As the US slides closer to a potential recession, economists and business leaders are racking their brains for ways to improve the country’s financial health.
For Solomon “Sol” Trujillo, the answer is simple: Invest in Latino-owned businesses.
In 2019, Trujillo, 70, founded L’Attitude Ventures, a venture capital (VC) firm that exclusively invests in Latino-owned businesses. Trujillo is a general partner at L’Attitude Ventures alongside former United Airlines CEO and chairman Oscar Munoz, Kennie Blanco, Laura Moreno Lucas and Gary Acosta, who is also a co-founder of the firm.
Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the US, with the potential to add 5.3 million new jobs and $1.5 trillion to the US economy in the coming years, according to the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative. By 2030, McKinsey & Co. estimates that 1 in 5 US workers will be Latino.
Yet Latinos are the most undercapitalized growth cohort in the country — in 2021, US startups and companies with Latino founders received less than 2% of all VC funding, according to Bain & Company.
“Instead of continuing to try to explain to people why this lack of investment is a problem and the opportunities that exist in this cohort, I decided to create the prototype that shows people how it can work,” Trujillo tells CNBC Make It.
“We want people to see that there are a lot of companies that can create growth and stimulate our country’s GDP with the right support.”
Trujillo, an international business executive who has served as CEO of three large global companies (US West, Orange and Telstra), was tired of seeing Latino founders get shut out of funding and traditional networking ecosystems in the VC world. He knew that if Hispanics and Latinos were fully, equitably included in the US economy, that the gains could be tremendous.
L’Attitude Ventures provides capital and mentorship to the entrepreneurs the firm invests in as well as connections to companies and distribution channels for founders to grow their companies.
The firm closed its first institutional fund in August, raising over $100 million through a strategic anchor investment by JPMorgan Chase and investments from other big financial names including Barclays, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley.
Trujillo calls the fund an “opening salvo” for what he hopes will become an “investment boom” directed toward Latino-run businesses.
Those funds have benefited dozens of businesses throughout the US including Progeny Coffee Farmers; Nopalera, a line of Mexican bath and body products; and Raddle, an online collaboration platform for small businesses.
L’Attitude Ventures also hosts an annual showcase and competition where early-stage Latino entrepreneurs are matched with capital from long-term investors. Their most recent event, which took place in September, hosted famous faces like former president Barack Obama and “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Why investing in Latino-owned businesses ‘benefits everybody’
While other firms are “well-intentioned” in expressing interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, and giving speeches about the importance of diversity and inclusion to their mission, their investment strategies haven’t caught up to the 21st century , Trujillo argues.
“Firms collect capital, then they look for opportunities in the same places as they did in the ’80s and ’90s. But markets and populations evolve, right?” he says. “We’ve found that the Latino cohort is the most productive, entrepreneurial group of all the cohorts in the US … if you believe in capitalism, which I do, because I think it works 92.5% of the time, you flow capital to where the growth is, and that’s not happening.”
The harmful stereotypes still plaguing Hispanic and Latino Americans are partly to blame for the funding gap, Trujillo says. “People will say Latinos are uneducated, that they’re not business people, they’re not this or that … and that’s totally wrong,” he says.
The result of investing in Latino-owned businesses, Trujillo adds, is a stronger US economy that “benefits everybody.” Latinos’ economic output in the US was a whopping $2.8 trillion in 2020, a figure higher than the GDP of the UK, India or France, according to a report by the Latino Donor Collaborative in partnership with Wells Fargo.
“What we are doing here isn’t just ensuring the success of Latino-owned businesses,” Trujillo says. “This is a smart economic strategy that we know will absolutely help the US economy remain competitive not only now but for the rest of this century.”
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