As of 2021, there were an estimated 27 million developers around the world creating apps for mobile platforms. According to Apple Store editorial director Smokey Fontaine, small developers made up 90 percent of that number, a huge jump of 40 percent since 2015. But overall, just seven percent of all app developers were of Latinx descent. The numbers underscore research that shows founders from underrepresented communities face unique challenges in technology, especially when starting and leading companies.
Recently, Apple has made several moves to change that trend and shine a spotlight on innovative Latinx developers and up-and-coming creators. In addition to several Racial Equity and Justice Initiative commitments, including the launch of a Global Hispanic-Serving Institution Equity Innovation Hub, Apple launched the inaugural Entrepreneur Camp for Hispanic and Latin founders and their apps over the past year. To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, the company recently showcased several apps from Latinx innovators.
Whether it’s finding a new hospitality job with Chamba, maintaining emotional health with Yana, learning to speak English with Cantica or just chatting with friends and family across the country with Caribu, these apps demonstrate how Hispanic culture is an asset as creators try to reach untapped markets and use new technology as a tool for social change.
Steven Wolfe Pereira, CEO and co-founder of Encantos, a curriculum-infused storytelling company aimed at teaching kids learning fundamentals, said he thinks tech has proved to be a great equalizer but it’s up to the Latinx community to keep pushing for inclusion.
“There’s a very small community of Latinx in the startup world and while it’s important to create content for our families and friends, it’s also vital that Latinx creators are the ones who own and are creating the content,” he said.
Find a job with Chamba
The hospitality industry was shaken to its core by the COVID pandemic and it’s still struggling to keep up with staffing shortages to this day. Developed by CEO and Co-Founder Diego Montemayor, Chamba is the first bilingual app for hospitality job seekers and aims to fill the employment void while helping members of the Latinx community find jobs. The app currently has approximately 250,000 users, many of which are located in hubs like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Since April 2020, more than 50,000 jobs have been posted to the site.
Growing up as a Mexican immigrant, Chamba community manager Corina Hierro said she saw first-hand how difficult it was for her mother to get a job when she first came to America. Hierro even worked as her mom’s translator when she was trying to find work. Hierro said ease of use was paramount for developers and she’s heard from many satisfied employers as well as people who have found jobs.
“One of the stories that sticks out is from a teenager who wrote in to say ‘Thank you,’” she said. “He wrote ‘Thanks to Chamba my dad was able to get a job and we were able to leave the Motel 6 we were living in.’ It still gives me the chills and it speaks to the impact that you can have on a community.”
Play and read with Abuela via Caribu
An Apple App Store Award winner in 2020, Caribu is an interactive video-calling platform that helps kids have virtual playdates with family and friends. Featuring games, art, a reading program, songs and more, Caribu has teamed up with providers like Sesame Street, Encantos and NASA to create a novel way of catching up with loved ones that live far away.
Maxeme Tuchman, CEO and Co-Founder of Caribu, is a longtime education advocate, served as Executive Director of Teach For America, worked as a White House Fellow in the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and currently serves as a Trustee of The Miami Foundation. Tuchman said Caribu has been on a roll in the last two years after 10x-ing the company in 24 hours in March of 2020 and, more recently, after a new round of funding led by women and investors of color.
Tuchman said reaching out to companies like Encantos to make sure the stories and music reflecting Hispanic heritage and culture were available to share via Caribu was of high importance. She also shared a story of a user and her grandson, who live in different parts of California.
“We wanted to be sure to offer all those nursery rhymes we grew up with, so people can pass along their culture and make new memories,” Tuchman said. “One grandmother wrote in and told us that she started reading to her grandson during the pandemic and now he reads to her. They’ve made cards together, played tic tac toe and enjoyed ‘cave time’ throughout their separation.”
Take care of your mental health with Yana
Yana founder Andrea Campos has struggled with depression since she was 8 years old. Growing up, Campos said, she thought sadness and loneliness were just a part of her personality. It wasn’t until she was 22 that she turned to cognitive behavior theory for help. After dropping out of college to teach herself to code, she decided to apply her coding skills to develop a solution that could help her navigate her own mental health challenges.
Yana provides access to mental health tools for Spanish-speaking people via chatbots. Campos said the bots allow for an anonymous, affordable and more accessible option for people looking to manage their emotional state. The app features a daily journal, activities towards specific goals and a space where, Campos said, users can reflect before, during and after activities.
Yana launched in 2017 but in late 2020, boosted by a feature on the Apple App Store, the app jumped from 80,000 users to over 1 million in a couple of weeks. Campos said the app currently has around 8 million users, most of which are women 18 to 25 years old.
Learn Spanish and English with Canticos
In 2014, Susie Jaramillo had just dropped her 3-year-old off at school in Brooklyn when she was called back in to comfort her daughter. Jaramillo had recently taken a break from her corporate job, so she sat back down and over the next two weeks sketched and wrote a children’s book in between offering comfort to her child. A few years later, that book – Canticos – has become a bedrock for a multimedia brand that continues to expand.
Born in Venezuela, Jaramillo initially created Canticos to share her culture while teaching her kids fundamentals like reading, writing and counting. Now, Canticos offers 30 different videos in English, Spanish, and a mix, to teach children a new language. Kids can also work on their skills via interactive games or bilingual books, and Canticos also offers accompanying toys, flashcards, and puzzles through its website store. The first 7 days of using the app are free. Afterwards, the program costs $6.99 a month or $57.99 a year.
Jaramillo, now an Emmy-nominated director, illustrator, and storyteller said she wants to encourage creators to share authentic stories of their own.
“I just take so much pride in that we empower families who are proud of their ethnicity and raise bi-lingual children who are kindergarten ready,” she said.
Learn life skills with Encantos
Encantos co-founder Steven Wolfe Pereira started Encantos alongside Susie Jaramillo as they traveled to conventions, book stores and shared stories of growing up in Hispanic homes. Like Jaramillo, Pereira said he was looking for a way to share his culture with his kids, and he embarked on the journey of launching a diverse content library.
Working with Jaramillo and her Canticos brand, Pereira began searching out diverse creators to collect books, music, videos and games specifically designed to offer bilingual learning experiences for kids up to 12 years old. With a focus on preschoolers, Pereira said the endevour has been fervently supported by the Latinx community.
“Even though about 30 percent of the kids in the United States are Latino, there isn’t that much in terms of content out there for them,” he said. “We set out to be leaders in Latino Kids entertainment and we care deeply about sharing culture in an authentic way.”
Last year, Encantos partnered with LA-based 3Pas Studios to develop several new IPs branded as Encantos Originals and earlier this year, as Encantos brought on developers Keith Elliott and Francine Walker, it joined with several other creators for Apple’s inaugural Entrepreneur Camp for Hispanic and Latin founders.