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Building the next generation of entrepreneurs & marketers – Startup Weekend Latinx

What is it like to market an event and build a community focused on the Latinx community?

Credit: Silvia Li Sam
Building online and physical communities are often a challenge. There is no secret sauce to it but indeed focus on understanding your audience and working to give them what they need.
In 2016, a group of top community builders, marketers, and venture capitalists including myself decided to create and launch the first Startup Weekend: Latinx in Tech (1) in Oakland, CA. The event brought together over one-hundred Latinx entrepreneurs from all over Northern California, New York City, and Los Angeles. People went from having one idea to learn how to market and build a successful business in 54 intensive hours. Founders launched their startups with one mission: to one day bring together more Latinx entrepreneurs so they can have a path to being in the technology industry. 

Startup Weekends are a powerful way to turn tech dreams into reality over the course of just a few days. This one was particularly important to my colleagues and me, however.

The Latinx community is the second largest ethnic group in America, made up of 52 million people and yet there still are very few initiatives in the tech space directly serving our communities. I say “communities,” rather than the community, because as the 2016 Latinx Startup Weekend showed, we are incredibly diverse. It’s one thing to know that Latinx is an ethnic designation, rather than a race, but this diversity was wonderfully apparent at the first Startup Weekend, where we saw Latinx entrepreneurs from all different racial backgrounds bring their own lived experience to the table. It was a compelling event, and we soon received requests from other cities to bring this energy to the national stage in 2017.(2)
Latinos, currently about 18 percent of the U.S. population, are a rapidly growing group with increased buying power. Nielsen, a global data-tracking firm, has said that Latino customers represent a $1.5 trillion market. And those numbers only stand to grow. By 2060, population estimates show that 30 percent of Americans will be Latino.
Source: Computing Research Association (3)

About 13 percent of undergraduates who earn degrees in computer science, computer engineering or information studies are black or Latino, according to 2015 data from the Computing Research Association. (4) But at tech companies in and around the Bay Area, they remain a small minority.

Source: Computing Research Association (5)

To change these numbers, we need to teach our future and current entrepreneurs and marketers to be conscious and empathetic community builders.

Here is where the beauty of the marketing industry lies; marketers and community builders can create life-changing experiences by applying the right tactics.

If you are short on time, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Tactics you used to build a community may not work all the time. You have to iterate over your processes and tactics continually.
  2. The secret to successfully launching anything is to be real, excited about your product and do it humanly. 
  3. A vibrant community needs to have activity and engagement. Don’t make it feel like a ghost town. It’s important to recognize there are different types of people using your product, each with their motivations. It must scale as well.

Iterate and try new tactics. Strategies you are currently using probably won’t work in few years.

Community building is, in a large way, the root of many companies’ success including startup Product Hunt acquired by AngelList. From its early days, Product Hunt’s creator, Ryan Hoover, has done a fantastic job of bringing the right people onto his platform and deeply engaging them through every step of the building process. (6)

During the first part of your process, break down your most active users. There are countless ways to reward your first users, so think carefully about what your initial users’ motivations are and how you can reward them with extrinsic or, preferably, intrinsic rewards.

This obviously is rather arbitrary and meaningless at first, since there aren’t that many users. Don’t ask users to spam their friends. “Encourage authentic and positive communication. While some online communities may be popular in the short term thanks to snarky commenting, Weingarten says a community built around people interacting with strangers should be focused on authenticity and positivity. (7)

The secret to successfully launching anything is to be real, excited about your product and do it humanly.

Marketing is not only about making things look appealing, it’s about creating a relationship with the audience. The beauty of a community is that it provides your customers a chance to network with their peers, so provide them with opportunities to do so. Create an open forum for questions and encourage interactions amongst your community members. PROVIDE VALUE. By creating a culture of collaboration within your community, your customers can build their personal brands and establish a strong foundation of peers that they can lean on when they need help. However, this network shouldn’t only exist to troubleshoot, it is just as effective in sharing success stories and best practices. (8)

Source: Marketo (9)

A vibrant community needs to have activity and engagement and it must scale itself at some point.

You can’t grow your user base exponentially by doing things that don’t scale, but you can certainly build deep connections with those first people, connections that will endure and spread through each of those people’s communities. From that point forward, it’s about building a better product, asking your current users to share, and giving them a piece of the pie and allowing them to take on leadership roles that benefit them. And you can do all of this without spending anything at all on marketing. That’s the power of community – you’ll go further, you’ll spend less, and you’ll make the world a better place for your users. (10)

Footnotes

1.San Francisco Chronicle, Marissa Lang: First of its kind startup weekend seeks to promote Latinos in tech – San Francisco Chronicle

2. Medium KCSI, Lili Gangas: Bringing a focus to the Latinx tech community

3,4,5. Computing Research Association, Stuart Zweben & Betsy Bizot: Continued Booming Undergraduate CS Enrollment; Doctoral Degree Production Dips Slightly

6,10. CMX Hub: How We Leveraged Community to Grow Product Hunt from 40,000 to 400,000 Users in 4 Months

7. Inc., Christina DesMarais: How to Build a Highly Engaged User Community: 9 Tips

8,9. Marketo, Liz (Courter) Oseguera: 4 Areas of Importance to Focus on When Creating a Customer Community

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