Hispanicize 2014: Interesante Wins the First "Latino Startup of the Year" Grand Prize
The winner of the first annual Latino Startup of the Year was announced on Wednesday. Interesante, a website and mobile app that helps Latinos "discover and share the most interesting things in the world" beat three other finalists and took home the grand prize.
Antonio Altamirano, co-founder of Interesante, along with Rebecca Altamirano, pitched his Latino-focused social ecommerce service on Wednesday, along with three other finalists: Crowdismo, a crowdfunding platform for Latinos, New Force Media, a social media marketing startup, and Oye!, a social media data analysis company.
Altamirano described his startup at the competition finals starting from the very basics, and getting into detail about Interesante's strengths and next steps. "Basically, Interesante translates to interesting.com," said Altamirano to a panel of judges at the final pitch competition and Q&A at Hispanicize 2014, "What we do is help people discover and share the most interesting things in the world."
Interesante seeks to provide Spanish-speaking users with content tailored for their interests, while providing small and medium-sized Latino and Latin American businesses with an ecommerce outlet. "The problem is that content and product discovery is fragmented. That means, for Latinas in particular, we have a lot of sources for content. You go online and there's content everywhere, from blogs to large corporations to publications abroad," said Altamirano. "So that is the problem we're trying to solve. I want to provide the users with a personalized experience based on their interests -- not based on what the purpose of that particular company might be."
In practice, it looks a lot like Pinterest, but has partnered with specifically Latino and Latin American businesses to give them more exposure. And as Altamirano told Forbes in Interesante's early beta years, "there's a big market in the U.S. for culturally authentic products."
At the competition finals, Altamirano told the judges that he views Pinterest as more of a "companion" than a "competitor," because, as he put it, "we fit nicely in the middle," between social media and Latin American ecommerce. "We integrate with the major social platforms, so if you have a Facebook account, if you have a Twitter account, we can collect all the interests based on that." As Altamirano says, "Basically, the process is that we take all this content into our engine of interests, and we serve a set of content that is personalized and relevant to you."
Interesante got its start six years ago in concept, when the core team began working together, according to Altamirano, but it was only officially launched in December of 2012. Since then, Interesante has built up half a million in seed money, and it's seen 20 times traffic growth -- now with "thousands of interests posted per day," he said. "We've reached 500,000 users per month." Part of Interesante's success comes from content partnerships with hotels, where Interesante provides content to people connecting on a hotel's WiFi network, described by one of the judges as an innovative method of "growth hacking."
Now, with the help of investors, Altamirano wants to hire another developer and designer, and reach out to partner with airports, coffee shops, tourist destinations, resorts, and even political campaigns in Mexico for more content partnerships and more growth.
When asked about his feelings after having been named the winner of the first ever Latino Startup of the Year competition, Altamirano told our reporter at Hispanizie 2014, Keerthi Chandrashekar, "It feels fantastic!" Altamirano continued, "I think that this is really a validation on how big the Latino market is, here in the U.S. ... it's just fantastic!"
The Latino Startup of the Year competition is the result of a partnership between the Latino Startup Alliance and Hispanicize Wire, a leading Hispanic press release, marketing, and news wire company that joined with LSA to take the organization national this year. The competition was also supported by Strayer University, which provided Altamirano with a Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro tablet and Galaxy Gear watch, as part of the grand prize.
As another part of Interesante's grand prize, the startup will receive media coverage and multimedia press distributions from Hispanicize Wire worth a total of $2,500, as well as an introduction to possible investors.