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Startup advisor and serial entrepreneur Lucrece Borrego is back with a new venture.
This time one aimed at tech startups and their founders. Recognizing the need for capital and knowledge-widening resources, the Latina powerhouse has taken on the role as executive director at EmprendeLatino, the first-ever VC-backed tech accelerator for Latinx founders.
Borrego says the capital gap for this underserved group hinders their untapped potential. Latinx-led scalable ventures exist yet they need tangible support. So startups who successfully complete the 3-month accelerator program will receive $100K (much like Techstars, 500 Startups or Y Combinator) in seed investment from Perpetua Partners.
EmprendeLatino is a subsidiary of Perpetua Partners, a VC firm investing exclusively in early-stage Latinx-led technology startups in the U.S. and Latin America.
In fact, this is the first time an entire tech accelerator curriculum has been specifically created for Latinx entrepreneurs by Latinx entrepreneurs. The goal is to rapidly iterate and validate these startups to emerge as a strong, scalable, funded companies.
“Years of ideation, iteration, and collaboration have gone into building our program,” said Steve Lucero, co-founder and general partner at Perpetua Partners. “We were very specific to create a curriculum that took into account those cultural and other idiosyncrasies that Latinos have.”
“This is the first time that a venture capital firm investing exclusively in Latinx-led startups is backing an accelerator that invests $100K in the graduating companies.”
Lucero says they plan to launch up to six accelerators across the States over the coming years. Borrego will spearhead the inaugural accelerator that kicks off in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she will oversee two cohorts every year. Perpetua Partners will hire new teams to support the ecosystems in the earmarked accelerator locations, which include Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Miami, and Boston.
Currently, only 1 percent of Latinx tech founders receive venture capital and access to capital is a major factor impacting their profitability, according to a Stanford research report published earlier this year. EmprendeLatino hopes to give companies a leg up with their initial investment, increasing the potential for future financing and scalable power.
The inaugural EmprendeLatino targets all areas of growth for early-stage startups. The incubator will also connect 10 selected startup teams to a robust network powered by Perpetua Partners. This extends to the domain experts and experienced founders who serve as mentors and instructors. The accelerator is industry-agnostic. However, at least two co-founders must commit full-time to Albuquerque for the duration of the program, which starts September 3rd and ends November 23rd.
In an interview with UrbanGeekz, Borrego shared more about the need for EmprendeLatino, explained why they launched in Albuquerque and touched on the overall vision of the team, partners, and stakeholders.
Why do we need an accelerator focused on Latinx founders?
Historically less than 1% of venture capital funding has gone to Latinx founders. This is the first time that a venture capital firm investing exclusively in Latinx-led startups is backing an accelerator that invests $100K in the graduating companies.
We strongly believe that the next generation of tech entrepreneurs will be led by Latinx founders and driven by Latinx consumers. Hispanics have already been deemed the most entrepreneurial minority group and their businesses are growing 3x faster than their peers.
Amazing opportunities in Hispanic markets exist but they are untapped because the current paradigm amongst startups and the funds that back them do not relate to these markets and thus do not see the problems and potential solutions. Yet many of the most successful startups come from founders who were inspired by problems faced by themselves or close friends. For example, one of our applicant companies is creating a platform for undocumented individuals to access healthcare. If no one you know is undocumented, you would never think to address this issue, but it has incredible potential.
What type of founders/startups are you looking for?
We seek Latinx founders who want to change the world!
The program is open to tech startups from anywhere in any industry as long as the venture leverages technology. We are targeting the southwest and Mexico for this cohort as we will be opening up to five more accelerators in other regions over the next few years.
Minimum requirements to apply are a Latinx-led team of at least two co-founders ready to commit full-time in Albuquerque for 3 months. The rigorous nature of the program requires a full-time commitment.
The founders must have a concept that leverages technology to disrupt or create new markets in any industry. The plan is to have a prototype or MVP by week 2 of the 12-week program. Another important factor is the startup needs to have the potential to across the US and ideally, globally.
“Amazing opportunities in Hispanic markets exist but they are untapped because the current paradigm amongst startups and the funds that back them do not relate to these markets and thus do not see the problems and potential solutions.”
Why focus on early-stage startups?
There exists a prominent gap in the current landscape between incubation programs for new ideas and venture funds focused on underserved groups. Yet these two elements cannot function properly if the companies launched through these incubators do not have the knowledge, networks, and bridge funding to qualify for VC investment. As a result, venture funds assume that there is simply a pipeline problem where there are not enough Latinx founders to focus their investment efforts on this market. We plan to prove that this prominent assumption is wrong: Latinx are developing technology, they are founding startups and they are actively trying to raise capital but existing programs do not prepare them for venture investment and using it to scale. As a VC-backed accelerator, we are effectively building a pipeline and we plan to continue to invest in our graduating startups.
What will the founders achieve by the time they complete the accelerator program?
Every graduating company will be 100% ready to receive the $100K investment from Perpetua Partners and use it to scale. This includes developing the MVP, finding product-market fit, creating a go-to-market strategy, company building, strategy and fundraising in addition to workshops in startup fundaments such as financial modeling and data analytics and personal leadership skills.
We have a uniquely structured curriculum that guides participating founders through all of the steps it takes to get there. Years of ideation, research and collaboration have gone into building a comprehensive curriculum that effectively prepares new ventures to scale and receive venture capital funding. While the program is exceptionally rigorous, staff, instructors, and mentors will conduct regular reviews, host open office hours and help set milestones throughout the program.
Why kick off in Albuquerque, New Mexico… instead of somewhere like NYC or Silicon Valley?
Albuquerque is a perfect fit for a Latinx-focused program. As the “minority-majority” state, local culture is already built around diversity and inclusion. Our region is historically tied to Mexico and a significant portion of our population also speaks Spanish making the region a perfect gateway for Latin American startups looking to enter the US market.
Silicon Valley and other major cities are already entrenched with a venture capital culture that has historically excluded people of color. We seek to change the face of venture capital, and that will require breaking away from the environments where that culture is so deeply rooted.
We also have some amazing partners and unique resources here such as programs that help take technology from out of the national laboratories to startups – the wealth of deep technology knowledge in New Mexico is surprisingly impressive and comparable to many major cities.
The City of Albuquerque and our anchor partner, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, are also incredibly supportive. In a small city with strong community partners, we will be able to build not just a program but an entire ecosystem that can serve as a model for future accelerators.
We also considered the cost of living. Part of what makes the major startup hubs exclusionary to new cultural groups is the skyrocketing cost of living in any of these cities. Many founders from underserved backgrounds simply cannot afford to live there much less launch a new company.
What’s the overall vision for EmprendeLatino?
We seek to disrupt venture capital by opening it up to a whole new world of Latinx founders. And to do so in a manner that is financially viable, sustainable and scalable.