By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
Cultural diversity leads to greater creativity and problem solving, Rojo said.
Rojo is working to change the tech landscape in Austin. CODE2040, a nonprofit that creates pathways to success in technology for minorities, selected Rojo as the Austin winner of its CODE2040 class of entrepreneurs in residence. The program, backed by Google, seeks to empower Black, Latino and Latina entrepreneurs to build companies and help others.
Rojo, 25, the son of Mexican immigrants, grew up in Weslaco, near the Texas and Mexico border. He graduated from Harvard in 2012 with a degree in computer science and sociology. During his time at Harvard, he took a year off, to run a real estate business with his brother in Austin. He also spent two summers as an intern for Google at its Mountain View, Calif. headquarters.
“Obviously Austin is a very liberal city,” Rojo said. “It’s very open minded and connected. I never felt like my race or my background – never felt any discrimination here.”
But in the tech industry, in general, there’s a lack of representation, Rojo said.
“It’s not necessarily about race, but it’s about cultural diversity,” Rojo said. “Having more of these under-represented groups can only help. The more diversity you have the more diversified the ideas you have. Companies are failing to meet that and they are losing out. Society as a whole loses out because you lose out on these valuable workers.”
After graduation, Rojo worked at Indeed.com as a software developer. He developed TicketKarma, an online ticket marketplace as a hobby.
“I built it because I wanted to use it,” he said.
Now the CODE2040 program will allow him to work on it full time. As an Entrepreneur in Residence, Rojo receives $40,000 in seed capital as a grant, workspace at Capital Factory, a trip to the Googleplex in Silicon Valley for training and networking and mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs in the Google for Entrepreneurs network.
Rojo found out about the Google grant program the last day the application was due. He feels very fortunate to have been selected.
“It’s really been a godsend,” he said.
Rojo also helps that he can serve as a role model for others of what’s possible.
“Growing up, I had a strong network of people around me that showed me what’s possible,” he said. “The value of that is enormous.”