(Photo Credit: Crowdismo)
In the summer of 2004, an undocumented Mexican American high school student and fellow members of his school’s robotics team won their very first underwater robotics competition by beating the whiz kids at M.I.T.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because Cristian Arcega’s story was re-told in the documentary Underwater Dreams (2014), and remade into the feature film Spare Parts (2015).
Today, Arcega is trying to raise $178,000, the cost of a 4-year tuition, to fund his dream of becoming an electrical engineer. What’s noteworthy is the fact that in order to pull it off, he’s using an online tool favored by an increasing number of Latino and Latina business owners and entrepreneurs.
The tool is a savvy, online platform called Crowdismo, and it’s using the power of “the crowd”… the vast universe of people online…to link minority business owners with investors who offer more than money. They’re the kind of investors who are genuinely excited simply because they’re happy to fund a good idea.
Jose Huitron says he and co-owner Jose Guevarra founded Crowdismo after lots of research supported their first-hand experiences. “Being Latino we have a direct connection to some of the many limitations to gaining access to capital.”
Huitron claims minorities have a tougher time than most when it comes to finding capital, and he’s armed with data to back it up. “There’s an amazing, eye-opening study titled Rejected, Shackled and Alone. It showed how minority business owners are getting less information on loan terms, less help when it comes to the application process yet they’re asked MORE questions about their personal finances.
“On the start-up side, only one to two percent of venture capital money goes to African American and Latino entrepreneurs. So yes, there are some ingrained, stereotyped prejudices out there but it’s not across the board. Investors are stepping up to the plate and why wouldn’t they? There’s an ocean of underserved minorities out here.”
So, attention small business owners, if you’re thinking about raising capital via crowdfunding, know this: That 30-day bank or credit card application process is finally not the only option.
As Huitron puts it, “People fund people. And as far as the product is concerned, it’s about the person who created it, as well as their story and their authenticity.”
Considering its services, Crowdismo can easily position itself as both financial matchmaker and coach. “We’re getting minorities into the pipeline where they’re introduced to investors, but we’re also getting them prepared to do a pitch for those investors to improve the likelihood of getting capital.”
So, while Crowdismo plays the matchmaking coach, pairing investors with inventors and capitalists with creators, Huitron says the company’s own future looks just as bright. “Right now, we’re exchanging ideas with the Access to Capital team at the California Economic Summit because connecting small business owners with investors benefits the entire community. As for us, we’ve got exciting plans that are really going to explode. It just takes time.”
You can find Crowdismo on Twitter: @crowdismo, or visit their website at crowdismo.com.