Hispanic Heritage Month started on September 15th, and so I wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit about what that means to me.
I was born in the Bronx, grew up in Queens and am a first-generation American. My mom, Cecilia, raised my brother and me as a single mother. She was from Ecuador and didn't speak English well, so we spoke Spanish at home and I learned English by watching The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island. My mom worked seven days a week out of our apartment as a seamstress to support us. As hard as I think I've worked, I don't think it's even 10 percent as hard as she did.
I don't think it's a coincidence that my co-founder, Elias, and I ended up starting two companies together, Performable and Drift, since our shared values are likely as a result of both being raised by single mothers -- his Nicaraguan, mine Ecuadorian -- and having many similar experiences.
We both know what it's like to not come from much and have to prove ourselves every single day.
Only 1.8 percent of VC-backed startups are led by Latinx founders, according a diversity report from RateMyInvestor. And according to a 2018 Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative report, only 3 percent of Latinx companies generate at least $1 million in annual gross revenue and just 8 percent of Latinx-owned businesses operate in the technology sector.
We need to change that.
At Drift, Elias and I want to build a pillar company because we believe in what we are doing, and have a hard-working, dedicated team to get us there. But also because growing up, neither of us even knew that building an enduring company like this was even possible. And so we want to be role models and show other underrepresented minorities what is possible beyond where they are today.
We want our company to be the new face of corporate America. Because of our experiences, we have prioritized diversity and inclusion from day one. I'll be the first to admit that as a company we have a long way to go, but here are a few things we are doing to ensure we are helping others like us, and the workforce of the future. My hope is that these inititiaves inspire you to do something similar at your company, as well.
Focus on the next generation.
It is very important to focus on the talent we have in the industry now. But if you really want to make a difference, you need to also focus on the next generation. That's why we started the Drift Charitable Fund and support STEM initiatives like Hack.Diversity, BUILD, Building Impact, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Wallbreakers and more.
Ask your network, connect with the Mayor's office or look online to understand more about the programs you have in your community that are helping educate future leaders.
Be a role model.
I'm a big believer in mentors and role models and feel fortunate to have had many throughout my career. Because of that, I try to give back as much as I can. I speak at events like the Men of Leadership conference and Boston's City Awake mentor series. And beyond that, I make myself available for other underrepresented minorities who might need advice or council.
Doing this yourself is as simple as posting on LinkedIn or your other social media channels that you're available and willing to help.
Invest in diversity and inclusion from day one.
When you are a small company just starting out, time and resources are limited. But focusing on your people and culture is imperative -- and sets the tone for years to come.
When you're hiring, make sure that you are looking at an inclusive candidate pool, tapping into groups that recruit underrepresented minorities into companies and then train, coach and mentor the employer and employee. Also, encourage your current employees to speak up about their experiences -- but also about how the company can continue to improve and do better.
It is up to us to ensure we are changing the statistics and the face of corporate America. I appreciate having this month to remind me about where I came from -- and where I want to go.