According to LDC's 2021 U.S. Latino GDP report unveiled at L’ATTITUDE VENTURES, today’s LatinX population makes up 20% of the U.S. population, has created nearly 80% of all net new business in the country and created about 50% of all employer-founded businesses.
Despite the contributions of Latinos, however, they remain one of the most underfunded populations in the country, with only 1.5% of venture capital going towards LatinX businesses since 2015.
To Sol Trujillo, America's first native-born Latino to serve as CEO of a Fortune 200 company, this is wasted potential -- not only because funding the LatinX entrepreneur is the right thing to do, he says, but it also makes for good business. After participating in Stanford’s Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative study, Trujillo learned that “if the five billion Latino businesses grew the same size on average as the non-Latino cohort, it would equal a trillion and a half dollars of GDP to our economy,” Trujillo says. “It’s a no-brainer, or as you would say in Spanish, Qué más quieres? What more do you want?”
So, in 2018, Sol took matters into his own hands – leveraging his decades of tech and business experience to launch L'ATTITUDE VENTURES, a venture fund focused on investing exclusively in early-stage U.S.-based LatinX led and owned businesses. Since then, L'ATTITUDE VENTURES has invested in several technology companies in everything from FinTech to Analytics to EdTech.
L'ATTITUDE VENTURES mission to fund the LatinX entrepreneur aligns with our own commitment at Cisco Investments to finance and scale diverse-led startups and venture funds. We agree the LatinX community has historically been underfunded, and we want to change that.
Since early investments in diversity-led start-ups starting in 2014 and formally the diversity-focused Aspire Fund as part of Cisco’s social justice commitments in 2020, we have made investments in female-led and other diversity-focused venture funds. And now, we are excited to announce L'ATTITUDE VENTURES as our latest investment.
Maria Martinez, EVP and Chief Operating Officer at Cisco, said, “To power an inclusive future for all, we must commit to building a workforce that is representative of the world that we live in. Investing in L'ATTITUDE VENTURES is a concrete step to ensure LatinX entrepreneurs have access to capital and a more prominent role in the venture capital space.”
Cisco & L'ATTITUDE VENTURES: A Long History and an Exciting Future
The history between Cisco and Sol Trujillo dates back decades. When Trujillo was CEO at Telstra, Telstra became one of Cisco’s first telco customers.
“That’s part of the reason that I’m so excited for Cisco to invest,” says Trujillo, “because I have one of the longest histories with Cisco as just about anybody. I go all the way back to [former CEO] John Chambers, and now, I’ve gotten to know Chuck [Robbins]. Cisco has been blessed with so many great leaders – from Chuck to Maria Martinez, to Jacqui Guichelaar. The word in Spanish is ‘familia.’ When I think about family, Cisco is that way, because the history is so long.”
Trujillo also says that partnering with Cisco also comes down to two other things: technology expertise and aligned values.
“I want to bring people in who can open doors,” says Trujillo. “I’ve had conversations with the Cisco team about how I want them to help nurture these companies. Some startups are very technical in terms of what they’re trying to do, and I won’t claim to be an engineer. That’s where we want to collaborate with Cisco.”
The other piece of this is about underlying values. “I won’t do business with certain companies. Some have approached me, vulture-like, and I’ve said to them, ‘No, I want all people to win, not just some people.’ With Cisco, the values are right.’”
Changing the Way, the VC World “Mines” LatinX Potential
Through L’ATTITUDE VENTURES, Trujillo is changing the way the venture capital community views LatinX entrepreneurs.
Trujillo recounted one memorable story, saying, “There’s a lot of people who call me to invest in their companies, and I always start by saying, ‘Who have you talked to? Where have you tried to raise money?’ Years ago, two people told me they had called a venture firm and asked for an appointment, and they were told they were not hiring cleaning people. If that doesn’t get your heart and your temper flaring, you probably are not human.”
He says the problem is that the VC world needs to change how they source and engage LatinX entrepreneurs: “The goal with L'ATTITUDE VENTURES is to build the prototype. To say, ‘Look VCs, angel investors, and PEs, there’s a big pipeline out there of LatinX entrepreneurs. You just haven’t been looking in the right places.’ It’s like mining. You may have mined for gold, and now you can mine for platinum, but you don’t look in the same places for that.”
Asked about how he’ll measure L'ATTITUDE VENTURES success with this new fund, Trujillo said it will come down to three things: one, a top percentile return on investment; two, jobs created in those companies funded; and three, the overall wealth created. “When you talk about how to create wealth, it’s not just about the founders, but it’s about the other capital you can bring in and embedding capital with employees so that they can create wealth as the company grows. That’s how you have a bigger impact for the US Latino cohort.”
At Cisco Investments, we believe that L'ATTITUDE VENTURES has the right values, background, and data-driven mentality to not only be successful as a VC, but to change the future for U.S. economic impact. We are honored to share in that journey.