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Manos Accelerator’s David Lopez Talks Lack of VC Funding for Latino Startups, New Addition to Manos

First Posted: May 11, 2015 04:57 PM EDT
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Jennifer Lopez might have garnered the most attention from an audience not used to hearing business pitches from global pop superstars last week at the Venture Capital Association's VentureScape conference. But it's her father David, co-founder of the Latino startup-focused Manos Accelerator, who most challenged the assumptions of those investors in budding businesses.

Lopez, through his Manos Accelerator and his presentation at the VC conference, is trying to boost Latino entrepreneurship in technology, an industry where a wide diversity of creative voices has yet to flourish.

Manos provides three-month programs to help promising Latino and Latin American startups get the training, resources and mentorship they need to take their technology businesses to the next level.

Over 20 businesses have gone through the program so far; including FashionTEQ founder Judy Tomlinson, whose unique take on smart, subtle women's jewelry could take half of the growing wearable technology market by storm. Get more details about her quite-possibly revolutionary startup in our profile of Tomlinson as part of Latin Post's Marketplace series.

But besides guidance, exposure and the resources startup accelerators like Manos provide, the biggest missing piece of the puzzle for Latino entrepreneurs remains funding.

And fostering startups' growth through funding is what venture capital does, or at least what it's supposed to do. According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, fewer than 1 percent of Latino-founded venture-backed startups grow beyond their initial stages, and that's just the few Latino startups that can find VC backing.

Getting the attention of VCs is a common problem for Latino startups, and especially for Latin American transplants.

Latin Post spoke to several Latino and Latin American entrepreneurs at Tech Crunch DisruptNY last week about the challenges facing their startups, and finding VC funding to grow their businesses quickly became a common theme.

"We are from Brazil, and the government doesn't help us. ... We have some problems with money," Co-Founder of Hypefy Arthur Luiz told Latin Post at DisruptNY last week, one example out of many. Luiz then added more frankly, "We don't have funding right now."

That's what David Lopez addressed at the annual conference of Silicon Valley's gatekeepers. Latinos "weren't getting funded by the VCs," said Lopez to the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

"And the ones who were, you could count them on one hand," Lopez continued. "The problem has been going on for a long time. It still hasn't changed."

So at the conference Lopez he asked some tough questions. "Why is it that [VCs] find it hard to invest in the Latino community?" was one of the questions he challenged the conference with, he said. "I didn't get an answer, but I did get the idea they're working on it," said Lopez.

Not waiting on the VC community to improve the rate at which they listen to Latin voices, Lopez is working on a program intended to complement Manos Accelerator's efforts called Quepasa.

The company, which Lopez now chairs, has a long and varied history going back to 1998. But this year Lopez relaunched the Quepasa brand as a way to build networking and funding opportunities for Latin American and Latino entrepreneurs with ideas worth fostering.

"It's basically an extension of Manos," said Lopez. "It's going to be a link between all of the Latin American countries and the U.S." 

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