. Now, in accordance with their mission to provide financial assistance to business owner in need, First Down Funding has announced the creation of their Latin American Sales Division for the U.S. and Canada featuring agents and executives fully fluent in Spanish.

With their numerous years of industry experience, the lending experts at First Down Funding are all too familiar with the challenges small and medium-sized business owners regularly face. For new business owners, acquiring the initial start-up capital is of course one of the largest. Banks often freeze out promising entrepreneurs by demanding the type of security and collateral that no individual founding a new business will have, or else will offer loans with outlandish interest rates. Existing business owners are also faced with similar hurdles. Ironically, they will often find it difficult to obtain loans to implement the very improvements necessary to achieve the kind of profitability banks and other traditional lenders require before offering a manageable loan. With all these challenges, the last thing an aspiring business owner needs is difficulty in securing a loan due to a language barrier. Having already addressed the financial aspects by approving 85% of applicants for one of their fast, affordable and flexible loans, First Down Funding is now ensuring that Spanish speaking entrepreneurs can just as easily take advantage of their vital services.

The United States was recently shown to have 41 million native Spanish speakers and 11.6 million bilingual individuals -- which is the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world second only to Mexico. While its numbers are certainly lower than the U.S., Canada has also been shown to have quite a large number of Spanish speakers. With the considerable size of this demographic, it was clear to First Down Funding that to give every entrepreneur an equal chance, it was necessary to institute a Latin American division. So far, the response has been overwhelming as Spanish/Latin American clients have finally found a reputable lender than not only provides fast and affordable loans with personalized service but also ensures ease of communication in their preferred language. One such client enthusiastically stated: "Working with First Down Funding is an incredible experience. They are currently helping out my tenants as I own several shopping centers across the East Coast. Speaking Spanish has always been a problem as the language barrier can create difficulties, but with First Down Funding, they found a way to make it work!" Another Spanish speaking client, currently the owner of four Outback Steakhouse restaurants, expressed similar sentiments: "Every hurdle I have [been] faced with in the past was no issue at all...I have traveled my entire life and finally have found the right mix of financial help with First Down Funding."

First Down Funding is a Washington DC/Maryland based company specializing in structuring and approving cash advances for small to medium-sized businesses. With affordable rates, transparent fees, fixed payment schedules and a fast and simple process that allows 30 second applications and funding within 24 hours, they allow business owners throughout the US and Canada receive the funding they need when they need it. The experts at First Down Funding also provide valuable financial advice and give each client the attention necessary to create a personalized solution.

SOURCE: First Down Funding

Sunday, January 24, 2016

5 tips for launching your startup in Latin America

My business partner and I looked at each other quizzically as we listened to the pitch from LinkedIn’s Dublin-based Latin America sales-rep. The sales-rep was clearly from the region, but her go-to-market strategy seemed prepped, cooked and served in sauces with a distinct North American flavor.

We asked, “Can we try the platform before we buy?”, to which we were told, “no.” “Can we negotiate a discounted rate to account for the assorted taxes that increase our costs?”, “No”. 

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Elaine del Valle >

Elaine del Valle, Actress, Producer, Director and Writer, Interviewed by Laura Rosado

What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
I had a strong desire to pursue my passion seriously and the notion that I could achieve my goals.

What inspired you to start your business?
I started Del Valle Productions after writing a pilot. It was over 16 years ago. I wanted to shoot it and I wanted the protections and benefits that were offered by a corporate status.

How did you finance it?
I filed the corporation documents myself. The fees were minimal. I used my savings accrued from working as a commercial actress to fund my projects.

Does being Hispanic/Latina have any influence on your business?
I find being Latina has more and more of an impact on my business as time goes by. I didn’t begin my journey with a mission to create Latino work and represent the culture, my mission was more personal…but as a Latina I found that representing myself became symbolic of my culture and gender.  My industry quickly told me the need for Latina leadership…I used all of my strengths to find a niche. For me that was the understanding of my own culture, my industry and the Spanish language. 

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to drive ahead?
I remember where I came from and how far I have come. I remember that every opportunity is a gift and that no matter what the outcome— a learning experience exists within every scenario. Your critics might make you upset, but once you get over that, you can look at their critiques more objectively and that ends up helping your process, much more than hurting it. I use rejection as incentive to better myself.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Each part of my business has its own challenges.
When it comes to casting and production the biggest challenge is getting through the door, getting new clients to use my casting and or production services. I find it easy to maintain clients because I pride myself on delivering the best experience at competitive prices.
With production, the biggest challenge was handed to me when a producer I teamed with failed to meet their responsibilities…It set me back many months in revenue as I felt that I had to compensate for their failure—I would not let the Del Valle Productions name be associated with failure to compensate its independent contractors in a timely manner. I learned lots from that experience—perhaps most that I need to control the finances and hiring when it comes to production.

If you could change one thing about your business. What would it be?
There’s nothing I could think to change that I am not actively working toward.

What was your childhood ambition?
My childhood ambition was to be a lawyer. I wanted to be defending the right side, making an impact on my community.

Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire.
Oprah Winfrey because she built an empire, is an absolute female FORCE and continues to help others to grow.
My husband, Al Eskanazy because I watched him grow his business and always do what was right for the company and its employees. He leads with pragmatism, kindness and intelligence. He writes everything down, keeping a diary of every conversation so his recollection of meetings and the fulfillment of specific goals is impeccable.
Elisabeth Kleinhans, the owner of 59E59 Theaters because late in life she fell in love with theater and decided to dedicate her life to helping stage plays be off Broadway. 59E59 Theaters is the best 501c3 theater company I have known…it does so much for playwrights and artists.

For business meetings, which do you prefer: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
It’s not the time of day that matters to me, but rather the place. I prefer to meet at my Private Arts Club in Manhattan. It's a beautiful private arts club (with membership offered to people in the arts and entertainment industry) housed within a Manhattan townhouse. The club has a fantastic ambiance, mission, staff, owner and chef. It's comfortable, hospitable, relaxed, quiet and impressive. I find it a conducive environment to building long lasting relationships.

What sacrifices in your personal life did you have to make in order to become successful in your business? 
For me, the biggest sacrifice is time with my family…I am always working. I love my work and so I don’t suffer from it but my family does. I try to pick up the phone every time my daughter calls but I find I am always in the middle of something and can’t focus on her needs as much as I would like to. I was never the Mom who coddles. I feel it has made my daughter self sufficient and shown her that she too can accomplish anything within her vision. She is now a college graduate who owns her own business.
All of my prep is done from my home office but when I am on site during a production or casting, I am the first one in and the last one out…my husband understands that but is happy when the production is complete. I make sure not to fill my calendars in the days that follow that, so I can make more time for my family and home responsibilities as a wife and homemaker.  When I give myself the day off, I say “Today I am Mrs.”. It is a life that I enjoy and appreciate.

What is your favorite quote?
It’s from Margaret Thatcher “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's a day you've had everything to do and you've done it.”

Is it difficult to be unconventional? 
I have never thought of myself as conventional or unconventional. I grew up as a Latina in Brownsville Brooklyn. I never fit in, ANYWHERE. My mother was one of 11 children, they were each unique, yet similar, and acted as a very strong UNIT. As a result of that, I am able to adapt to any setting and feel comfortable and strong in my own skin. I have learned that I can trust my gut, and adapt without losing myself. I know my presence is strong.

Biggest mistake made?
Too many to mention. Personal and professional. One of the biggest was never finishing college. I didn’t know enough to believe in myself. Where I was raised graduating High School was a big deal and so my bar was set too low. I work hard to raise the bar for myself, my family and community now. There is no limit to what we can accomplish.

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
No. My colleagues treat me as if I am an innovator, but I feel that I am an example of a regular person working to meet their own potential. I hope that when people look at my accomplishments they see them as possible and probable and that they, too, can accomplish their dreams. One foot in front of another. Begin and never stop…no matter where you get, you are further along than where you started.

About the Company: 
Del Valle Productions Inc. is a full service, bilingual film production and casting company that offers services from concept to delivery. Our mission is to infuse entertainment with Female and/or Latino driven truths, insights and perspective, through original programming and its use of talent in front of and behind the camera.
We cast and or produce commercials, theater, print, voice over, web series, live events and film.


Twitter @brownsvillebred
Instagram @delvalleproductions
Facebook @Del Valle Productions and Casting

Female Founders Fund Eyes Second Fund to Boost N.Y. Startups

About two years ago, Anu Duggal launched her seed investment firm, Female Founders Fund, to tap into what looked like an emerging trend in New York: The maturing crop of startups in the city began spawning new companies, in a virtuous cycle reminiscent of Silicon Valley. Many of the new founders were women.

Female Founders Fund, or F Cubed, backed several of these entrepreneurs with its first $5.8 million fund.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

What Mobile Platform Entrepreneur Will Happily App Themselves to $100,000 As Winner of The Appsbar Small Business App Challenge?

BOCA RATON, Fla., Dec. 21, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- There's still time to register to win $100,000 in the Small Business App Challenge by visiting

Appsbar, the easy-to-use app building platform, has $100,000 waiting for the grand prize winner of its Small Business App Challenge.  But hurry as contest ends Dec. 31 2015.

Designed to inspire small business owners and operators to bring their products and services to mobile platforms, the contest was launched in May of 2015.

"Our mission is to empower small business and level the playing field for mobile app development," said CEO and Founder Scott Hirsch. "This opportunity to earn $100,000 reinforces our commitment to that cause." Appsbar, which has over 1.5 million users and still growing, is bent on making 2016 a banner year for small businesses in the mobile space."

Launched in 2011, Appsbar expanded  the mobile marketing category for small and medium-size businesses by allowing development and distribution of mobile apps for free using the dynamic app building template at

The service was a boon for users previously locked out of the mobile space because of budget constraints and lack of technical ability. Independent artists, local mom-and-pop stores, and parents looking to consolidate soccer schedules have benefitted from Appsbar's app building tool.

The Small Business App Challenge encourages owners and operators to enter the mobile space.  

Customizable apps are developed with Appsbar's free and easy-to-use app builder, allowing the user to upload photos and videos of products and services for a custom app shareable with anyone.  

Apps can be built using any mobile platform, including Android, iPhone, and Windows phones.

Appsbar's user-base has grown internationally and in 2015 surpassed 1.5 million subscribers making it one of the most popular app building platforms in the world. In 2013 Appsbar added mobile capabilities to its offerings, allowing users to create, edit, and publish apps directly from a smartphone or tablet, making it 

the only app building platform with mobile build out capabilities.The addition of a mobile version is another innovation by the Deerfield Beach, FL firm which has been 

awarded 14 patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for mobile application development systems, the most recent coming this month for a specialized app development platform.

For information on Appsbar's innovative, easy-to-use app building platform, visit

SOURCE Appsbar

Web Site:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ride-sharing apps are booming in Latin America — and competition is stiff

Uber has changed her life, says graphic designer Olga Lucia Rodriguez.

Since the ride-sharing application became available in Bogota, Colombia, two years ago, she and her three female employees no longer fear for their lives when taking a cab home after a late night at work in this crime-ridden and traffic-clogged Andean capital. Instead, they order up an Uber ride on their smart phones and breathe a bit easier.

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New Commerce Department Data Shows that Minority Entrepreneurship is Growing

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Commerce today released the final results of the U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 Survey of Business Owners (SBO), which found that business ownership in our nation is mirroring our increasingly diverse population.  Minority-owned firms in the U.S. rose from 5.8 million in 2007 to 8.0 million in 2012, and employed 7.2 million people in 2012. While the number of minority-owned businesses increased by 2.2 million, the number of non-minority- owned businesses declined by 1.1 million, from 20.1 million in 2007 to 18.9 million in 2012

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

The 11 Biggest Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make With Digital Marketing

The success of digital marketing depends on various factors. It requires understanding your marketing history, knowing what's being said about your brand, and meeting the needs of your consumers. With so many different factors coming into play to realize digital marketing success, entrepreneurs easily can make mistakes that may hinder early growth in a company.

Here are some of the biggest mistakes.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Small Business Saturday: Dining With La Guelaguetza: Supporting Our Local Businesses

The smell of cinnamon perfumed the air around us as a carafe of café de olla appeared on the table. Café de olla is a coffee that is traditionally prepared in earthen clay pots with cinnamon and piloncillo. The first sip was ecstasy. Eyes wide open. Soon after came the smell of handmade tortillas being prepared some twenty feet from where we sat. One thing was immediately clear: in the noisome, maddening city of Los Angeles, where dreams are big, these small things had summoned cool Mexican vistas in our minds.

American culture is fascinated with all things BIG. Big cars, big buildings, big ideas, big business, big data, and big macs; but when the noise settles into quietude, you find that it is often the small things that deliver the most consistent value. There is no better example of this than small business. Small businesses are the engine driving the American economy. 

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Hispanic Entrepreneurship Could Mean $1.4 Trillion Boost to U.S.

Laura Jimenez knew she was worth more than she was making, so she started her own business to prove it.

The Texas native opened Rockville, Maryland-based FireClean, an emergency cleaning and restoration service, in 1996 at the age of 27 after doing similar jobs for others. Jimenez took pride in the quality of her work and thought becoming her own boss would strengthen her family’s finances and allow more time with the children.

Employers “were not paying me what I was supposed to get paid,” Jimenez said. Even though the work is difficult and the hours long -- her current crew of six is on-call nights and weekends -- Jimenez says, “I love what I do.”

Read full article

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Guillermo Perales Named 2015 Entrepreneur Of The Year

Guillermo Perales is no stranger to franchising or winning awards. The eighth largest franchisee, and largest Hispanic franchisee, in the country has been recognized no less than four times by Latino Leaders Magazine's annual "101 List," which identifies the most influential Latinos in the U.S. He's received the Entrepreneur of the Year from Asociacion de Empresarios Mexicanos, and earned numerous other awards and accolades over the past two decades. Now he can add the IFA's 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year award to his list.

Perales, president and CEO of Sun Holdings, Inc., is a multi-unit franchisee who operates 280 Burger King Restaurants, 100 Popeye's, 68 Arby's restaurants, 36 Cici's Pizza, 24 Golden Corral restaurants, 15 Krispy Kreme, 89 T-Mobile locations, as well 10 restaurants in various airports, employing thousands and routinely giving back to his community.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

It’s not all tech: 5 industries with strongest entrepreneurial growth potential

Technology, healthcare, education services, creative industries and food/beverage are entrepreneurial industries that play to Miami’s strengths and appear to have the strongest growth potential in the local innovation economy, a new report by Endeavor Miami finds.

Endeavor Miami, a nonprofit organization that selects, supports and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs, produced a report in order to get a better reading on where Miami’s entrepreneurial economy may be headed.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Top Latino Entrepreneurs Recount Trials and Triumphs of Starting Up in the U.S.

Edwin Matos co-founded drug-safety consulting company BioPoint in 2011, but his dreams of becoming a successful business owner began long before that, when he was the young son of immigrants growing up in the Bronx.

Matos's father, who hails from a family of cattle ranchers in Cuba, fled the island nation in 1967. After making the treacherous journey to the U.S. on a raft, he met Matos's mother, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. The two started a chain of butcher shops in the Bronx.

Their efforts inspired their son, who worked in the family business throughout his youth, to pursue his own dreams of entrepreneurship.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Latino entrepreneurs have the drive, but are blocked from accessing the tools to succeed

“When you say the word 'Latino,' what’s the synonym that comes to mind?”

Sol Trujillo asks this question, then pauses for a second. A brightness creeps into his voice as he simply states, “My answer is ‘entrepreneur.’”

Trujillo, a highly successful Latino businessman who helped develop the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI), is a passionate advocate for Latino owned businesses, seeing them as an opportunity of economic growth.

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Mexican start-ups at end of the queue for venture capital backers

Martín Meléndez, a Mexican video games developer, has a proven record and a project that he estimates will break even a month after it is launched. He needs to raise $500,000. Yet virtually no Mexican investors will touch him.

“When I pitch to venture capital firms or private investors, they say ‘the business plan looks strong, the idea is fantastic, but video games . . . I don’t know’,” says the 25-year-old entrepreneur. “They say, ‘if you get another investor, we’ll think about it’. No one wants to be the first. That’s been happening for over a year now.”

Yet raising money in Mexico ought not to be that difficult. Luis Robles, head of the Mexican Banking Association (ABM), said this year that the country’s banks had enough capital to boost their credit portfolios by a third: “In other words, we have unused installed capacity equivalent to $100bn.”

Read full article

Hispanic Entrepreneurship Could Mean $1.4 Trillion Boost to U.S.

Laura Jimenez knew she was worth more than she was making, so she started her own business to prove it.

The Texas native opened Rockville, Maryland-based FireClean, an emergency cleaning and restoration service, in 1996 at the age of 27 after doing similar jobs for others. Jimenez took pride in the quality of her work and thought becoming her own boss would strengthen her family’s finances and allow more time with the children.

Employers “were not paying me what I was supposed to get paid,” Jimenez said. Even though the work is difficult and the hours long -- her current crew of six is on-call nights and weekends -- Jimenez says, “I love what I do.”

Read full article

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Emerging Lending Marketplace Focused on Underbanked Hispanic Businesses Raises $750,000 in Seed Capital

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Camino Financial is an online lending marketplace primarily focused on deploying capital to the largest and fastest growing underbanked business segment in the U.S., Hispanic-owned businesses.  With the emergence of many new online lenders and credit marketplaces, Camino Financial expects to carve a sizeable niche in online business lending.  Recently published research by Geoscape estimates that 4.1 million U.S. based businesses are owned by Hispanics.  Based on this research, Hispanic-owned businesses grew 15x faster in 2012-15E compared to all U.S. firms.  Despite their size and growth profile, Hispanic-owned businesses struggle to get access to bank loans with approximately 6% of SBA 7(a)1 loans deployed to Hispanics in the last year (source:

Camino Financial was co-founded by twin brothers, Sean and Kenny Salas, while completing their MBAs at Harvard Business School.  The Salas brothers were born from an entrepreneurial family.  The matriarch of the Salas family started a small Mexican restaurant and over the life of her career, opened over 30 locations in southern California.  Unfortunately, at the age of 12, Sean and Kenny saw the fall of the Mexican restaurant chain, a life changing event.  Drawing inspiration from their mother's story, the Salas brothers were determined to create a lending platform catered to solving unique problems facing the Hispanic business community.

"The Hispanic business owner has unique problems accessing capital, stemming from areas as deep as language, culture, and education," said Sean Salas, CEO.  "Lending to the Hispanic market is not as simple as translating your website to Spanish.  Our client is seeking an integrated customer experience that requires a tailored design across the business spectrum in brand, product, positioning, and customer service."

The Company is backed by institutional and angel investors including Collaborative Fund, all of whom offer deep expertise in online lending, commercial banking, and Hispanic marketing.  In particular, Collaborative Fund has significant domain expertise in the online lending space with investments in Bond Street, UpStart and InVenture.

With seed funding in place, Camino Financial will ramp-up its marketing efforts and build out its tech infrastructure for scalable growth.

"We are excited to grow our team and invest in infrastructure to seal partnerships that will enable us to build trust and help our community," said Kenny Salas, Co-Founder and VP of Operations & Finance.

Camino Financial also stands out as it joins the tiny minority (less than 1%) of venture-backed start-ups that are founded by Hispanics (source: CB Insights).

Sean states: "We have a dual sense of responsibility to Hispanics and other under-represented minorities aspiring to break the glass ceiling to access venture and bank capital.  We must validate that making a concentrated bet on Hispanic entrepreneurs and business owners is trend-setting bet that will generate above market returns.  Through Camino Financial, we plan to build momentum for re-investment in under-represented communities, including the Hispanic community.  And encourage these ventures be led by minority and women talent.  The potential is there, we just need to unlock it."

To learn more about Camino Financial visit

About Camino Financial
Camino Financial is a credit marketplace matching small businesses with the most affordable funding option offered by its network of reputable lenders.  The Company specializes in originating loans for first-time business borrowers who cannot get a loan from a bank, and provides ongoing credit monitoring and advice to ensure clients improve their business credit in an effort to qualify for a bank loan.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Latin America dating app Kickoff inks $1.6 mln

New York, NY – Kickoff, Latin America’s leading dating app, which connects friends of friends looking for a meaningful relationship, has received a $1.6 million investment from Monashees Capital, Brazil’s leading venture capital fund, and angel investors. Kickoff emphasizes quality connections over quantity by making introductions to people in each user’s social network. Kickoff is available on iOS and Android.

Kickoff was launched in São Paulo in December 2014 and has grown via word of mouth across Brazil and Argentina. “Our international team has built Kickoff into the leading dating app in Latin America, where Kickoff’s focus on making introductions to people in your social network is a great fit and differentiator. Friend and family connections are particularly important here. The Monashees investment provides us the resources to grow our team, expand to new cities and develop new features our users are asking for,” says co-founder and COO Alanna Phelan.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hector Dominguez >

Hector Dominguez, co-founder, The Digital Union

What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
You need to have controlled fear.  It would be easy for me to say that in order to be an entrepreneur you need courage, tenacity and to be fearless.  All those attributes are a given and often utilized to inspire people to do the same.  I believe, however, that it often times discourages people that might be on the brink of entering their own entrepreneurial experience.  While it is true that you need to have courage you also need to have the ability to control the fear of failure and use it to your advantage.  This doesn’t mean you should not take risks.  It just means that you can’t forget those that depend on you in order to drive you to over perform.  In my case, I started my first company well into my 30s after leaving a great job as an IBM executive.  I was driven by the fear of failing and having to face the people that assured me I made the wrong move to leave a great job to face the unknown.  This fear was not debilitating in any way but a way to get inspired to work a little harder, a little smarter every day.  Entrepreneurs should recognize that this road is not easy and fear is a great asset when you managed to use it to your advantage.

What inspired you to start your business?
I was inspired to start Digital Union in 2011, after I agreed to sponsor an event for DiscoverHope, a nonprofit providing microcredit loans and education to women in the northern Andes of Peru. I was immediately drawn to the DiscoverHope mission, but when I learned that all of their Board of Director’s were non-Hispanic white, I felt guilty and angry at myself for being so disconnected from the needs of others, especially Latinos in poverty, who were being helped through DiscoverHope. The anger inside me helped me to quickly get involved in the organization, where I came to know the Founder, Maggie Miller, who soon became my Digital Union partner.

Maggie and I wanted to combine our worlds. With her experience building and fundraising for nonprofit organizations for nearly 20 years, combined my experience as a tech entrepreneur and executive management background, we thought we could use our skillsets to inspire business leaders and create social impact. We wanted to help companies be an active part of solving issues. We soon formed Digital Union, and have never looked back.

How did you finance it?
Digital Union was started using our own funds.  It is hard to raise money when your product is based on new, unproven methodology.  For the first two years, we actually performed our services pro-bono for a myriad of industries in order to prove our methodology.  This investment proved to be key to our success as we now work around the world with companies that want to create meaningful social issues using their core skills and strength.

Does being Hispanic/Latino have any influence on your business?
Our culture puts a lot of value in human interaction. We like to get close to people in any situation.  When you use this skill in business it really makes a difference.  Most of my business discussions are at least 50% about personal matters.  I like to get to know the people and care about them at a personal level way before we talk business.  When done genuinely, business flows a lot smoother.

Our culture is known for being passionate, caring and hard working.  It is in our social DNA and in our business it is a definite asset. With the current political situation, it is important to show what we can do to advance ourselves, our communities and our country.  We are all Americans and want the rest of the country to know we are contributing in major ways to the advancement of our economy and society.

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to drive ahead?
You can’t forget or lose focus of why you started your own business in the first place.  I still have not met a single entrepreneur that is not passionate about their company.  In my experience, surrounding myself with successful entrepreneurs helped me realize I was not alone in this journey.  Successful entrepreneurs have failed and recovered and their experiences have taught me that there is always a way to move ahead.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
What Digital Union does is so new that the hardest challenge was convincing company owners and executives that they could alleviate social issues while their business reaps benefits from it.  Once we were able to prove that many business issues could actually be solved by building social impact strategies, our business started to grow. 

If you could change one thing about your business. What would it be?
Honestly, I only wish I could have started this business earlier.  We found the formula to help the world and businesses while making money.  However, everything happens for a reason and the experience that I gained from over 15 years of working in the tech industry and from building and growing my first company ( gave me the tools that I utilize every day to grow this business.

What was your childhood ambition?
I wish I had a magical answer for this question.  Honestly, I was never great at one thing.  But I do thank my parents for pushing me to try new things.  I had the fortune of being exposed to many sports, musical instruments, other languages, etc.  All these experiences helped forge the person I am today.

Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire.
Steve Jobs for his innovative vision.  Elon Musk for his disruptive thinking. Benjamin Franklin for being a jack of all trades and never giving up.

For business meetings, which do you prefer: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
Happy Hour.  I love connecting at a personal level before we talk about business.  I enjoy people when they are open about who they are and their motivations.

What sacrifices in your personal life did you have to make in order to become successful in your business?
While building my first company I went through a divorce.  The time, effort and focus on the business made me lose focus on other parts of my life.

What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is by a Mexican historical figure named Benito Juarez: “El respeto al derecho ajeno, es la paz”.  Which means that peace happens when people respect other people’s rights.

Is it difficult to be unconventional?
Absolutely.  It is very hard to swim against the current, especially when others don’t believe you are going to be successful.  I always advice young entrepreneurs to have a good balance in their close circle of friends and family.  You should always have a mix of positive people, negative people and everything in between. 

Biggest mistake made?
My first job during college was working at Dell in Austin doing tech support.  I got stock options and awards.  I had no clue what that meant.  I ended up selling stock in the early 90s that would be over $60M now.

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why? 
I do now.  However, I did not use any innovation when I built my first company, Verdtek, Inc. Verdtek is a technology consulting services company.  We were merely trying to offer high-end technology services at lower prices which is nothing unique.  With Digital Union, we definitely innovated by building the methodology to walk companies through building their own social impact strategies.  When they follow our methodology they will create programs that impact the world while their companies reap the benefits of having elevated brands, elevated image, increased employee attraction/retention and higher revenues.

About Digital Union
The Digital Union helps companies merge purpose and profit. As a social impact consulting firm, the company guides businesses through creating and implementing social impact strategies that align with business objectives.
During the past decade, corporate philanthropy became commonplace, but today it is evolving from simple giving into strategic programs that inspire and unite stakeholders, while generating competitive advantages.
Digital Union’s five-step approach modernizes traditional CSR program by using client’s core capabilities to generate impact programs that create financial and social profits. Throughout the process of working with Digital Union, clients are offered clear goals and guided steps to ensure impact programs support core business objectives, including employee engagement and retention, investor relations, and community relations.
To date, the company has helped more than 75 for-profit companies develop impact ideas that integrate stakeholder systems and are authentic and transparent. Digital Union was founded in 2012 and is based in Austin, TX.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why Facebook's Latest Shot at Diversity Misses Its Mark

In 2007 one of my first companies, Black Web 2.0, was a site that covered news related to African-Americans in the tech industry. Back in those days it, was hard to cover news - so honestly, it was really up to us to create it. Finding subjects to interview and feature were far and few between, and no easy task. That's what excites me most about all the initiatives with a mission to diversify the industry: Back in the day, these things just flat-out didn't exist, and there was no pressure from any direction to change it.

So we should be excited, right? People are finally taking notice and we have a ton programs and commitments from large corporations. Wrong. I recently read an article about Facebook's new diversity initiative, TechPrep. I went to the site. It's beautiful and has some good info on it. I noticed in the footer they describe the program as "...a Facebook-led initiative, supported by McKinsey & Company, to promote computer science and programming as a career option and to provide resources to get started." 

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Number of Hispanic owned businesses doubles

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -The Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce released its fifth annual edition of the DATOS Tucson report on Oct. 6. According to a release, the report provides an overview of the state of the Hispanic market in southern Arizona, as well as statewide and nationally.

"Tucson and southern Arizona are vital to Arizona's overall economic prosperity, especially as it relates to our fast-growing partnership with Mexico," said Gonzalo A. de la Melena, Jr., President and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "We're proud to deliver the message that Arizona's future is inextricably linked to the economic health of its exploding Hispanic population."

The release states the number of Hispanic-owned business have doubled statewide 2007, while the number of Latina-owned businesses has tripled.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Now Open: 2016 Echoing Green Fellowship Application

The 2016 Echoing Green Fellowship application is now open! Echoing Green is accepting applications for our 2016 class of Fellows until November 17, 2015 at 2:00 pm ET. We’re looking for emerging leaders, driven by a strong sense of purpose, who are ready to challenge the status-quo as they tackle issues facing their communities across the globe.
We’ve pulled together some sample language you can use to share this opportunity among your network:
  • Could you use up to $90,000 to launch your innovative idea, and change the world? @Echoing Green[]’s Fellowship Programs invest in next generation leaders working to solve the world’s biggest problems with up to $90,000 and individualized support to launch your enterprise. Apply by Nov. 17:
Helpful Links

Saturday, October 3, 2015

MBA Entrepreneurs From Top B-Schools Raise $62bn In Venture Capital

Start-up companies founded by graduates of 25 top business schools have raised $62.8 billion in venture capital funding, according to a BusinessBecause analysis of data from PitchBook, a VC and private equity research firm.

PitchBook compiled a ranking of the top global universities and business schools for VC funding.

Top of the MBA list is Harvard Business School, whose 557 entrepreneurs have raised $6.7 billion for nearly 500 start-up companies. One Harvard venture, Oscar Health Insurance, a US health insurance company that utilizes technology and data, raised $327 million, valuing the start-up at $1.5 billion

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Hispanic Business Growth Outstrips Rest of U.S.

The growth in Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. is outstripping that of companies in general, according to a study released Monday.

Between 2012 and 2015, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses has grown at an annual rate of 7.5 percent, 15 times faster than the 0.5 percent growth rate for all companies, according to the study by the consulting firm Geoscape and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

There are an estimated 4.07 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the country, up 57 percent since 2007, the study said.

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