I used to think I knew a lot about small businesses. I launched too many to count, and I have mentored a few as well. But the world of unicorn start-ups is not something I’ve understood very well until recently. Last Fall, Sol Trujillo and I launched L’ATTITUDE Ventures with a goal to raise $75 Million to invest in Latino-led start-ups. L’ATTITUDE, the event, opened our eyes on how undercapitalized the Latino business community has been, and the serious opportunities there are right now for investors and entrepreneurs. I am also an advisory board member to Pacaso, a $1B start-up that facilitates fractional ownership for vacation homes – so I’ve received a crash course about the world of start-ups, venture capital, and billion-dollar deals. I’ve learned a couple of things in the past year: a strong stock market and record low interest rates has made capital cheaper than any time in decades, and the universe of angel investors and venture capitalists is small and very cliquish. There haven’t been many Latinos in those businesses, but that is changing.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Cano Health, a medical start-up started by two Latino doctors. Four years ago, Cano was a tiny company with a big vision when they approached Sol for some business mentorship. Today, Cano Health is a public company with a $5B market cap. They are one of a growing number of Latino start-ups that are raising institutional capital and using the money and connections to build big companies that employ a lot of people and generate wealth for founders and investors. They wanted those early investors to be Latinos, and they’re going to make a large handful of Latinos a lot of money – billions, and they are not alone. The education, entertainment and media company, Encantos is another promising start-up. Founded by two veteran Latino marketing executives, the company’s list of investors and advisors is a who’s who of Latinos in finance including Nely Galán, Beatriz Acevedo, Ángel Morales, Tom Chavez, and Sol Trujillo. Sol thinks they have the stuff to be the next Disney. Speaking of Tom Chavez…Tom, whose brother is the former CFO at Goldman Sachs, is a serial entrepreneur who has sold companies to Microsoft and Salesforce.com, and just raised $23M for Ketch, his third start-up.
Capital is king, and closing the wealth gaps in America will require a lot of it, but there are a few things happening right now that are very exciting. Twenty years ago, my friend and colleague John Beneventi launched an internet portal for Latino homebuyers; we sold it within a year to a public company. Money was chasing anything that had a dot com in its name and more than a few people made a fortune. The market feels similar today, but with better fundamentals. In my opinion, there has never been a better time for a smart start-up than now. Only this time, I am confident there will be more Latinos joining the party.