After three years in the making, the Tampa Bay Latin Chamber of Commerce and Tampa Bay Wave have secured funding to launch the region’s first tech accelerator for Latin Americans.
The LatinTech Accelerator, which received $500,000 through federal funding, will be a new business accelerator for founders of Latin heritage – providing exposure for these minority-founded companies and helping remove barriers.
“There aren’t many programs catered directly to startups or Latino founders with professional service organizations. This is what we are looking to alleviate through the LatinTech Accelerator, as the accelerator will be built to help companies build, scale and grow,” said Cesar Hernandez, a lobbyist, founder of Omni Public and president of the Tampa Bay Latin Chamber.
“Since the launch of the new Chamber [in 2019], it was our goal to produce a Latin tech accelerator. We thank Congresswoman Kathy Castor for being our champion to launch this tremendous initiative that will push Tampa Bay even further towards a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he said.
The Chamber and Wave’s new LatinTech Accelerator was one of 15 projects submitted by U.S. Rep. Castor to the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee that are being funded through the fiscal year 23 budget.
“The infusion of these funds will jumpstart the work of so many important priorities, and I am grateful to all of the local partners who put time and effort into helping me successfully advocate for these funds,” Castor said in a statement. “Working together, we will ensure that every Tampa Bay neighbor has the opportunity to grow and thrive across our community. I am proud that these community projects will help tackle the rising cost of living, educate the next generation, and create good-paying jobs that lift our community.”
The new accelerator will launch this third quarter.
Hernandez said this accelerator is not only the first for Tampa Bay, but also for the state and may also be the first in the country.
Although the U.S. Latino population is significant, it does not have comparable representation in the tech segment. Recent reports show that startups with a Latino founder received 2.1% of the nation’s venture capital funding in 2021, according to the announcement.
To qualify for the LatinTech Accelerator, companies must be 51% owned, controlled and operated by people of Latin heritage. The accelerator will not be limited to Latin Americans; it will also include entrepreneurs from outside of Latin America and Europe.
The team is now kicking off recruitment efforts to attract 20-25 eligible startups to join the program.
Through the Wave’s programming, the participating startups will receive executive coaching, mentoring from industry experts and guidance for investor meetings — all leading up to demo day, when founders will pitch their startup to national and international investors, leaders and press.
“This program will fill a critical gap in Florida’s startup ecosystem by helping a demographically important but underrepresented segment of tech entrepreneurs here and across the U.S.,” Linda Olson, founder and CEO of Tampa Bay Wave, said in a release, also thanking Castor for her support.
“Given Tampa Bay Wave’s long history of promoting diversity and equity in our region’s tech startup ecosystem, we know this funding can help us make a meaningful difference in the growth and success of Latin-owned startups – including those in strategically important industries such as cybersecurity, fintech, healthtech, edtech, climate tech, and more.”
Tampa Bay Wave has a number of other existing accelerator programs, including the TechDiversity Accelerator, powered by the Nielsen Foundation; the CyberTech|X Accelerator, sponsored by leaders in space including Bellini Better World, A-LIGN, KnowBe4, Bank of America, Ernest and Young and others; the FinTech|X Accelerator in partnership with the USF; and the TechWomen Rising Accelerator, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase.