Latina-led Silicon Valley tech company raises $2M by Jessica Guynn

Latina-led Silicon Valley tech company raises $2M by Jessica Guynn

SAN FRANCISCO — Entrepreneur and diversity advocate Laura I. Gómez has raised $2 million for her 20-month-old recruiting software start-up Atipica, believed to be one of the largest seed funding rounds for a Silicon Valley technology company run by a Latina founder.

The round is led by True Ventures and includes Kapor Capital, Precursor Ventures as well as technology veterans such as former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao.

“It validates the product and, being a Latina and being a woman, it helps set an example for a lot of the young women I have talked with, who are graduating from college and want to enter tech,” Gómez, founder and CEO of Atipica said. “If I can do it, they, too, can do it.”

Hispanics are the second-largest population group in the country after whites. In California, they make up nearly 40% of the population and in Silicon Valley 27%. They are heavy users of technology and social media and they adopt smartphones at a faster rate than other U.S. ethnic groups. Yet, in Silicon Valley tech companies, they comprise a distinct minority, making up 6% of employees, versus the 22% of employees in non-tech firms in the area, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At major Silicon Valley tech companies, that percentage is even smaller.

Even more striking: Hispanics are not highly visible among the ranks of entrepreneurs and investors either. Less than 1% of venture-backed start-ups has a Latino founder, according to CB Insights, even though Hispanics drive new-business formation in the U.S.

Gómez, who has worked for major tech companies including Twitter and YouTube, says participating on a USA TODAY panel at Stanford University on closing the racial gap in Silicon Valley in November 2014 sparked the idea for Atipica. The other panelists included Rev. Jesse Jackson and the diversity chiefs from Facebook and Google.

“We were talking about the (recruiting) pipeline and I said, ‘I am tired of talking about the pipeline,'” Gómez said. “You can’t say it’s the pipeline unless you analyze what’s happening in your pipeline.”

A USA TODAY investigation in December 2014 that found a dearth of underrepresented minorities in non-technical roles, not just technical roles, inside major Silicon Valley tech companies, spurred Gómez to act.

“Something had to be done,” she said.

She called a software developer friend in Mexico and said: “Come help me with this crazy idea I have.”

Gómez says her start-up combines artificial and human intelligence to help companies sift through their own recruiting data to identify top candidates through a “bias-free” recruiting process.

“That’s really where our major value add is,” she said. “While we have evolved into much more of an approach of understanding the unique person behind the resume, and the signals and the factors that convey that, the diversity component is really important to us. And that’s where we have a competitive advantage to other people just starting off in this space.”

Gómez, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 10 and didn’t gain legal status until her college years, was one of the few Latinas at YouTube and Twitter. This background has given her a singular voice on how to transform a Silicon Valley workforce that’s largely white, male and Asian. She is active in promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech sector. She is one of the prominent women behind a nonprofit venture, Project Include, that collects and shares data to help diversify the ranks of technology companies.

Atipica, which is headquartered in San Mateo, Calif., and has a team in Mexico, has hired a chief technology officer, Michael Sela, formerly with SurveyMonkey. And its clients include Thumbtack, Square and a pilot program with Slack.

“I joined Atipica because after years of trying to hire good engineers, it was obvious to me how ineffective and unfair the (recruiting) process is,” Sela said.

Follow USA TODAY senior technology writer @jguynn. For more USA TODAY coverage of diversity and inclusion in tech, click here.

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