Meet 7 standout Latinx founders paving the way for a better future
September 23rd, 2020
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More than half a century ago, Latinx Heritage Month was established to commemorate the longstanding contributions of the Latinx community. At Asana, we’re celebrating Latinx Heritage month this year in several ways to uplift and support the Latinx community—from spotlighting our Latinx Asanas’ heritage, to partnering with Techqueria for an event featuring Latinx tech leaders, to holding a Latinx-themed movie night with our Gradient Employee Resource Group. We’re especially excited and proud to reflect on the contributions of our Latinx customers who rely on Asana to drive positive change in this world. This month—and throughout the year—we celebrate them, and take inspiration from their efforts to pave a path for a bolder and brighter future.
Ivelyse Andino, Founder and CEO of Radical Health
When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Ivelyse Andino found herself unprepared for the difficulties involved in navigating patient care. As Ivelyse confronted systemic healthcare disparities, she was motivated to change the status quo. She founded Radical Health, which leverages AI technology to help people understand their health care rights and develop self-advocacy. Ivelyse and her team use Asana to manage the development of their Radical Relay app, an AI-powered “know your rights” for health app.
“Asana is a great tool to keep things moving and keep our team working together from different locations.”Ivelyse Andino, Founder of Radical Health
Originally from Puerto Rico, Ivelyse is a proud Black Latina. Fueled by her background growing up in a historically marginalized community, Ivelyse built Radical Health with strong input from voices that typically never have a say in their own healthcare destiny—including the undocumented, women of color, elderly, young people, and LGBTQ communities. Radical Health is the first Latina-owned and operated Benefit Corp in New York City. For Ivelyse, Latinx Heritage Month is a time to acknowledge and celebrate her heritage. It is this heritage that led her to create a radical solution to the challenges in healthcare “that centered on people and communities that looked like mine,” reflects Ivelyse.
Roman Gonzalez, Founder and CEO of Gardenio
Gardenio is Roman Gonzalez’s answer to a very fundamental question: How, in our often anxiety-inducing world, can we find happiness? Gardenio is a new kind of garden club that sends members everything they need to start growing organic food with an app and community to help them as they grow, all without any waste. He aims to share the joy of gardening and reconnect people to their food, to their neighbors, and to themselves. Gardening positively impacts our physical and mental health—including our happiness levels—combats climate change, and empowers communities to work together. Asana has been a backbone for Roman and the Gardenio team. The team gravitated to Asana for its team structures, flexible views, and timelines, all of which empower them to think less about what they need to do, and spend more time doing the important work that’s involved in changing the world for the better. As Roman says, “We just work better when we use Asana most.”
As a Tejano (Texas-rooted) Mexican American, Roman is quick to point out the symbolism of building a culture-shifting gardening company; for some Americans, the only interaction they have with Mexican Americans can be with their gardener or other inexpensive labor. Roman wants to change that narrative. He is inspired every day by the larger Latinx community’s historical ability to do incredible things with so few resources: from the fundamental role in our food production, to the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s—which aimed to restore rights for farmers—to the street market doñas across the world working tirelessly each day to bring the joy of food to people. For Roman, it’s the daily bravery, courage, and determination of these people that he channels, and from which he seeks his strength.
Adriana Vazquez, Co-Founder and CEO of Lilu
After hearing countless colleagues and friends recount the difficulties of fitting breastfeeding into their busy lives as working moms, Adriana Vazquez was inspired to take action. As a technology and product enthusiast, Adriana founded Lilu on a commitment to leveraging best-in-class technology to make life easier for the millions of moms who begin breastfeeding every year, especially as they transition back to the workplace from maternity leave. In building Lilu, Adriana and her team have relied on Asana for mission-critical activities, including running their Kickstarter campaign to fund Lilu, launching product design updates, and as a content calendar. Asana is not only a central source of truth for Lilu’s internal team, but it’s also a hub for the team to collaborate with its interns, contractors, and other key partners.
After growing up in Mexico, Adriana and most of her close family found new homes in various pockets around the world. Adriana, who now lives in New York City, spent time in Germany during internships, as well as China while working to find manufacturers and suppliers for Lilu. Wherever she goes, Adriana feels a sense of belonging when she meets other fellow Latinx community members. In the 13 years since leaving Mexico, she’s learned to value community and cultural heritage more with each passing year.
Carlos Mendez, Co-Founder and CEO of Datagran
Carlos Mendez built Datagran on the belief that companies should be empowered to harness the power of machine learning without a lot of heavy lifting. The Datagran platform helps companies integrate and centralize their data and leverage machine learning to power critical applications and workflows—all without needing to code. By allowing companies to understand their data and how it powers their critical applications and workflows, Datagran aims to help teams enhance collaboration. Asana is at the core of Datagran’s operations, as the Datagran team relies on Asana for bug reporting, automating routine processing, and for keeping the team on track with status updates.
For Carlos, Latinx Heritage Month is part of a yearlong celebration—as a proud Latino, Carlos celebrates his heritage every day.
Cat Perez, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of HealthSherpa
When Cat Perez was younger, she watched in anguish as her Tia (aunt) struggled with severe back pain. When Cat asked why she couldn’t simply visit the doctor, her Tia responded that she didn’t have insurance since it was too expensive. “To see a person I love so much, who I considered a second mother, suffering in pain all the time, was difficult for me as a child,” reflects Cat.
When the Affordable Care Act was established in 2013, Cat immediately saw the opportunity to help her Tia, and so many others in similar situations. She built HealthSherpa—which makes it easy to find and sign up for health insurance—to close critical gaps and provide access to low-income, uninsured people. To date, more than 3 million people have enrolled in affordable, quality health coverage using HealthSherpa. Cat and her team have trusted Asana as a central home for important projects and product information. Asana has brought HealthSherpa’s cross-functional partners together with clarity and conviction in order to achieve their collective company goals to revolutionize access to healthcare.
Cat, whose father was born in Puerto Rico, has made a conscious effort to embrace her heritage openly, rather than to blend in with dominant, privileged groups. For Cat, who is biracial and Asian-passing, embracing both her Korean and Puerto Rican heritage and identity has been a very important journey of discovery. It has also been a complex one, especially as a queer person of color, which adds another layer to Cat’s intersectional identity. Latinx Heritage Month is a time for Cat to celebrate her past, but also to reflect on her responsibility as a leader in tech. Cat is committed to creating opportunities for others; she always invests the time to chat with her fellow Latinx community members in tech, provide guidance and support, make introductions, and share open opportunities.
Kristen Sonday, Co-Founder and COO of Paladin
After graduating from Princeton, Kristen Sonday joined the U.S. Department of Justice, where she worked on international criminal affairs in Mexico and Central America. Her experiences exposed her to a crippling justice gap—although every U.S. lawyer has a professional responsibility to complete 50 hours of pro bono work (totaling 65 million hours in aggregate), about 86% of low-income Americans’ civil legal problems go unmet. This justice gap disproportionately affects women, immigrants, and minorities. As a response to this justice gap, Kristen built Paladin—the first nationwide pro bono network that connects clients in need with attorneys well-suited to assist them. The platform has already forged nearly 10,000 connections. As a time-strapped founder, Kristen relies on Asana to keep track of her day-to-day tasks and to stay organized. “There’s so much going on as a founder, and it’s crucial to stay on top of it all,” says Kristen.
As a Latina founder, Latinx Heritage Month holds special meaning for Kristen. For her, this month is important for celebrating the successes of the Latinx community and raising awareness of their impactful work. As Kristen explains,
“Only by changing the pattern recognition of what ‘success’ looks like will we start having greater diversity in tech leadership, funding, and overall support.”Kristen Sonday, Founder of Paladin
Ramona Ortega, Founder and CEO of My Money My Future
Growing up in a low-income community in Northern California, yet surrounded by wealthy families, it struck Ramona Ortega as unjust that so many people close to her worked very hard but seemed to be just surviving, rather than thriving. After spending more than a decade as a policy analyst and human rights advocate, Ramona realized that the diversification of personal finance is fundamental to policy and human rights-oriented solutions. She also realized that personal finance is challenging for everyone, but especially communities of color, who have been overlooked or underserved by financial institutions. She reflects, “Money is personal, it’s nuanced and shaped by a number of factors and when I looked around at fintech, I realized that no one was talking to me, or people like me.”
Ramona’s experiences ultimately led her to found My Money My Future—which helps people get started and make smarter financial decisions by providing action-oriented steps alongside financial education. Asana has become an integral part of Ramona and her team’s workflow as they aim to change the face of finance. In particular, Asana empowers the team to stay on top of their workload and build scalable systems.
Now based in the U.S., Ramona embraces all aspects of her dual cultural identity. Being Latinx informs her understanding of family and community and the nuances that exist across different ethnic groups. It also intimately connects her to her team’s mission: “The Latinx community is resilient and hard working—they are, in many ways, the backbone of this country and they, too, deserve the opportunity to build intergenerational wealth,” she explains.
Paying tribute to our Latinx community this month, and throughout the year
These seven Latinx founders are all enriching our society in so many varied ways. We pay special tribute to them this month, but we’re inspired by them every day, all year long. We’re excited to see how they continue to transform our world for the better in the months and years to come.