Marcos C. Gonzalez is Founder and Managing Partner at VamosVentures. He 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.
How do your background and experiences shape your role as an angel investor?
There are three experiences that shape my role, or approach, to angel investing. The first is my experience as an investor over the years, first at private equity funds and then in the tech space as an angel investor. “Investing” can mean many things – for me it means the balance of big-picture, long-term thinking with short-term specific deal details. The second experience is my own tech start-up during the first tech boom. There is no replacing first-hand experience on what it means to start a tech company from idea to funding and operations. And finally, the third experience is my personal background in the Latino community. I’ve seen amazing amounts of creativity, resourcefulness, and technical ability in the Hispanic community and think it’s a great place to focus my investment activity.
What’s at stake if we don’t develop solutions for scaling Latino-owned businesses? Why is this topic important for American prosperity?
I don’t believe American prosperity is possible, either in its economy or socially, if we don’t have a fair and equitable business environment. And this means more than just jobs — it means ownership and facilitating the ingredients for growth, such as capital, know-how, and networks. If we aren’t able to do this effectively, we will likely end up with more wealth disparity, social disaffection, and a weaker democracy. What’s important to point out is that I’m not advocating for charity or wealth re-distribution, I’m advocating for equal opportunity.
How will you move forward and implement what you learned from the forum in your own field of work?
There are three items I can integrate or emphasize in my work. The first relates to networks. There are two parts to this – first, to plug into, maintain, and grow our networks. The second part is being a “good component” of the network. This means behaving in the network as you would like others to behave toward you. Corny? Maybe. But true, especially for those who have gained positions of influence or power. Second, while a network and collaboration are necessary, we cannot depend on or expect others to address our needs. We have to keep the infrastructure that exists accountable but we also must be willing to create and lead.
What did you learn from the forum that surprised you or challenged your previously held opinion?
There are a wide variety of challenges and issues that keep Latino-owned businesses from scaling. But there are even more ideas on potential solutions on how to help and empower. That’s great and one of the things I appreciated about the Aspen Institute workshop. The variety of experience represented by the participants in the room was fantastic and lent itself to real brainstorm, idea generation, refinement and feasible proposals on what could be done to support business scaling.
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?
Our work at VamosVentures is all about the promotion of a more competitive America through the investment and inclusion of all people in the largest wealth-creating machine we’ve ever seen – technology. To us this means the inclusion of Latino tech entrepreneurs that create wealth, social mobility through jobs, and upon exits, many of these entrepreneurs become investors and philanthropists themselves – just like any other tech entrepreneurs. Maintaining momentum around the idea of Latino economic advancement and prosperity of the country will not be difficult for us as we’ll be speaking about it in private and public for a long time.
This is the second in a series of posts on the Aspen Institute Forum on Latino 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.