Welcome to the latest issue of Generation Si! 👋
Please share the article to spread the word about the cool things we, Latinos, are doing in the business world (the share button is at the top).
This profile really gets to the heart of what we contribute - an "all-in" passion for our work and a culture of unity.
In today's Tip Jar section, our guest tipper, Anton Diego, the Co-President & Co-founder of EveryMundo, gives you a specific timeline for mapping out your start-up plans and explains why there's never been a better time to become an entrepreneur.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Think back to when you were a kid.
What seemed possible to you as a career? Maybe it was becoming a doctor. Or even a teacher. Or a police officer.
Anton Diego says, “I grew up in Cuba and the word ‘entrepreneur’ did not exist.”
According to the Associated Press, only a highly-controlled form of self-employment was allowed in Cuba starting in the early 1990s.
So imagine being born in Moscow, raised in Cuba and then landing in Miami in 1995 at the age of fifteen. This was Diego’s world.
INDUSTRY: Technology and Aviation
STARTED BUSINESS: End of 2006
Father – Cuban
Anton Diego was raised in Cuba (Note: His mom is Russian)
University of Michigan – Bachelor’s degree in Civil and Structural Engineering
DREAM JOB AS A KID: "Architect. Always. I still have drawings as a kid of buildings."
BIGGEST GOAL YET: "My biggest goal is to do something with Cuba. To affect the Cuban people… To foment entrepreneurship, technology, tech companies in Cuba.”
“There [are] incredible developers, programmers in Cuba, and the ones that have left also, who, a lot of them work for us. They’re the ones that built this company.”
“I want to change the embargo law to allow U.S. companies to hire Cuban developers. In Cuba, allow them to work for U.S. companies remotely.”
NOT ACCORDING TO PLAN
“I always wanted to be an architect. That was kind of ingrained in my head. I went to college to study structural engineering. And my plan was to go and get a Master’s [degree] in Architecture.”
But then a trip to Chicago to visit a friend who had an online business changed everything for Diego. Diego’s friend, Brad, understood exactly what entrepreneurship could bring.
Brad’s parents were entrepreneurs. Diego says, “He [Brad] kind of had the goalposts set for himself. I had no idea... I was just kind of following his footsteps and trying to understand how this world works.”
But the special skill that Diego had going for him is that he could program. And so his friend hired him. At first, it was on a part-time basis. Eventually, it became his full time job. This is where Diego’s start-up dreams first flickered.
But Miami was calling.
THE START-UP SPARK COMES ALIVE IN THE MAGIC CITY
So Diego moved back to Miami in 2006. And that’s when his start-up dreams took off like wildfire.
“That’s where it really hit me that I wanted to do something on my own in tech. And, I wanted to, specifically, around the U.S. Hispanic market. That’s how EveryMundo started."
EveryMundo, which he loosely translates into “the whole world”, started as a digital marketing agency. Seth Cassel co-founded the business with Diego.
The company counts nearly 80 airlines as clients, providing them with software solutions and, essentially, fare marketing technology, that helps airlines get customers directly.
THE ENGINEER BECOMES AN ENTREPRENEUR
Diego comes across like most engineers I’ve met: calm, soft-spoken and deliberative. There’s no flash. That’s why I was intrigued to find out what made him decide to take the risk and become an entrepreneur.
“I was good at it. I was good at the technical part of it. I was good at the people part of it. I was good at the business part of it. And I saw a path… And, then, it’s ‘you’re up against the wall.’”
“UP AGAINST THE WALL”
That last sentence is spoken like an entrepreneur. Because being “up against the wall” is reality. He explains:
“When you’re by yourself and you’re in your own bedroom with a computer screen and trying to, you know, write simple algorithms and trying to hustle to get customers and clients and deliver the results to then get the next one… Or generate more revenue from a particular customer. Then, it just becomes about that – sort of that survival mode.”
“THE IMMIGRANT MENTALITY”
Diego says it comes from this “drive to do something exceptional and to do something great.”
I call it "the immigrant mentality.”
Diego immediately understood what I meant and ran with it.
“It’s that chip that you have when you immigrate to this country.” It pushes you “to outperform everyone else… To work harder. To seek more answers. To learn more things. To try new things.”
He says he sees it with his employees, nearly 70% of whom were born outside the United States.
Case in point: his first employees who were Cuban immigrants and programmers.
“They barely spoke English. Most of the internal conversations happened in Spanish. So, from the get-go, we created an environment where it was easier to thrive if you were a recent immigrant.”
And here’s something I wasn’t aware of: the deep talent pool of Cuban students who are developers and programmers.
This was Diego's experience with the Cubans he hired:
“When they come to the U.S., or when they get out of Cuba and they have access to the world of programming and technology and development, they’re like sponges… They absorb it and leverage the foundation they learned in Cuba and sort of leap through and become incredible engineers here or outside of Cuba.”
He says there’s a loophole that allows them to hire Cuban mobile app developers, but not Cuban developers.
THE BIG FORK IN THE ROAD
The beginning of the pandemic was a big fork in the road for EveryMundo’s future.
With airline travel plunging at the outset of the coronavirus, Diego says he and Cassel weren’t sure what would happen with their company.
After all, airlines were their bread and butter.
Up until that time, the company had never had any layoffs.
“Those were really tough times. Right before the pandemic, we were 107 people in the company. And we had to, unfortunately, reduce to 93 at the beginning of the pandemic, which was the hardest thing we’ve ever done.”
Not only that, Diego says everyone’s salaries were drastically reduced. Still, his staff didn't bolt.
EVEN THE HOUSE WAS ON THE LINE
Things were so touch-and-go at the time, Diego admits, “My wife and I had to put a lien on our house to make payroll.”
He says the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) was a lifesaver. EveryMundo was one of the first companies in South Florida to receive the government-funded employer assistance loan payments. “That really allowed us to get back on track as a business and survive the pandemic.”
They did more than survive.
EveryMundo gained 32 new airlines as clients (they lost only one airline as a client - and that was because the airline filed for bankruptcy). Their number of employees surged from 93 to a little more than 150.
Diego attributes the turnaround to the resiliency of his employees and to the products. He says airlines realized they needed EveryMundo's products even more to be able to recover from the economic devastation COVID-19 caused.
THE NEXT PHASE
And, now, EveryMundo is in a new phase. The company Diego co-founded with Cassel was just acquired by PROS for $80 million cash and about $10 million in stock.
The kid who didn’t have entrepreneur in his vocabulary just became part of that elite group of entrepreneurs who engineered a multi-million dollar successful exit.
It goes back to the culture at EveryMundo.
Bootstraps, immigrant, majority immigrant-based. And, like I said, we still have that chip on our shoulder.”
In other words, they still embrace "the immigrant mentality.”
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Anton Diego)
STARTING OUT: “Achieve a clear perspective of where you want to be. Essentially… 3 months, 6 months and a year from now. And drive to that. And always keep evolving those goals… Be very passionate about… achieving those goals.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career): “A clarity of purpose is the most important thing.”
“Having visibility into possible profitability.”
“If I was doing it now, I have kids and what not. I would put away money.
“Do it with a partner. I am a big believer in sharing the ups and downs with someone that you work well [with]… that complements you.”
STARTING OVER: “I really believe that this is the time to start businesses. This is the time to have that courage to pursue an entrepreneur’s dreams. There’s never been so much change. There’s never been so much volatility. Change and volatility promotes entrepreneurship… But, again, with a clarity of purpose, with full passion, with the necessary backing… or necessary foundation, to survive a long period of time without making the income that you might need.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: “I wouldn’t try to do so many businesses at the same time… It’s good to focus.”
“I went through a period of time where both my partner (Seth Cassel) and I… were involved in too many things. And something inevitably would suffer – and suffered.”
Note: When I asked how many businesses they were involved in during that period, he said they were actively working on four or five things.
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE: “Always prepare. Never be caught unprepared. Go into every situation prepared… thinking through all the circumstances, thinking through all the scenarios… That, to me, has always served a valuable lesson.”
That lesson, he says, came from both his mom and dad. He calls it a family thing.
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
CREATING A WINNING CAPABILITY STATEMENT & 30-SECOND BUSINESS PITCH
Who hasn’t heard about having an “elevator pitch” or “business pitch” ready to go? But have you worked on it lately? Do you know how to make it memorable? This hour-long SBDC (Small Business Development Center) class will teach you how to do just that. Plus, it will also give you the 5 bullet points of a standout capability statement. I have to admit, I’d never head of a capability statement before. Maybe you haven’t, either. Now would be a good time for us to learn that, too. Here’s a link for more details:
SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
9 a.m. EST – 10 a.m. EST
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
RELATIONSHIPS, FAMILY AND MENTAL HEALTH
When there’s mental illness in the family, it affects every member of the family. And it can affect you at work. This FREE webinar from the Mindspring Mental Health Alliance is designed to help you deal with the difficulties and challenges of mental illness in the family and to manage the stress that you may feel from the strain it creates for every family member. The instructor who will lead the one-hour session is a licensed therapist. Here’s the link to register:
Mindspring Mental Health Alliance
Thursday, December 23, 2021
1 p.m. EST – 2 p.m. EST
Instructor: Jaymi Dormaier, LMSW
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE: My dad says I was born a racehorse. I’m always going full-throttle.
I’ve always believed, it’s in my DNA. I don’t know how to NOT give 200% effort to my job (I’m working on trying to create more balance, but it sure is hard).
I’ve noticed many Latinos are like that. I used to think it was a “Latino” thing.
Then, I realized it really isn’t. It's an "immigrant" thing.
It's what I call “the immigrant mentality,” which I shared with Diego.
There’s an invisible guiding force when you’re an immigrant.
You feel so indebted to be here in the U.S., to have these privileges, to be able to work – that you put everything you have, and maybe don’t have, into your work. Because it means that much.
Anton Diego understood that “fire in the belly” kind of determination. He says he didn’t set out to make his company majority-immigrant, but it worked out that way.
That comes from word of mouth.
Imagine arriving in a new country, trying to learn the language, the laws and the customs. It can be intimidating. To feel like you’re in a place where you feel comfortable speaking Spanish or another language, where you feel like you belong, makes a huge difference.
Heck, I remember working at a company where I casually spoke a few words in Spanish one day, and a co-worker got mad at me. He told me I needed to speak English because we were in America (Yes, I know that’s discrimination, but it happens).
So I find it refreshing when I learn of places where respect for cultural differences is not just put in the HR handbook to comply with laws, but it actually happens organically and is celebrated.
🌴 Hope you enjoyed today's Generation Sí! newsletter. Don't forget to share it (share button is conveniently at the top of the page).
🌴 Looking forward to catching up next week. Enjoy!