There comes a time when the word “minority” loses its context, where one group surpasses its status in population and influence, crossing over into a new mainstream community of Americans. When I first arrived in Silicon Valley to work for Apple in the 1980s, I felt like a minority. I entered a world with circles of influence that looked and felt foreign to me. When it came time to start my own technology company, I didn’t choose Silicon Valley. I chose Miami, because of its rich Hispanic heritage and opportunity for growing a Hispanic-owned business. But I don’t feel that way anymore. America is changing rapidly, and so is our technology community. So while Hispanic Americans have been a minority in the U.S. technology inner circle — as low as 3% of top executives, according to some — that time is changing rapidly. I believe that Latinos can comprise a new type of technology entrepreneur; one that can leverage this rising tide of national Hispanic influence and create a number of great new American technology brands. Here’s why:
Latinos are profoundly shaping the changing demographic of America. At 56 million, they currently comprise 18% of the total U.S. population, including the largest ethnic group in the state of California. More importantly, they’re enrolling in school at a higher rate than other ethnicities. Starting last year, racial and ethnic minorities now make up the majority of enrollees in public schools. In 2013, a higher percentage of Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in college than non-Hispanic whites. This is a population that’s growing, educated and active — the future impact will be felt in fields that require a high level of education.
Because of their relative youth and higher education rates, Latinos are our country’s most tech-savvy and digitally connected group of consumers. According to Nielsen, Latinos are native second-screen viewers, watching 62% more digital video than non-Latinos. Latinos are 24% more likely than other ethnicities to purchase a smartphone, 8% more likely to be the first to purchase tablets and 6% more likely to purchase 3D televisions. This means that behaviors and technologies shaping consumers can transcend to the business community as well. It’s natural to enter an industry that aligns with your interests. And if a greater portion of Latinos are interested in technology, this will manifest itself in the careers they choose to pursue.
Latinos are also more likely than other ethnicity to start and grow their own businesses. Last year, we projected that the total number of Hispanic-owned businesses to reach 3.22 million in 2014, an increase of 43% since 2007. This total is more than twice the rate of all U.S. businesses, which increased 18% during the same period. Latinos have shown that they’re willing to work to make their own opportunities, a trait that aligns well with technological innovation. When I look at my peers in the technology community, I’m beginning to see a growing number of faces like my own. I look at business leaders such as Marcelo Claure, who took over as CEO of Sprint last year or my friend and mentor Sol Trujillo, former CEO of US West, Orange and Telstra. I see the progress we’re making with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce providing mentoring programs to Latinos in business, and providing aspiring entrepreneurs with better access to growth capital. One of the main reasons that I went into technology was to help improve the world with systems and principles that I strongly believe in. And I now see a point in American history where this dream can take a huge step forward. I see a confluence of education, culture and connectivity that opens the door for Latinos to have a greater impact in our U.S. technology industry. As more Latino youths see themselves as participants in our innovation future, their contributions will be enjoyed by larger numbers of Americans and global citizens. Their contributions to technology and innovation are bound to change all of our lives for the better. This article was written by Cesar Melgoza and published by USA Today on January 12, 2015. César M. Melgoza is founder and chief executive officer of Geoscape, a business intelligence company that creates automated systems, data, analytics and research focused on high-growth consumer segments in North America and Europe.