As a child, Edwardo Martinez raided his mother's kitchen cabinets in search of just the right Tupperware® bowl. "I would flip it over, cut a hole in it, install some basic electronic components and turn it into a working robot," he recalls.
Today, after participating in the global Startup Open contest earlier this year and competing against hundreds of applicants from over 60 countries, the startup Edwardo created with his brother Jesse, Giggo, was named to the elite list of the 50 most promising startups from around the world. Giggo is a "social commerce company that enables brands and businesses to reach customers via games," per the company's description. Students of Lean User Design principles taught by Lean UX (LUXr), Edwardo and Jesse launched their first beta site back in June - Gigofertas. The companies named to the GEW 50 (Global Entrepreneurship Week 50) were "judged on concept, growth projections and knowledge of their industry" according to the Kauffman Foundation press release.
This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week. As the national debate rages about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley and the technology industry in general, entrepreneurs from within the Latino community like Jesse, Edwardo, their co-founder Fernando Rivera, and others will be stepping into the mainstream limelight. They want to ensure that young Latinos (and mainstream America) see role models with engineering degrees succeeding in places like Silicon Valley. Edwardo and his brother Jesse Martinez hold degrees in electrical engineering (from Stanford) and mechanical engineering (from Texas A&M), respectively. They're among the growing number of Latinos and Latinas choosing the path of innovation in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
Last week, Edwardo, Jesse and I participated as speakers at San Francisco's Mission High School for their fall Career Day. We share a passion for mentoring. We are right now actively exploring the concept of setting up the first Latino tech incubator in the San Francisco Bay Area. The brothers are also brainstorming with Mission High School staff about teaching Entrepreneurship to their students.
"We've been reading lately that minority tech talent is difficult or impossible to find," said Jesse. "We want to make it very easy for anyone really looking to find it."
We envision a place where we'll bring together creative, innovative, engineering minds from the Latino community for collaboration on new tech projects; we'll connect with like-minded entrepreneurs from outside the Latino community. We'll strengthen and widen the existing talent pipeline that many perceive to be more like a straw and very importantly, we'll provide a place that will plant the seeds of technology into Latino youth who may or may not be getting that kind of encouragement today in their home and school environments. We foresee this tech incubator providing youth a place to meet regularly with mentors that look like them teaching the LUXr principles and The Lean Startup methodology. In doing so, the tech path will seem real and achievable at all times to other seemingly unlikely tech entrepreneurs.
Merging our networks to get this done makes sense; we've all been working in Silicon Valley and the surrounding Bay Area for over a decade: the Martinez brothers in engineering, operations, sales and business development roles; me in global tech marketing roles for a European software company before writing an entire book showcasing Latino entrepreneurs and innovators.
And in case you're wondering, no, the Martinez brothers are not the only two Latino engineers creating startups. If you're a heavy social media user, chances are you've heard of Klout. Have you looked up Klout's CEO and founder? In June, I attended the LATISM (Latinos in Social Media) Latino2 conference at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. There I witnessed a panel of six techie Latinas (with an 'a'); some discussed their startups and how they had successfully funded their ventures; others shared details of their product management roles at tech companies.
Two weeks ago I was in San Antonio for the HACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities) national conference and in the lobby met five Latinas all majoring in computer science and electrical engineering, at the same university. All five are on track to graduate this May. The times it seems, are changing, and there are many, many of us hard at work to accelerate this trend.
For media organizations, bloggers and others wondering where the Latino entrepreneurs, engineers and innovators are, Jesse, Edwardo and many others like them are quite eager to not remain invisible. Call on us - we'll hook you up.
Want to help shine the light on more innovators like Jesse and Edwardo Martinez. Are you a Latino entrepreneur pondering the startup path? Have you already launched a company? Perhaps you know a Latino student who's technically focused and is searching for role models? Please share your insights, thoughts, names, ideas -let's make sure Latino entrepreneurs become highly visible to mainstream America during Global Entrepreneurship Week and going forward.