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Wave, Latin Chamber expand reach for first Hispanic accelerator

Veronica Brezina



Cesar Hernandez (left), CEO of Omni Public and Chairman of the Tampa Bay Latin Chamber of Commerce, and Mariah Ramos, manager of accelerator operations and mentor relations at the Tampa Bay Wave. Image provided.

Omni Public CEO Cesar Hernandez and Richard Munassi, a managing director at Tampa Bay Wave, are packing their bags and heading out to mega cities across Latin America. The objective: To recruit businesses for the bay area’s first startup accelerator geared toward the Hispanic community. 

The LatinTech Accelerator, which will be based at the Wave’s Tampa office, is a new program launched through a joint partnership between the Tampa Bay Latin Chamber of Commerce and Tampa Bay Wave, a nonprofit that has supported more than 500 tech startups. 

“When I co-founded the initiative for the LatinTech accelerator [in 2019], I drew inspiration from the other tech ecosystems around the world and saw a need for it here. The Chamber was in no position to launch the accelerator alone. Luckily, [Tampa Bay Wave CEO] Linda Olson was my first call, and she was more than open to it,” said Hernandez, who serves as Chairman of the local Latin Chamber. 

The duo secured a $500,000 federal grant, which was championed by U.S. Representative Kathy Castor.

“In our region, we recognize the untapped potential within the Latino community to transform the tech sector,” Olson said in a prepared statement. “With this program, we’re extending an open invitation to founders of Latin heritage or from Latin America. This is an unparalleled opportunity to be part of a meaningful shift in the entrepreneurial landscape.”  

The application process has officially opened. The team will select 15 to 20 companies in the fintech, healthtech, edtech and other verticals to participate. The eligible startups must be at the seed to Series A funding stage and have Latino or Latina founders with at least a 50% stake in ownership, control and daily operations.

The accelerator will kick off Nov. 13. 

The founders will have access to the Wave’s mentor network and receive guidance in forming feasible business plans. There will be a pitch event on Feb. 29, 2024, where the entrepreneurs will present their companies to potential investors. 

“We are going to expand our reach. There are keen interests in Mexico City, Chile, Argentina and Brazil,” Hernandez said. 

He and Munassi, who will lead the cohort, will be recruiting different businesses from existing Latin American startup accelerators and incubators. 

Over the past couple years, investors and venture capitalists have deployed less funding – creating an even more significant gap and challenge for Latin company founders. According to the latest data from Crunchbase, U.S. startups with Latin founders received a mere 2.1% of venture capital funding in 2021, which is a small increase from the 1.8% figure in 2018.

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