Business and Markets

Fostering Diversity in the Tech World

August 3, 2017  • Latinos and Society Program

Tanya Menendez is Co-Founder and CEO of Metas. She agreed to answer a few questions after attending The Aspen Institute Forum on Latino Business Growth, a three-day convening held by the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program

What were some of the challenges that you encountered when creating your business? What advice would you share with someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

One of the main challenges for me was the loneliness of starting my own company. That’s why during the forum I focused on networks and mentorship within and outside of the Latino community. My advice is to stay focused on the purpose and mission of your business. It is also important to make a concerted effort to be aware of whom you spend your time with and how they influence you. As an entrepreneur, you need a network of supportive friends and colleagues whom you can reach out to in good times and bad.

What’s at stake if we don’t develop solutions for scaling Latino-owned businesses? Why is this topic important for American prosperity?

The Latino population is one of the fastest growing populations in the US. If we don’t address the challenges facing Latino business owners by making it easier for them to scale their businesses, the American economy will suffer. More importantly, the country will miss out on an opportunity to increase innovation, social impact, and progress.

How will you move forward and implement what you learned from the forum in your own field of work?

I’m currently working with a few other founders on a playbook about starting a tech company and raising the first round of institutional funding as a Latina (but also as a non-Latina). It will include lessons learned and advice for entrepreneurs.

Better technology requires creators to be representative of their users.
What did you learn from the forum that surprised you or challenged your previously held opinion?

Because I live in the world of tech I came to the forum thinking we should focus on the Latino narrative and how to get more Latino-owned businesses to integrate tech. I was surprised to learn that many multi-million dollar businesses are created outside of tech. I still believe tech is a component of the narrative, but I love that this forum was focused on furthering the traction that Latinos already have and their contributions to the American economy.

Many of the businesses we discussed during the forum are vital to the “maintenance” of the American economy, which is just as important (if not more!) as the companies that are breaking new ground and innovating. For instance, traditionally unsexy companies like waste management are finding ways to innovate in machine learning and artificial intelligence. These innovations have a positive economic and social impact. Having 30 varied perspectives from marketing, finance, government, and others reflect on how to help companies scale was especially inspiring and highlighted how multifaceted this issue is.

We’ve seen how important it is to promote understanding of how the success of the American Latino community and the success of this nation are deeply intertwined. One way is through Latino economic advancement. How do you maintain momentum in promoting this understanding?

I strongly identify as American and I care deeply about our country. I also strongly identify with the American Latino community, and they are inextricably linked. To try to separate them is to say that my arm is not a part of me, or that an engine is not a part of a car. If a part of the American community is not advancing, we are collectively responsible to create changes that are consistent with the ethos of our country. We are all a team.

I am contributing to this understanding through tech entrepreneurship and increased access to information. I started a tech company called Maker’s Row that now helps over 140,000 businesses find American factories. When I tell success stories, I ensure that the entire diversity of our community is represented in the narrative. Through Maker’s Row, we’ve seen that when one person has access to American factories and begins to generate revenue, they support and invest in more American businesses. I am now in the process of starting a new company, Metas.io, to address the diversity gap in tech. Better technology requires creators to be representative of their users — that’s what makes us more globally competitive.

This is the seventh blog in a series of posts on the Aspen Institute Forum on Latino Owned Business Growth. Participants from local and national economic and enterprise development and support organizations, Latino business owners, financial institutions, philanthropy, government and academia will share their perspectives on the challenges and solutions to scaling Latino owned businesses.

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