Get to Know: Joshe Ordonez
Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund Recipient
I love to show the world that South America has so much knowledge to offer.
It’s why in 2017, I accepted an invitation to speak at the 55th Commission for Social Development at the United Nations. I shared my experience as a creative to combine cultural heritage and contemporary art and design in order to preserve and promote techniques and practices from ethnic minority communities. Ultimately, I wanted to encourage conversations around traditions, fair trade practices, consumption, and pollution.
That global stage is part of the reason I pursued a graduate degree in Design Management at Pratt Institute. It was the push to continue to demonstrate, through world-class projects, how to implement ancient techniques and traditions from South America into the fashion and technology industry to create sustainable processes.
From that time came, Loop Fairtrade, a digital platform that connects Ecuadorian artisans with global designers to co-create ethical products. And later, Tek-Tiles, a project that focused on integrating technology into smart garments and functional textiles.
Since then, I have jumped into the technology industry where I combine my understanding of culture and design expertise to shape digital products and services that create positive impacts among communities and cities. But for years I found myself struggling with the same internal logistics at companies and projects I worked on within the fashion industry and other operational-heavy fields. At some point,, it was easier to coordinate the shipments of materials and products between countries than shipping a project-related item across town that needed to be delivered within hours.
This is when I decided to put my expertise to the test and build Airpals, a B2B platform that helps teams to coordinate local courier services for in-house parcels. Building it from the ground up taught me a few things.
Never underestimate the power of community.
Latino-led businesses are the fastest-growing segment of U.S. small businesses, but as an aggregate, we only receive 2% of total U.S. venture capital funding, despite comprising 20% of the U.S. population. That is not even mentioning the depressing stats about capital allocation on businesses led by women of color. This is a huge systematic disparity.
The people behind Inicio Ventures see things beyond the default. They accepted that my journey as an entrepreneur started before I even incorporated Airpals, and they still considered the past efforts as "traction". I was considered because of their their people-first approach.
They understood why we needed to be resourceful and unconventional to bring our first customers. But more importantly, they know where I am coming from and what we need to get where we will be able to move the needle in the industry. At Airpals, we need to be constantly growing at the personal level so we can make the company grow exponentially.
Putting tangible resources into Latino founders allows us to prove the value of the products and services we are building and the impact we can do on society. We are self-aware, we know we need to run an extra mile, and there are no shortcuts for us but having meaningful support helps us to move faster.
We also know our community. Investing in Latino founders is not charity. It is a smart business decision because we will continue to nourish our communities and increase our collective purchase power.
Do as much as you can early on so you can collect diverse experiences and learnings. This mindset is what exposed us to the opportunity to be part of the first 50 startups selected for the Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund.
For us, this opportunity is more than the capital. It is about creating a long-lasting relationship with Google and leveraging their expertise in product design, artificial intelligence, and customer acquisition.
This cash infusion will help us to top up our current resources, and bring more females and Latinx talent to the tech industry while doubling down on growth. The more we grow we will be able to give time back and peace of mind to employees in operational roles. At work, people do not consider that the logistical work done by coordinators, assistants, and project managers is exhausting and sits on top of other admin responsibilities.
Above all, give first.
I mean, I wouldn't be here without the support of designers, developers, marketers, and other professionals that helped launch Airpals without asking for anything because I showed up when they needed help with their projects in the past.
ABOUT: Inicio Ventures
An initiative of Hispanics in Philanthropy, Inicio Ventures is an impact fund manager focused on bridging the wealth gap in the US. Inicio Ventures increases Latinx participation and success in the startup economy by supporting and investing in startup leaders that identify as Hispanic.
ABOUT: Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund
The Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund provides hands-on support and non-dilutive cash awards of $100K each to Latino founders across the country.