Google’s Latino Founders Fund rewards 5 local startups | Latin voice | Chicago News

Five local Latino-led startups received good news this week — each of their businesses received $100,000 from Google’s Startups Latino Founders Fund.

The Chicago-based winners are Onebit, a platform that automates financial tracking for independent business owners; ConnectCare Hero, which creates online communities for seniors, their families and healthcare providers; Sanarai, a platform for mental health services in Spanish; Route, a digital cleansing operating system; and Grapefruit Health, a health technology company that uses technology services to help healthcare providers reach patients.

The announcement comes at a time when just 2% of venture capital funding from US companies went to startups with Latino founders last year, according to a study by Crunchbase – this despite Latinos who make up 17% of founders. small businesses.

“A lot of things we’re going through are not typical investing, but these are big issues we’re addressing within our communities,” said Osvaldo Montelongo, Founder and CEO of ConnectCare Hero.

The genesis of Montelongo’s business came from his own life experiences – his father was 57 when he was born.

“In my early twenties I had to look after my dad and quickly realized he had dementia and needed to move into a nursing home. And so when I moved him into a nursing home, I noticed right away that his mental health was declining quite quickly,” Montelongo said. “And a lot of that was because he didn’t have the right cultural programming, the cultural ties with programming for him, and so I developed ConnectCare Hero to help him and other Latinos like him.

Likewise, Luis Suarez developed Sanarai, a platform for mental health services in Spanish, when he saw a need in the Latin American community that was not being met.

“There is a huge gap between the 5% of suppliers who speak Spanish in the United States and the 13% of the population who speak Spanish at home. We have seen an increased demand for services and there is just a shortage of mental health professionals in the first place, and those who speak Spanish are in high demand.

With so many Latinos starting their own businesses, the services offered by Onebit can also help them succeed, said founder and CEO Omar Hernandez.

“Our service can definitely help businesses, especially those in the Latin American community, better understand their financials. Since many of these businesses are selling online, they now need to be able to connect these online systems to their systems. point of sale in their stores,” Hernandez said. “So connecting all of that information and being able to make decisions on that financial data is crucial to helping these businesses succeed.”

Cleaning services and technology may not seem natural, but Ricardo Regalado, Founder and CEO of Route, said his years of experience leading a cleaning services business make him uniquely qualified to create technology that works for this space.

“We’re in Chicago, it’s a huge tech ecosystem. So I was able to find the right people to align with and help me build the product, taking it from an idea to a reality,” said Ricardo Regalado, Founder and CEO of Route. “But guess what – we’re the experts on this. So that’s the other side of building technologies, you have to understand who you’re building them for and why you’re building them.