Nearly one in five people in the U.S. identifies as Hispanic. What makes this figure even more interesting is that this population is far younger than its white counterpart, with an average age of 28 as opposed to 42. And yet few American companies are successfully courting and winning over this critical group of consumers, whose buying power is estimated at around $1.5 trillion.
Ilse Calderon is a Latina venture capitalist with the Bay Area’s OVO Fund, which invests in companies at the earliest, pre-seed stage. Some of OVO’s past investments include Palantir, Kiwi Crates, Addepar, Wish, and ManCrates, along with many others.
For the past year, Calderon has been writing and speaking about the rise of what she calls “the Hypercultural Latinx.” This is a term she coined, which she feels speaks to a largely overlooked audience of young Hispanic consumers in the U.S. In an article she wrote for Techcrunch, Calderon defines the Hypercultural Latinx as “a second-generation Hispanic who is 100% Hispanic and 100% American. She excels by creating a pseudo culture where she can thrive best—a culture where her customs, language and values shine through. This person, who often identifies as a Gen Zer or young Millennial, is a fanatic of mobile.” According to Calderon, the Hypercultural Latinx also outspends her white counterparts across most categories and is a tech-savvy trendsetter.
Calderon offers these top tips for businesses who want to appeal to the growing and influential Hypercultural Latinx consumer:
- Don’t make mistakes others have made before you. Instead, learn from them. Some large companies such as Kmart and Walmart have tried to market to U.S. Hispanic youth in the past—and failed. It’s not as simple as translating English marketing lingo into Spanish. There are nuances to consider. Be smart about your approach.
- Be authentic in your story and background. Don’t try to “Latin-ize” something that isn’t true purely to gain the loyalty of the Hypercultural LatinX. Most of these young people are savvy enough to read between the lines and distinguish the truth from the fluff.
- Study and understand U.S. Hispanic youth humor and pop culture. You are likely going to be able to use pop culture to attract this audience if you are on top of what is relevant. So do your homework. The Hypercultural Latinx are known trendsetters and if you can get them onboard, you can get their friends to follow.
Calderon joined OVO Fund four years ago as an associate and quickly advanced to principal investor. “I have the best job in the world,” she says. “I spend a third of my time learning about new industries and staying ahead of the curve through market research and conversations with industry experts, aspiring founders, and other investors. I spend another third of my time staying connected in the ecosystem, making investments, and giving back by dedicating time to panels and underrepresented founders. The last third, but arguably the most important, I spend with my portfolio founders functionally helping them to fill the holes in their businesses.”
Her life purpose is to help those in marginalized communities attain equal opportunity, Calderon says. For now, that means encouraging and aiding underrepresented founders in taking on the entrepreneurial journey and helping them access capital. “As a Latina, I often find we are the overlooked stepchildren of American society. It’s my mission to use whatever privilege I have and share it with those who have not been as fortunate as me.”
The biggest challenge Calderon faces in her industry is that of being taken seriously. Often, she is the only young Latina in a room full of older, mostly white men. “However, I try to flip this challenge on its head and use it to my advantage,” she says. “After all, venture capital is an industry where innovation wins. As a young, diverse person, I am most often closer to the end user of the startups we finance than are the others in the room.”
To young people looking to align their career with their life purpose, Calderon offers this advice. “Treat your career and different roles as experiments. I encourage young people to maximize their learning. Once learning plateaus, you know something has to change. If you view your career as an experiment and go into it with a strong hypothesis, then you truly are setting yourself up for success. That success can mean you find a career that gives you meaning or, worst case scenario, you figure out what it is that you don’t like doing. For a young person, that’s equally valuable.”