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Tech-entrepreneur Maria Camila creates Latiner, a dating app for Latinx singles 

After experiencing racial based rejection on mainstream dating platforms, Maria Camila created Latiner –the first Latina-created dating app for Latinx singles. 

Founded by Colombian born tech-entrepreneur, Maria Camila, Latiner is the first Latina-created dating app for Latinx and Hispanic singles. (Image courtesy of Latiner)

According to Pew Research Center, the Hispanic population in the U.S reached 60.6 million in 2019 and accounts for approximately 18% of the country’s total population. For tech-entrepreneur Maria Camila, this realization coupled with negative experiences on mainstream dating apps, prompted her to launch her first venture. 

“It hit me that we, as the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the U.S., should have one dating app built on our own. A dating app catering to whoever wants to date Latin American singles, considering that mainstream dating apps are mostly created and dominated by white people,” says Latiner founder, Maria Camila. “Latin American singles need a comfortable and efficient dating platform. That’s what inspired me to create Latiner.”

From bad dating experiences to an entrepreneurial opportunity 

Latiner, Maria Camila,

Latiner founder, Maria Camila. (Image courtesy of Latiner)

At 25 years old, Maria Camila is already making a name for herself as an entrepreneur. Born and raised in Bogotá-Colombia she studied business administration at Fundacion Universitaria Cafam. She now lives in San Francisco where she works at a logistics company and she is now also the founder of Latiner. 

The idea to create Latiner came to Maria in January of 2020, after many unpleasant and disappointing experiences on mainstream dating apps. 

“When I first came to the U.S. 2 years ago, I felt lonely, kinda hoping I could find a boyfriend to be around,” Maria says. 

Maria’s friends in the U.S. set her up on many blind dates but most ended the same way. “Some of them turned me down because of racial differences, while others said they were afraid of the ‘Latina temper’,” explains Maria. 

Then Maria began her own online dating journey and learned first-hand how racists people could be when it came to dating. 

“I kept coming across profiles stating ‘Whites Only’,” she says. “As a Latina, it does take an emotional toll when people turn you down constantly, simply because you’re not their dating preference, not to mention the colossal waste of time swiping the wrong one on a wrong app.”

Latiner, Latinx singles, dating app

Latiner is changing the game as the first Latina-created dating app made specifically for Latinx singles. (Image courtesy Latiner)

These experiences prompted Maria to do something to change the game for Latinx singles. She began discussing the idea of a Latinx dating app with friends in the IT industry. Soon she persuaded them to join her team and together they successfully developed the app in 3 months. 

“The key to success is to start before you are ready” 

Before launching Latiner, Maria did not have any experience or educational background in technology. Everything was new. She didn’t feel “ready” to start, but she had an idea that she believed in and so she sought the right people to help her make her vision a reality. 

Latiner, Maria Camila

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. The key to success is to start before you are ready.” (Image courtesy of Latiner)

“All I had was an idea of creating a dating app for Latino community,” she says. “But I had a bunch of friends who worked in the technology industry, and some of them were app developers. I told them about my idea as well as the prospect of Latino online dating market. They thought it was awesome, and they wanted to work together with me to develop the app.” 

When thinking back on her process, Maria recalls something she once heard from Steve Jobs about creativity. 

“He said creativity was just connecting things. People who were creative meant they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. In my case, I connected my unhappy online dating experiences with what I could do to make Latino singles feel comfortable while dating online, and I came up with an idea of making a dating app for ourselves,” Maria says. “In a word, you should know your community very well, know what they need, and you have to be creative and initiative to do something about that.”

You might be interested: 8 Steps to launching a tech startup

Through her experiences as a new entrepreneur, Maria has learned that anything is possible. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all,” she says. “Be brave. Every single woman, regardless of ethnicity, race, age, or whatever you think might hold you back, has the right to make her own choice. The key to success is to start before you are ready, nothing will work unless you do.”

How Chavez Web Design is helping to grow small businesses

Chavez Web Design, LLC is a one-stop-shop for all your digital marketing needs. They help small businesses create their logo, videos, business cards, website, Google Ads, Search Engine Optimization, and social media marketing. They understand that every business is different and are committed to helping small businesses grow and accomplish their goals.

Noemi Chavez, owner and founder of Chavez Web Design. (Photo courtesy Noemi Chavez)

As “Growth With Google” partners and SBDC (Small Business Development Center) consultants, they also work to educate the small business community on how to promote their business with Google, and run their business more efficiently. 

Their goal and mission is to help organizations reach their growth goals through effective digital marketing strategies.

Chavez Web Design’s small business roots 

Chavez Web Design was founded by Noemi Chavez in 2008 when she became pregnant with her first child. What began as a small side business to earn some extra money has now become a successful full-time family business that she runs with her husband, Luis. 

“I was excited about the idea of spending more time with my son and making some extra money to support our little family at the same time,” says Noemi. “I quickly discovered that owning a business was pushing me to grow and to create new opportunities to help other small businesses. My passion for helping others allowed us to help over 600 businesses with their website and digital marketing.” 

Noemi is driven by her clients’ success and she truly understands the struggles of starting a small business because she’s been there herself. 

“Opening a new business is hard,” she says, reflecting back on her own struggles.

When she first began, finding clients was not easy, especially being a Latina woman entering a male dominated field.  

“At first, every prospect I visited asked me for work samples, and at that time, I didn’t have any,” says Noemi. “In 2008, I was knocking on doors every day of every week, but still no clients. Keeping myself motivated was not easy after getting that much rejection.”

However, these setbacks did not stop her and finally, after many months, she got her first client and doors began to open. 

“He introduced me to his friends and I started getting some momentum. But the biggest breakthrough was when I got introduced to the local chamber. It was perfect for me because all of the small business owners were there! They had the opportunity to learn about what I do, and I was going to help them with their business.”

Luis and Noemi Chavez, accepting award. (Photo courtesy Noemi Chavez)

Since then, Chavez Web Design has grown and helped hundreds of businesses reach their goals and succeed. The success stories are what motivate and inspire Noemi. 

“Nothing is more satisfying than hearing our client’s success stories after helping them with their marketing strategies,” she says. “We love what we do and we bring the result to our clients. What makes our company unique is that I have a sincere interest in having your business excel.” 

You might be interested: 3 Marketing challenges Latina-owned businesses face

Grow your business: Plan your work and work your plan 

For Noemi, success is helping others succeed. She strives to make her business a warm and welcoming place for clients and takes the time to really get to know them and understand their needs so that she can help them create strong businesses that can survive any situation. She is also committed to promoting education in the small business community by providing them with access to one-on-one training and tools to grow their businesses.

Chavez Web Design, digital marketing

Chavez Web Design, specializing in digital marketing and design for small businesses. (Photo courtesy Noemi Chavez)

One story Noemi shared with us was of one of her students named Olga, who Noemi helped launch her dream business.

“I met Olga Duran in one of my Google classes,” says Noemi. “She was super excited to be there! She was working at an orange packing house for the last 25+ years but her dream was to open a flower shop. She started to follow my classes at every place I had a teaching event, even though she had never been 25 miles away from her city!”

“She finally found the courage to register her business and open the doors. In her first month, she doubled her salary by running a business that she loves! Stories like hers make us want to keep improving. We want to provide the best service to see dreams come true every day.”

Success stories like Olga’s remind us that our dreams are possible, we just need to take the leap and not be afraid to seek help.

Noemi says to any aspiring entrepreneurs, “Forget about the fear of starting a business and start getting educated. Find people and organizations that can guide you to make better decisions. Do not listen to people that have never run a business.” 

Too often we stop ourselves from making a move out of fear or lack of knowledge, but there are people out there like Noemi ready to help you navigate the world of business. Success is possible. Your dreams are possible.

“Start by creating a business plan. Remember to plan your work and work your plan,” Noemi says. “Set up the right expectation of what you are getting into and most important: Be flexible and adapt your strategies according to the results that you are getting. Don’t wait for the perfect moment because it will never arrive. Just work with what you have. And good luck! “

Venezuelan tech entrepreneur revolutionizes social storytelling with video-sharing app FlickPlay

Pierina Merino is the 29 year old Venezuelan tech entrepreneur behind FlickPlay, a new revolutionary platform changing the world of social storytelling through innovative use of augmented reality (AR). At its core, FlickPlay is a gamified video-sharing social app that combines interactive game elements with social media. The app creates immersive and gamified experiences that offer a new canvas for social storytelling, allowing users to create their own content to share in and out of the app. 

Pierina Merino, CEO and Founder of FlickPlay (Photo courtesy Pierina Merino)

The first sparks of creativity

Pierina has worked across different creative industries over the past 8 years. From designing large scale architectural projects for Frank Gehry, to leading creative and design strategy for premium VR experiences for luxury fashion brands, her career has revolved around innovation and pushing the boundaries of technology to bring the physical and digital world closer together.

Her creative passion first sparked at a young age. Growing up in Venezuela Pierina was always known as the “creative one” in school. 

“I was the one that designed the cheerleaders’ outfits, painted murals, and was the perfect partner to successfully achieve any creative assignment,” she says. “Most students in Venezuela pursue traditional fields, such as law or medicine. However, I decided to choose architecture when I was a little girl. Back then, I did not know where it would take me. Entrepreneurship runs in the family; it is in my DNA.” 

At the age of 16, Pierina left her home country for Canada to study English and urbanism and further pursue her creative drive for architecture. From there she eventually found herself in Miami where she enrolled in Miami Dade Community College to get her start in the field of design. She worked diligently to earn a scholarship at one of the top worldwide schools:  SCI-ARC Southern California Institute of Architecture, where she graduated with honors and earned a recognition as the best thesis. Pierina then went on to work for renowned Canadian architect, Frank Gehry where she gained invaluable experience and worked alongside distinguished professionals.  

Starting out with her first start-up

Before founding FlickPlay, Pierina launched and led PIEMER–the first 3D-printed product line to be sold at Nordstrom, nationally. The line included jewelry pieces such as rings and bracelets and was a complete success gaining nomination for the Fashion Rising Brand Award by the renowned Los Angeles Business Journal in November 2017. PIEMER also received an invitation to exhibit in the Los Angeles Architecture and Design Museum.

While traveling nationally to Nordstrom stores for her start-up, Pierina became aware of the huge social disruption that has taken place in offline social life since the introduction of social media. 

“At Nordstrom, I came across grandmas and mothers that chose my products in the department store to get sent to their granddaughters and daughters. In turn, young women seemed less interested in stopping by at the traditional point of sale and preferred to visit creative sites where they could create content for social networks. Retail stores have suffered a huge social disruption in the past 10 years. Our daily online and offline experiences are more disconnected than they should. As digital images (through our phones) feel more and more real and tangible, I became obsessed with the possibility of generating creative experiences that could help users communicate fun and interactive moments in their favorite locations. Therefore, I pursued this until I discovered its full potential and came up with FlickPlay.”

From “mall culture” to social media

In the 80s and 90s “mall culture” was at the center of social life for young people. People would go to malls to spend one-on-one time with their friends. This also greatly benefited retailers as their physical locations were the site for gathering and socializing. However, in recent years with the introduction of social networks in our everyday lives, retailers have suffered. Pierina describes that now more than ever the locations where millennials and Gen Z-ers decide to visit is primarily determined by their experiential value. The cooler and more “share-worthy” the place, the more likely they will frequent that location. 

Social media and social storytelling has evolved tremendously over the past decade alone. From the 1-dimensional world of Facebook and Twitter that launched as platforms for text and images, to the 2D era of Instagram and SnapChat that focused on images and video, we are now entering a new era of 3D platforms that incorporate innovative technologies like virtual and augmented reality, immersive content tools, and even gaming elements as FlickPlay delivers. This new era of social storytelling is weaving a web between our physical and digital worlds, bringing them closer than ever before. 

How FlickPlay is revolutionizing social storytelling

Layering gaming and immersive content tools, FlickPlay is leveling up the way we tell and share stories. Described as a combination of Pokémon Go, TikTok and Snapchat FlickPlay uses gaming and augmented reality (AR) content tools to power a new canvas for social storytelling. At FlickPlay, users can access creative AR experiences through their interactive map game and camera. Once videos are shared, they get gamified for the community to unlock points, and engage in content and leaderboard challenges with their friends and FlickPlay community.

“From Pokémon Go, we have all the gaming interactions and we capture the city spaces. In terms of content distribution, we resemble TikTok in how repetition is used to boost vitality. In terms of creative inclination and technology, we are like Snap,” says Pierina. 

FlickPlay

The FlickPlay app combines gaming elements with immersive content creation tools and augmented reality features to level-up your social stories (Photo courtesy Pierina Merino)

FlickPlay App is the first digital platform that allows users to get into a content game in the city. Users gain relevance through these experiences because they are based on two pillars:

  1. Scores, rewards, and goals that allow to reinforce the interaction of content with the user
  2. Brand interaction in relevant locations and highly creative content that drives the users to share it

Fans of experiences and creative content can gain access to the creation of and participation in interactions with game dynamics that enable them to access creative experiences that are not open to everyone. Augmented reality videos generate a cerebral impulse that enhances the retention of the shared visual content. Any event, object or person that goes through the camera in this app becomes memorable. 

Facing obstacles as a female tech entrepreneur

Venezuelan tech entrepreneur, Pierina Merino (Photo courtesy Pierina Merino)

Despite the success of FlickPlay, Pierina still faced obstacles throughout her journey with the project. One of her biggest obstacles was acquiring funds and investors to back her venture. As a woman entrepreneur in the tech field, Pierina was part of the 2% of women founders and CEOs of technology companies in the U.S. This meant she had to prove herself. 

To pass the test with Venture Capital, I had to face more than 100 meetings and screenings with my project pitch in my portfolio. I made a lot of pitches and can barely remember how many industry events I have attended to introduce myself and to try to raise funds,” she says. 

However, eventually she gained her first investors, Muse Capital, led by two women. This drew the attention of other executives in the technology industry and Pierina was able to finally secure the rest of her investors to bring her project to life. 

You might be interested: Ivana De Maria presents her storytelling app at 2019 Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch

To other minority women who are thinking of starting their own business Pierina says, “It’s time to take space. We cannot change the past or what leaders used to look like, but it is our responsibility to break the biases for us and future generations. Building a tech  company from scratch is not easy for anyone no matter gender or ethnicity, it requires a lot of mental and emotional strength. The moment you let biases crush your goals you are proving them right. Find your true believers and have enough drive and determination to get what you want when you want it. You will probably have to prove more along the way but that will only make you stronger and a better leader.

The future of social storytelling

Augmented Reality (AR) is transforming not only the way we communicate and tell stories, but also the way in which brands interact with their consumers. It is projected that by 2022 AR advertisements will lead 15% of brand publicity strategies. Therefore, it is key that leading brands include AR as soon as possible to secure a competitive advantage over the others.

FlickPlay is already taking that step forward with its innovative technology. 

New and old activities find the way toward reformulation. Political campaigns, daily life stories, interactions with distant worlds, brand content creation, treasure hunts in the city, challenges among friends, virtual competitions and much more is in store

“This is a novel platform in the app market. Our focus is not on ‘selfie mode’ -as Instagram- but on the physical space and relevant locations for users,” says Pierina. “Our strength lies in the introduction of game mechanics so that content creation and consumption become more entertaining.  Rewards get users excited about getting benefits. Some users engage in the competitive aspect and want to make it to the top of the list, while others only seek to produce high-level creative videos remaining outside of the game dynamics. We want to reach one billion users and still focus on the consumer. We want to be fun and interactive. FlickPlay is making room for a new social segment to tell the best stories in their favorite places.”

On the subject of Covid-19 and how it has impacted our perceptions of our physical world and our relationship with social media, Pierina says: 

“After the shock associated with cultural and social changes in the world due to the pandemic, I’ve noticed that everything we can touch is getting closer to everything we cannot see in the real world. Therefore, while virtual reality becomes the only tangible way to view the world, what we cannot attain in a real way will become part of the digital world. No matter where you are, two realities coexist across the globe, the one you reach through your senses and the one that defies them, that you can find looking through FlickPlay. The magic of this app makes this happen.” 

Get FlickPlay using the QR Code above!

FlickPlay is currently available in the Apple Store in the U.S. and Canada, and will be launching soon in Spain as the first European release. 

LISTA Latinas Excellence Award And Latinas in Tech Summit

Emerging Tech Leadership Summit and Latina Tech & Biz Leaders Luncheon

Event Details: TechLatin@ Emerging Tech Leadership Summit 

Date: July 22nd 2015    Time: 8:00am -7:00pm

Location: Waterside Catering and Banquet Center

7800 B River Road, North Bergen, NJ 07047  |  201.861.7767

 

NorCal LISTA Summit Attendees

NorCal LISTA Summit Attendees

Join us for a event that will be remembered!  Latino/as in Tech and business leaders from around the New York tri state area and their associates will be coming together in North Bergen, NJ, to discuss the state of affairs for Latinos/as in Tech. This year, the TechLatin@ Emerging Tech Leadership Summit will be take place at the magnificent Waterside Banquet sponsored by Aetna, AT&T, The Home Depot, Comcast/Telemundo , Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, and Verizon.

“We are incredibly excited to host the Emerging Tech Leadership Summit and National Latina Tech and Business Leaders Luncheon in New Jersey,” said Nii Lomotey, President of the LISTA TechLati@ Council of New Jersey.

“According to the most recent data, Hispanics account for 38 percent of the state population and 3% in Silicon Valley and Fortune 500. LISTA has been showcasing and developing the next generation of tech talent for over 17 years making us the premier Latino technology association in the country”, said Jose Marquez, CEO and President of TechLatin@: Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association. It is time for a change, we must make the change happen. 

“We have amazingly talented techs in the latino community that is pushing innovation to new heights every day,” said Francisco Montero, Chairman, TechLatin@: Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association  “The possibilities are endless when we come together and together our message is clear innovate, create and continue to drive opportunity.”

The 2015 Emerging Tech Leaders Summit and Latinas Tech and Business Leaders Luncheon is a daylong event. This year’s workshops will include a focus Tech Trends, a luncheon recognizing the most successful, Social Media, Latinas in tech: Why Silicon Valley Just doesn’t get it. Tech for Social good Cyber Security Done Right, Doing Tech Business in Cuba: How to do business in Cuba and Avoid the Pitfalls among other important topics topics.

 

SPEAKERS INCLUDE: 

–  Beatriz Rodriguez, Director Diversity and Inclusion, Home Depot

–  Ted Rubin, Chief Marketing Officer,The Rubin Organization

–  Yolanda Arriola, CEO, Southwest University at El Paso

–  Jackie Puente, Executive Director External Affairs, Comcast Corp.

–  Antonio C Martinez II, Attorney, The Law Office of Antonio C Martinez II

–  Carlos Gonzalez, Massachusetts State Representative,

–  Francesca Escoto, Author and Activist, Tech for Social Good

–  Rosa Alonso, Telemundo 47 CEO/Creator, Rosa Alonso Digital

and many more.  For a complete list click here 

Follow the conversation on Twitter: @LISTA1  @techLatino  #techlatino 

Event Details:

Location: Waterside Catering and Banquet Center

7800 B River Road, North Bergen, NJ 07047  |  201.861.7767

Date:July 22nd 2015    Time: 8:00am -7:00pm

To for more information, sponsorship and to purchase tickets, please go to: http://

Rebecca Garcia, co-founder, CoderDojo NYC

RebeccaGarcia_Geek Rebecca Garcia, 23, developer evangelist at Squarespace, and co-founder at CoderDojo NYC  became the youngest person ever to receive a White House Champion of Change Award for Tech Inclusion last year.

A self-taught web developer, Garcia started at web development and social good at Do Something, a social cause marketing organization working on cause campaigns ranging from arts education to homelessness.

She is now the Developer Evangelist at Squarespace and co-founder of CoderDojo NYC, a non-profit dedicated to improve the lives of young children and teens by teaching them web, game and app development. She is the former CTO of Greatist, a health fitness and wellness media startup.

In 2013, Garcia received the U.S. White House Champion of Change for ‘Tech Inclusion’ award for her efforts to bring STEM education to underrepresented communities and for publishing ‘The Next Generation of Creators in Tech’.

Her journey into technology began through front-end web development, and interest in HTML & CSS and strategy video games. During middle school, her sister sponsored her to attend a summer program at MIT where she learned her side passion–making websites. Garcia then went on to teach at that same summer program at MIT, where she was inspired to start CoderDojo NYC.

“Our mission at CoderDojo NYC is to make technology education free and open to youth, as part of the larger CoderDojo movement that began in Ireland. Currently there are over 300 chapters in 30 countries around the globe. This led me to consulting remotely for the Hello World Foundation in Ireland to help provide resources to empower youth in becoming creators not consumers through tech.”

Read a complete interview with Rebecca Garcia at Geekettes