Latino Entrepreneurs: Inside Voto Latino's VL Innovators Challenge, A Competition for Millennial Latinos to Improve Lives Through Technology
As we previously reported, Voto Latino, a non-partisan Latino organization that encourages civic engagement and voting among millennial Latinos, recently turned 10 years old. As part of the celebration, Voto Latino introduced the VL Innovators Challenge, which officially opened a few days ago. Here are the details.
What Is the VL Innovators Challenge?
The VL Innovators Challenge is a competition for Millennials (aged 18-34) to find solutions to problems facing Latinos, their families, and/or the general Latino community through technological innovation.
It's basically a startup competition for Latinos, not unlike the Latino Startup Alliance's recent competition, but with a civic and socially-conscious spin.
People can apply with any new technology or digital tool that addresses an issue in the Latino community. Applicants are welcome to approach any number of other Latino issues, but Voto Latino suggests some of the following challenges:
"Issues that might be addressed include everything from gang activity and gun control, to quality and affordable education, to access to extracurricular activities and afterschool programs, to helping undocumented immigrant students, to access to affordable and quality healthcare, to expanding voting access to Latinos and anything in between."
As Voto Latino urges, "anything impacting your Latino community is fair game."
As far as the technology innovation you bring, the VL Innovators Challenge is pretty open to that as well: It can include mobile apps, computer software, a website, online games, a social network, community internet kiosks, mobile devices, a plan for open internet hotspots, and much more.
How Do I Apply?
First, you've got to be between 18 and 34 and interested in addressing a real problem for the Latino community.
After that, you start by sending in a 250-word statement telling VL what you've chosen as your issue, why it's important, what tech you're going to use to address that issue, how you'll develop that tech, and who you're developing it with. They want a 2-minute YouTube video submission too, and give guidelines on how to go about making it. (They'll display the video on their VL Innovators Challenge website for public voting later on.)
You've got from last Friday, April 11, when they officially opened the challenge to the public, to Sept. 10, 2014 to get your submission in. Voto Latino has a step-by-step guide for applicants, who can start their application on this page.
What's The Prize for This Challenge?
Let's just say the grant awarded for successful applicants who make it through the whole process can be pretty hefty. In fact, when you're applying, you'll have to choose between three levels of financial support you think your tech innovation would require (be realistic!):
Level 1: $10,000-25,000
Level 2: $50,000-75,000
Level 3: $75,000-100,000
And they've got a guide for what to include in your prospective budget as well.
The Multi-Step Selection Process
To be sure, it won't be a cakewalk to get to the end of the challenge. Starting on Sept. 12, right after the submission deadline, and going until Sept. 19, there will be public voting on the favorite 2-minute YouTube pitch (so make sure it's good!).
You'll have a chance to answer questions in the comments section, which judges will check out along with your video as part of the application review process. Public feedback, mixed with ratings from 50 community leaders and activists that will make up the judges panel, along with VL staff input will ultimately decide the 50 semi-finalists by early October.
If you make it that far, you've got until Oct. 22 to flesh out your proposal and get into the specifics about your budget, timeline, and other details. The judges panel and VL will then narrow the pool down to 15 to 20 finalists by the end of October.
Those that are going for the top category of funding (Level 3), will get to pitch their ideas in at the Voto Latino 10-year Anniversary Gala in L.A. on Saturday, Nov. 15, where they'll learn who won (after much nail-biting, for sure). Level 1 and Level 2 winners will be notified, but they don't need to pitch their idea at the gala.
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