San Francisco wants more Latin American startups

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This article was written and published in Spanish and has been translated into English via Google Translate. Click here to read the original article.

Two out of ten Latino businesses in the United States operate in the state of California, according to Stanford University. But there are still regions, such as San Francisco Bay, that are little explored by the Latin American community, says Jolynn Vallejo, Director of LatinSF, an initiative focused on bringing Latin American companies to the region to maintain cultural diversity and reverse the exit of talent.

“Companies like Google, Airbnb and other technology have brought personnel from other countries that are not Latino and, in the end, Latinos have gone to other cities, such as Texas, Kentucky or New Jersey,” Vallejo explains.

Since its creation in 2014, LatinSF has helped 14 Latin American companies, five of them from Mexico – BuildBinder, Cala, Maniak, Machina, and Tresalia – to open offices in San Francisco, which means being closer to investors, talent, and innovation.

“We have brought 6.5 million dollars of Latin American investment and 193 jobs have been created to date,” says the directive.

It’s an advance, the specialist acknowledges, but the goal is more ambitious: it wants to show that San Francisco is more than restaurants and cleaning companies, which are the most common Latino businesses in that city. The initiative is aimed at attracting companies that develop technology, fashion design firms, fintech startups and large manufacturers.

“We are a global city for China and all of Asia. In contrast, for Latin companies, we are the third or fourth in importance,” says Jolynn Vallejo. “We want to be number one and, from that, connect the ecosystems.”

A soft landing

Since February 2018, when he took the direction of LatinSF, Vallejo has toured several countries in Latin America inviting startups to settle in Silicon Valley.

“The mayor pays my salary,” he says. “We make trips and events through sponsorships and we have a pretty big networking.”

When the entrepreneurs decide to go to San Francisco, the agency helps them for free to open offices in accelerators or coworkings. In addition, through the alliances that it has established, it provides support to get lawyers, accountants and other services necessary for the operation.

“A desk in a coworking center costs $650 to $1,600 in Silicon Valley, but we have agreements for $300,” says Jolynn Vallejo. The initiative is in talks with the owners of collaborative workspaces to obtain a price similar to that which entrepreneurs pay in their countries of origin, so that this is not a factor that inhibits them from operating in San Francisco.

“We are also looking for agreements with large companies to offer them housing,” she reveals. Although she does not mention the companies she is negotiating with, the director of the initiative says they are working to create a ‘casahub’ for Latin American start-ups to live there.

The support service to enter the foreign market also includes contact with investors willing to invest up to one million dollars in a venture. In 2017, the United States captured about 83 million dollars of investment in venture capital, according to data from the Pitchbook firm.

“And throughout the Latin American region we did not even reach 2% of that total,” says Vallejo.

The networking is another important support, recognizes Miguel Ángel Velarde, founder of the Jalisco startup Thincrs. In April, his technology talent training and recruitment company was admitted to the Balero acceleration program and GSVLabs in Silicon Valley, where he came into contact with LatinSF.

“Networking in Silicon Valley is very complicated because it is not such an open community, so this kind of support is very helpful,” says the entrepreneur, whose company founded in 2016 has trained more than 400 young people with programming courses. He has inserted them into companies such as Intel, Oracle and IBM.

Jolynn Vallejo says that she works so that the value offered by LatinSF is greater. With representatives from seven countries in Latin America, including Mexico and Brazil, they will create a common front that connects local startups with other markets through the support of their sister agencies ChinaSF and SFAsia.

“By joining we can also sell ourselves as a single region to investors,” she says.

This article was written and published in Spanish and has been translated into English via Google Translate. Click here to read the original article.

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Simon Baker is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Online Marketplaces and Property Portal Watch. Involved with property portals for 15 years, he’s a well-recognized expert and industry consultant.
As former CEO/MD of the REA Group for 8 years, Simon led the group to its current market-leading position. When he joined REA Group in 2001, it had $4m in revenues, $6m in losses and an $8m market cap.
By 2008, the company presided over $155m in revenues, $35m in EBITDA and enjoyed a peak market cap of $1b. Simon is currently Chairman of the Mitula Group and Real Estate Investar and a serial portal founder and, investor.