The New Majority, Episode One: The Entrepreneurs
- July 13, 2018
Host Mauricio Cruz speaks with three entrepreneurs: Miguel González Herranz, COO and cofounder of FounderNest; Rami Reyes, cofounder of NextEquity Partners; and Nuria Santamaría Wolfe, CEO and cofounder of Encantos Media Studios. They shared how they developed their entrepreneurial mind-set, how being Latino provided them with unexpected keys to success, and how one can break free from risk aversion.
Music: “Let’s Start at the Beginning” by Lee Rosevere
OPENING MUSIC: “Let’s Start at the Beginning” by Lee Rosevere
This is The New Majority. I’m your host, Mauricio Cruz.
In this show, we will focus on mining and sharing thought leadership from accomplished Latino professionals. People who have had significant accomplishments, yet whose insights and stories you can’t readily find in other shows.
In each episode, I’ll be interviewing leaders and innovators about their leadership insights, industry expertise, and success stories.
Our goal is that this show becomes an important resource for you to learn, grow, and become aware of the successful professionals who share a cultural affinity.
For this inaugural episode, we’re focusing on entrepreneurship—specifically on how one can cultivate an entrepreneurial mind-set and embrace challenges that happen along the way.
Through Google Hangouts, I spoke with three inspiring entrepreneurs making waves in their respective industries.
Two joined us from San Francisco.
We have Nuria Santamaría Wolfe . . .
My name is Nuria Santamaría Wolfe, and I am the cofounder and CEO of Encantos Media Studios. And we are a purpose driven, family entertainment company focused on creating brands for a multicultural world.
. . . and Rami Reyes . . .
My name is Rami Reyes. I’m a co-founder at NextEquity Partners. We’re a venture capital and growth equity firm, and we invest across consumer and enterprise technology companies, at the series B or later stages.
… and from Spain, we have Miguel González Herranz.
My name is Miguel González Herranz. I’m the co-founder and COO at FounderNest. We are a company based in Silicon Valley, that uses artificial intelligence to connect entrepreneurs and investors in a democratic way.
Our guests shared how they developed their entrepreneurial mind-set, how being Latino can provided them some unexpected keys to success, and how one can break free of risk-aversion.
Let’s get started.
MUSIC PLAYS, THEN FADES OUT
For a lot of people who are not familiar with entrepreneurship, it can seem like a very individual process. Daunting, even. Miguel, you started FounderNest alongside your brother Felix. What did that mean to you, and what can other people learn from that experience?
It’s meant everything for me. Having the chance to work with Felix, who is one of the brightest people I’ve ever worked with, has been a privilege for me. And I think this tide is upon a very important point on the entrepreneurial journey, which is finding the right partners, and also the right advisors. In my case, I was lucky enough to partner up with the first person I met when I was born—my brother—and probably the most important person in my life. We have such a level of confidence between us. We share a lot of things. We at the same time have very complimentary professional profiles. It’s been a gift to work with him, finding the right people that’s probably one of the big pieces of advice that I’ve received as an entrepreneur. Having great ideas, we can tap into large markets, but how to find the right people to start and work on a venture is probably the most important thing. And I was very lucky in that regard because I have my brother.
And Rami, from your perspective as an investor with your VC firm NextEquity Partners, which has invested in big names such as Facebook, Airbnb, and Sonos—what is it that you look for in the composition of a team?
You’ll hear any venture capitalist say the team is the most important thing they’re invested behind. Just because there’s so much uncertainty in the market that you want to be investing behind a team that’s going to be able to adapt to changes in the market. At the later stage, it tends to be more metrics. There’s, you know, what has this team been able to accomplish to date? And then you’re looking at the composition of the team and you’re saying what experiences do they have as we get to know their business? How are they thinking about what we think are all the right issues both tactically, so kind of short-term issues, and strategically, in terms of the long-term. When we dig into a business, we try to get to know the business as well as possible.
I think you expect an entrepreneur that they live and breathe their business. To know the business way better than you do. And so as you get to know the business, what you’re trying to do is get to know how they think about what are the different things that can happen and how they plan to build. And I think what we look for most is passion. And then what we look for is thoughtfulness around the different things that can happen in their business. Whether an entrepreneur’s experienced or not, it does help to have at least some experienced people. Especially at the later stage around the table, who can help a company scale.
Robert Sanchez, the CEO of Ryder Systems, once said that “there is no better time to be a Latino.” He believes that, apart from functional excellence and expertise that one needs to succeed, there is something appropriate we can find in our Latino upbringing that can help us advance. Our strategic advantage, if you will.
What advice would you give to Latinos to look inward, to use their unique upbringing as a catalyst for advancement?
I think for me it really sort of has been a theme throughout my career. Understanding the community as a market opportunity. I would ask folks who are interested in this market to really lean on their own experience. And to lean in to the pain points that they experience in their own day-to-day lives. And to think about whether those pain points are pain points that are shared across people. Where it does become a market opportunity for you, right? And in many cases, you have a unique perspective, a unique lens. You’re sitting in a very unique place to, (1) identify them, and (2) to create solutions that really fit the market. And in many cases ,people that are coming from outside of the community don’t have that insight, and don’t have that perspective, and won’t be the ones to really create those possibilities. So, trust in your own experience personally, but then also lean into your experience professionally to create something that you yourself see, that others may not.
Yeah and in my case, it’s really, it’s a very tough question obviously because it really depends on the culture where you are operating. But I can think of some skills or characteristics that can probably play out very well in any context, no matter the culture behind it. I think staying humble is really important. Being empathetic and respectful to the people around you, whether they are customers, investors, or any other stakeholders. Ethics are really important because those are key to keeping your reputation and maintaining your reputation, no matter the market where you are operating. Obviously being flexible and adaptable to the circumstances of the setting where you are doing business, and also of the context. Political, social, of any kind that is around you, but at the same time is really important to stay truthful to yourself throughout this whole journey. So, there are a lot of ingredients that come in play in these very complex equation. And those are the first. The first or most important ones that come to my mind.
I think passion is the key to entrepreneurship because it’s a long and tough road. And if you’re going to be doing something all the time, it should be something you’re really passionate about. The expertise is great, usually people are experts in something there passionate about. So, you want to be smarter or at least have the ability to get smarter in the space than other people in the space. And so, whether that something targeting the Latino market … You know, you should be pursuing opportunities where you can really gain some … Have some differentiated insight to offer the world.
Just to build on Rami’s point, which I completely agree with, I think what’s really tied to passion is perseverance. As I said it’s impossible to identify all the ingredients to succeed as an entrepreneur. But what’s clear to me, and it’s something that I’ve learned myself, is that perseverance is at the core of everything as mentioned already. If you persevere, you will be able to overcome any other challenges. Whether it is to pivot your product, to switch markets, to move to a different country, to find the right partners or investors. If you persevere the rest will come along. Without having that spirit, no matter how good your team is, how awesome your product is, how large the market you are targeting is, most likely at some point you will give up before exhausting all the possibilities and going above and beyond. So, for me that’s a key component of this equation as well.
I want to build on perseverance and developing a nuanced skill set. For many people who are listening, they may not be in the position where they can be entrepreneurs or they have other commitments preventing them from taking on an entrepreneurial endeavor.
How can they apply an entrepreneurial mind-set to their careers?
I think innovation applies to anything in life. If you have a job at, you know as an example, a Fortune 500 company, you shouldn’t be limited by your specific job title. And you should, in terms of trying to advance your career, you should be thinking about what could this company be doing better? I think companies are starting to realize that innovation comes from everywhere, and that they need to start figuring out how to harness the learnings of their employees. No matter where they are. I mean, I think the story of the janitor who created Hot Cheetos, is case in point for that. You know with your job you should be able to think, is there anything innovative that I could be adding to this company. Even if it’s not within my job title. You have to understand your circumstances, and if you can’t start something because you can’t give up that job, because you can’t give up that income, you could always try to figure out how to do a side hustle. There’s a lot of entrepreneurs who started making money on the side for a long time, and made enough money that they realized they didn’t need their job anymore. And so, if you’re a little more risk-averse because of your circumstances, there’s other way to start testing the risk. Depending on what you want to start before you have to fully commit.
That’s a great point. Nuria, you’ve lived the world where you’ve excelled in a corporate setting at Accenture, EQAL, and Twitter before you helped cofound Encantos Media Studios. How did you prepare yourself to become an entrepreneur by innovating and thinking outside of the box?
Actually, my last role is a good example of that. I was most recently at Twitter. I was the head of multicultural strategy there. I worked with the sales team to relate, tap into the Hispanic market, and tap into Hispanic ad dollars. And that role did not exist. I created that role. So that’s also just a different path for folks that want to think about how to be entrepreneurial within a corporate setting. So, I had the opportunity to meet the head of sales for Twitter, and our conversation took us to explore what they as an organization were doing to address the large number of Hispanic users of the platform. So, if you know something about Hispanic usage, we are early adapters of technology. We over index on usage of media of tech. We over index on creation of content on media platforms, et cetera. So, when we were looking at audience of Twitter, it over indexed Hispanic, right? So, as a company they really didn’t have at that point of strategy as to how to leverage that advantage in terms of ad revenue. And so, what I did is I created a role. I drafted a job description for what this person would do. And I made sure that I was creating something that was going to be really beneficial for the organization.
That was something that really they needed. And something that was going to help drive their business forward. But at the same time, it was something that I wanted to do, right? It was a role that I would enjoy doing day in and day out. So essentially what I created was my dream job at Twitter, and pitched it to the organization as a role that was really going to help accelerate their business. They loved the idea and they brought me on for exactly that role. So, whether it’s you know creating a new department, a new role, a new practice within your current organization, or creating something at an organization that doesn’t have it, I think there’s different ways to be entrepreneurial within a corporate setting. It’s just about being creative, thinking about your skills, thinking about your expertise, and thinking about what the business needs and finding a direct match for that. And you would be surprised by how much people are actually open to that. If you can come to them with an idea that’s going to help drive their business, they’re going to be willing to at least hear you out.
I want to address what Nuria mentioned about Latinos over-indexing on new technologies and social media. Younger Latinos are the most college-educated group of Latinos ever, and more Latinos are entering the workplace. But there’s still a dissonance between the growing numbers of Latinos and the representation in tech. How can entrepreneurs help bridge that gap?
I would say that Latinos still suffer from a lack of trust in their capabilities to become leaders. Not only in the tech industry but in any industry. I think we are still facing some scars in terms of number of references within the Latino community of top business leaders. So, we need to do a better job at evangelizing the impact and the prominence of those figures, so older Latinos can get inspired by that, and then pursue that kind of career. So, to me it feels, that it’s a matter of making sure that we give boys to those references in society, and we inspire more and more Latinos to pursue those careers. Obviously, there’s more and more investment from tech companies, and the tech industry in having more diversity which will definitely have a positive impact in the Latino community among many others.
Rami, you operate a unique role of being one of the few Latino investors working in venture capital. What have you seen, what have you tried to apply to your own work to help bridge that gap?
It’s very sad, but I’d say there’s probably fewer than ten Latino VC’s in Silicon Valley. It’s a pretty small world. And you see the same issues with African Americans, with female VC’s being significantly underrepresented. So, there’s definitely a lot of change that needs to happen. And it’s not just in the VC community. It’s in the tech community more broadly. And I think as Latinos, there’s things we can do, but also I think the tech community needs to work much harder to be much more inclusive.
One of the challenges that I face, is I’m a later stage VC. And so, I can’t look at companies until they’re at the series B stage, usually they’re around ten million of revenue in that stage, and the challenge is a lot of Latinos are not getting funded at the early stages. And so, we need more VC representation of Latinos across the board. But we especially need them at the early stages, which is when companies are being formed, and when entrepreneurs need the most help. If you think about a VC, a lot of venture capitalists come from the tech industry overall. And so, I think we need to continue to push the pipeline of Latinos in tech, because a lot of the leading tech leaders will then later on in their careers become VC.
By addressing diversity in technology more broadly, you partly address, the diversity at venture capital funds. But it also has to come from investors. Look a lot of investors in these funds are large pension funds, who have a very diverse group of constituents, who’s retirement savings their investing.
Money drives a lot of things in this country, and so you’ve got to push with the money. If we want to make change, we need the investors to start pushing both at the fund level, at the company level, as a community we need to continue to push for that. As a community, I think we need to be a little more, a little less risk-averse. I think a lot of our smartest students become lawyers, doctors, accountants, and we definitely need, those are extremely important, you know extremely important occupations. But we also need, you know, more of our people to be engineers, and be willing to take risks. And more of our people going into the venture capital side as well.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I do think that there is a sense in our community of risk aversion towards investments—particularly tech investments. How do you address that?
I think that actually goes back to if you can’t see, you can’t be it.
That goes across the board. Right? Whether it’s a young high school kid going into college and trying to decide a major but never having seen an engineer in his community at all and are thinking that as a viable career path. But if you shine a spotlight on Latino engineers and you have them in the community, you have them visible, and you have them accessible for mentorship and to really help lay the path for them, that starts to change the pipeline at that stage.
When we also think about older folks who may now have capital to invest, but it hasn’t been part of their career path or their professional path, it hasn’t been something that culturally has been part of their life, but also pointing a spotlight to folks that have seen it helping to establish angel networks and making people feel just comfortable with the idea of investing in our own community, investing back in our own people. Again, shining a spotlight on the people that already do it. It is happening. I’m seeing that because I’m having conversations with friends and family who are becoming angels. It does happen, but it’s not something that we necessarily as a community put a spotlight on. The more we talk about it across all points of a pipeline, the more difference it’s going to make.
I agree with Nuria. It’s an education thing. It’s all about exposure both that this exists and that we’re already doing it. We need to continue to tell the stories of the founders, the engineers, the investors in the Latino community that are doing things that other people can see: Hey, I’m just like that person. I can do it as well.
What do you think are the biggest challenges that our community still has to overcome? How do you think that we can go about doing it in the most effective way?
The biggest challenge we have today is access. I think the point about making allies is really important. If you look at the tech industry, venture capital industry, there’s a lot of industries where Latinos are under-represented. And so it means that those of us that are the few in those industries, we have to do a good job of trying to get other Latinos in there going forward. But for a lot of us, it’s also making sure we’re building as many connections with people, not in the Latino community. You know most of my mentors are not Latinos because there aren’t that many Latinos in some of the industries that I work with. And so, I think it’s important as Latinos that we leverage our Latino connections, but more than anything, you really have to meet a lot people from a lot of different communities. And I think, going back to my college days, I remember a lot of Latinos would only hang out with the Latinos. And you know while it’s important to embrace your Latino identity, at the end of the day, you create the broadest network when you meet a lot of really different people. And there’s really fascinating people across networks. And so I think the biggest thing we need to do is continue to network outside of our community.
I one hundred percent agree with Rami. I think access whether it’s financial or to networks, to actual people, is one of the biggest challenges for our community. Business really ultimately, no matter what product or service you’re creating, is about people. It really ultimately goes down to people, and the better your network is, the better those opportunities are going to be for you.
I have one final question that I’ll ask to each of you, and Miguel we can start with you. Five to ten years down the road, where do you think the Latino in tech or Latino pipeline will be?
Wow, that’s a tough question. As entrepreneurism is gaining a more prominent role, as I was mentioning earlier, in the landscape of professional opportunities that young people start to consider I can only see more and more Latinos pursuing careers in entrepreneurship and obviously in the tech industry as well. I also see more and more Latinos that are becoming leaders today and becoming more vocal about the Latino community. As I was mentioning earlier, exposing the impact of Latinos in the world, whether in business or government. I see the Latino community taking on a very prominent role and position in the whole community.
Yeah I mean I tend to think of about things you know, as an investor, turn to secular trends. And I would echo a lot of those secular trends. The Latino population in the US is growing. It’s growing wealth as well. There’s more Latinos starting to climb the ladder and accumulate wealth and more power. And, there continuous to be a secular trend towards entrepreneurship. And I think especially a lot of the younger generations, are you not necessarily taking the jobs you know that their parents’ generation took. And so, I think there’s a continuing shift to technology, and to more Latino empowerment. But I think ultimately, we’re still a long ways away and a lot will just depend on how well we work against some of the forces such as the lack of diversity currently continuing to push more people towards careers and towards skill-sets that can help them and continue as a community to build our network across the global community.
And I would say that I’m hopeful about the state of Latinos in tech and in entrepreneurship in the next five years. But I do think it’s going to take a lot of work and that work needs to come from a variety of different places. You know whether it’s individuals like us telling our story making sure that we’re visible. Making sure that we’re making our selves accessible to mentor other folks. I think that part is important. Second, I think it’s tech companies really being intentional about the way that they think about diversity within their own organizations. Whether that’s their hiring practices, their retention practices, the way that they make people feel included. That’s going to be important.
Educational organizations like universities also need to play a key role. I love what Stanford’s doing with their Center for Latino Entrepreneurship, and I’m a mentor as part of that. And I think it’s important to bring people across the Latino ecosystem, across industries to come together to think about those solutions and to put programs in place to really act on it. So, I’m hopeful, but it is going to take a lot of work to really move the ball forward. And the thing with tech is that it moves very quickly, so we need to move even faster than that.
MUSIC FADE IN: “Let’s Start at the Beginning” by Lee Rosevere
That wraps up our first episode.
I think it’s important to reiterate that anyone can adopt an entrepreneurial mindset, regardless of their career, industry, or position. Having a multicultural background should be viewed as a competitive advantage, and not as a hindrance. And finally, we must realize that we all need to work together to both create new opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs and provide the necessary resources to allow those entrepreneurs to flourish.
For our next episode, we will dive into the world of finance.
I’ll be speaking with some financiers on their path to success, what they feel are the most pressing issues in the industry, and how they are encouraging others to take an interest in finance.
Thank you for listening to our first episode. If you like what you’ve heard, please do us a favor and rate us on iTunes and share with your network.
MUSIC FOR FIVE SECONDS
CREDITS (spoken by Mauricio):
The New Majority is produced by The Alumni Society. Hosted by me, Mauricio Cruz. Our producer and editor is Frannie Sprouls. The New Majority production team is Frannie Sprouls, Cyndi Fecher, Vianni Busquets, and Pedro A. Guerrero. Music is “Let’s Start at the Beginning” by Lee Rosevere. Recorded at Q.E.D. Studios in New York City.