Jan 16, 2024 - World

How accelerators help launch Latino innovators

Illustration of a person stepping up stairs made of stacks of cash.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Accelerator programs — in the business world and increasingly the activism space — are helping Latinos thrive in their fields

The big picture: A lack of access to funding along with underrepresentation have made it difficult for Latinos to rise in these spaces.

Details: The Valiente Fund, housed within Way to Rise, a nonprofit group that funds community organizations, today announced its inaugural class of participants in a program to help grassroots groups that are led by and serve Latinos.

  • The program was created in part because research shows that most organizations run by Latinos receive a tiny percentage of philanthropic funding.
  • "It was clear that we needed to build their capacity so that they could have broader reach in a quicker way and position themselves to be recipients of philanthropic and investment dollars," says Maria Alegria Rodriguez, Valiente Fund's executive director.
  • Among the participants of the year-long program are Act 4 SA, a San Antonio, Texas-based organization that advocates against over-policing and criminalization, and Somos Siembra, a group that works all over North Carolina advocating for Latinos and undocumented immigrants.

Zoom out: In business and tech, accelerators have long been seen as a means to access important resources — resources that many Latinos don't have.

  • Paola Santana, founder and CEO of Glass, an e-commerce startup that facilitates government purchases, tells Axios Latino her participation in the EY's Entrepreneurs Access Network accelerator last year "was the opportunity to access a very sophisticated group of executives that have a very good handle on public sector."
  • "I think that the most important thing we've gained from the program that is different than any other program is the whole coaching and connection," Santana adds.

Colombia native Monica Hernandez, founder and CEO of MAS Global Consulting, has participated in several accelerators, including the EY one. Their effectiveness varies, she says, because some are short and educational and others are longer and help build important connections in the industry.

  • Hernandez says the coaching and connections that the EY program provided when she participated in 2022 were critical to growing her business and going after the big contracts that she'd previously been told she couldn't get.
  • For example, Hernandez was invited to participate in a highly coveted conference in Monaco for entrepreneurs. EY assigned an executive to guide her, and she was able to make important connections for her business, which provides software development and data solutions for companies.
  • "It's a great commitment, great action, but most importantly, great results."

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