Jesse Martinez, Founder of LSA Global and the Latinx Startup Alliance, four-time startup founder, and Venture Partner at Vamos and Resolve, brings his impressive resume to the pod to talk about his passion for investing in Latinx founders in tech. Born and raised in Houston, Jesse has traveled around the country founding startups, investing in opportunities, and participating in startup accelerators. Talking points include the Houston ecosystem, Tejano Tech Summit, and what’s next for Houston.
[00:00] Podcast begins - Spotlight on Latino Founders in Tech
[07:36] Gaining experience in 5 startup accelerators
[11:29] From taking the red pill to finding product sustainability
[14:46] Focusing on Latinos in tech at LSA Global & the Tejano Tech Summit
[19:10] Getting involved in venture at Vamos Ventures & Resolve Ventures
[23:38] Work still to be done in the Houston tech ecosystem
What was behind your decision to become a founder?
Although Jesse’s focus now is in venture capital, he’s also a four-time startup founder and has dealt with his fair share of market ups and downs. Jesse felt inspired to be involved in tech beyond being an employee; he feels that his skills in sales and business development helped him reach new heights as a founder and still contribute to his success today as an investor. The biggest struggle was, and still is, in sustainability. Becoming a founder taught Jesse the value of a company and a product that can be built up step by step, milestone by milestone.
“I think I was always wanting to do more, learn more. How do you make it sustainable, right? That's the biggest question today, launching a company from my perspective, after you've done it four times, that's easy. How do you make the company sustainable? That's the real test.”
What is LSA Global?
Today’s LSA Global is a nonprofit in Houston, but Jesse explains that the roots of the organization began in 2011 in San Francisco. Searching for resources for Latino tech founders, Jesse realized he couldn’t find community-based organizations that focused on his demographic. While other communities were building up diverse founders, Jesse felt that there was a gap in the Latinx community, especially in terms of tech. That same gap exists in Houston too, and the Greater Houston Partnership encouraged Jesse to set up LSA’s headquarters here.
“We started with 6 people in the Mission District of San Francisco in 2011. Fast forward, we have over 1000 members globally. Our whole mission is to empower Latino tech founders, that hasn't changed. What we do is we help the founders connect with tools, resources, and then, especially making those warm introductions to investors.”
What is it like being a part of Resolve Ventures and Vamos Ventures?
Alongside LSA Global and Latinx Startup Alliance, Jesse is a Venture Partner at Resolve Ventures and Vamos Ventures. Both opportunities allow Jesse to continue his mission of supporting the Latinx community through tech. With his eyes on sustainability technology and health technology, Jesse wants to help diversify the investment landscape by encouraging Latinx individuals to be involved in venture, as both investors and founders.
“Our mission is twofold. One, how do we create more diverse LPs and introduce them to investing, tech investing? And then, two, how do we curate deal flow where the founders understand the need for diverse LPs and allow us to come in?”
When looking at the Houston startup ecosystem, what’s next?
Gaining experience on the West Coast has shown Jesse that startups in Houston are still in the early stages of success. There’s a lot of potential here, Jesse explains, but tough conversations have to be had about sustainability and access. Encouraging universities to be involved and solidifying a future for investment after Series A are next steps to help Houston’s tech ecosystem flourish and continue the cycle of venture success.
“We all need to work together and have those tough conversations. How many funds do we have in Houston? Who's actually investing in Houston startups? Which startups are truly venture bankable and scalable? And then, are we giving that tough critique to the startup founders?”