The Silicon Valley high-tech start-up industry, hardily supported by Asian immigrants and H1-B workers, is starting to see a new crop of entrepreneurs from Latin America.
These innovators hail from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Brazil, among other Latin American countries, according to a Slate report. They’ve created start-ups that have designed everything from digital wallets and video games for mobile phones to customized travel advice.
The Slate article credits Argentine native Wenceslao Casares for putting the region on the Silicon Valley’s radar. Casares, CEO of Lemon.com, a company that created an app that stores digital receipts, credit cards, and discount cards on cell phones, persuaded the former director of Paypal to take investors and startup executives on invite-only tours through Latin America to learn about technology innovations there. Trips now extend to Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.
As whole, immigrant-led start-ups in Silicon Valley account for 52.4 percent of all start-ups, according to a recent study by the Kauffman Foundation, which supports entrepreneurial efforts.
Historically, Chinese and Indian engineers have had the largest share of high-tech companies in the region, generating new jobs and pumping money into the California economy. Indian immigrants founded 26 percent of these startups—more than the combined total of immigrants from Britain, China, Japan, and Taiwan, according to the foundation’s report.
Increasingly, the Latino entrepreneurs are gaining visibility. An article in the Brazilian financial publication Isto É Dinheiro highlighted the Brazilian stars of Silicon Valley. Among them is Instagram cofounder Mike Krieger, born in Sao Paulo and schooled at Stanford University. Another is Reinaldo Normand, cofounder of 2Mundos (or two worlds, in Portuguese), a video game for mobile devices. His company has offices in San Francisco and Sao Paulo.
Many innovators have become a bridge between their native homeland and the United States, such as the start-up Interesante, a Pinterest-inspired social network. Silicon Valley-based founder Rebecca Padnos Altamirano hopes to capture the growing Latino population in the U.S. and around the globe.
Vivek Wadhwa, vice president of academics and innovation at Singularity University and a strong supporter of H1-B visas for highly skilled workers, argues that the nascient high-tech incubators of Brazil will produce the next Mark Zuckerberg.
To increase the number of Latinos and blacks in the hub of the high-tech industry, CODE2040 launched a pilot program to match undergraduate and graduate coders and software engineers with high-tech start-ups for summer internships.