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Google announces investment fund to promote better equity for Latino-led startups

Posted at 1:46 PM, Jul 26, 2022

In recent years, more companies have been taking action in hopes of fostering more diversity, equity and inclusion.

Google recently decided to give $5 million to small businesses across the country.

David Lopez, who was the first in his family to graduate from college, was one of the first recipients of the money.

"When I got to college, I quickly realized three things," Lopez said. "One, there's not a lot of people that look like me. Two, those that did, oftentimes, we're going into debt to pursue these degrees. And three, college isn't for everybody, and that's OK. I was really thinking back to my community growing up in government-subsidized housing, there wasn't too many of us that were able to go to a big four-year school."

While in college, Lopez started Gritly, an online sales BootCamp. It was built to help underrepresented communities break into sales in high-demand industries. Gritly doesn't charge upfront costs or require prior experience.

"Rather than me going out and getting a job that I wanted, I wanted to turn back around and break down the barriers that my community faced when it came into breaking into industries like tech," Lopez said.

Even with his entrepreneurial spirit, as a Latino, Lopez is part of a population that historically has seen limited investment.

Danny Navarro, who is with Google for Startups, says the gap is due to a lack of generational wealth and access to investor connections.

"The numbers are staggering when you look at the venture capital dollars that are provided to Latino entrepreneurs in the United States. Despite making up 20% of the population in the U.S., only 2% of all venture capital dollars goes to Latino-led startups," Lopez said.

That's why the Latino Founders Fund was created.

"The Founders Fund is an allocation of $5 million of non-dilutive cash awards that we have provided to 50 Latino startup founders," Navarro said.

The recipients span the U.S. While Google for Startups has deployed similar funds for Ukrainian refugees and Black entrepreneurs, this is the company's first time using this model for Latino entrepreneurs.

"100K in cash, $100,000 in Google Cloud credit cards, a bunch of hands-on help from Google employees, access to free mental health and professional coaching at no cost," Navarro said.

The cash awards help fuel their businesses, but it's the support services that Adriana Eiriz with Accion Opportunity Fund says will ultimately lead to better equity compared to those with privileged backgrounds.

"How do they look at cash flow?" Eiriz said. "How do they create a business plan? We believe firmly that coaching and educating and providing business tools and capital is what will make them successful."

Similar to Google Startup's Latino Founders Fund, Accion Opportunity Fund puts more emphasis on character than traditional lenders. Navarro says Google for Startups chose startup businesses making an impact.

"Noelle Acosta comes to mind," Navarro said. "She's running this incredible company called Noula Health, which is helping women better understand their reproductive health and sort of take control of that."

He says he has a personal tie to Lopez' business.

"Because I started my career in tech sales," Navarro said. "I didn't have a fancy degree. I didn't go to a name-brand university by any means. And having that first entry-level tech sales role many years ago got me into the door in the tech industry."

Lopez says it's refreshing to see action being taken to foster more diversity, equity and inclusion across the country.