Taken from Forbes
Written by Laura Rocha, CEO and Co-Founder, Dathic
In 2020, Laura Rocha and Jose Daniel Ramirez, both immigrants from Colombia, passionate about using technology to make their Latino community visible, valued, and represented in American retail, founded a data and technology startup, Dathic. Dathic is an insights and analytics platform that helps brands understand and authentically engage with the U.S. Latinos and multicultural communities.
Since 2020, I have been connecting data dots and interpreting outputs of machine-learning algorithms to understand multiculturalism in every corner of the United States through my company, Dathic. Dathic stands for data and tech for communities, we develop an insights and analytics platform that helps brands understand and authentically engage with Latinos and multicultural communities at any location in the U.S. I want to share some of the learnings and what motivates my work on using the power of data and AI to connect and understand communities. Communities beyond individual characteristics identify the common interests, cultural values, and needs that keep people united and overall feel identified and part of something larger than themselves.
My interest in connecting technology with communities began as my personal need to find with whom to share my Latino food, culture, and nostalgia after moving from Colombia in 2017 to study in NY. It soon became a frustration to see how unseen or stereotyped me, my husband Daniel, and overall my Latino friends felt, despite our community’s huge presence and contribution to the US. This sentiment evolved into an idea that has driven us on a fantastic journey of entrepreneurship, fusing data and analytics, to understand local cultures, finding what keeps people together and feeling part of a community, and finally creating a company that showcases the power of the US multicultural communities, making this market visible, valued, and served in American retail on an authentic level.
America's vast cultural diversity has always amazed me the most. But as beautiful as it is to merge many cultures in one country, it’s a great challenge to understand them at scale. With over 120 million households across 40 thousand zip codes, 40% of which identify as diverse and are buying at one million retailers, the efforts to understand multicultural consumers have fallen short - often treated as one-size-fits-all. US multicultural consumers are one of the fastest growing markets, and Latino consumers are at the forefront, with Latino music and flavors spreading quickly across the country. However, we are still seen as a niche market, passed over, despite the immense opportunity to gain loyalty through an authentic cultural connection.
By analyzing billions of data points, maps, and charts, I have immersed myself in towns, large cities, and local neighborhoods exploring who and how people live there, discovering what is unique in their culture, language, topics of interest, and local cuisines; to understand multicultural communities not just at the location level or heritage, but also based on the interests, needs and what makes one belong to engage authentically.
Through this work, I recognized some important takeaways that have since grown into the core values that I hold, and that have been ingrained in our mission at Dathic and highlighted here as I expect to see more progress in the data and tech space in benefit of the communities.
Diversity is the U.S.’s greatest strength: The mix of cultures generates innovation
It is said that to develop a winning product you need to identify the problem. The problem needs to be one that is relevant for many people to ensure the market is big enough, connect closely to your audience to tailor as possible to their needs and culture, and the solution needs to be executed as fast as possible.
Every corner of the U.S. is a different world, with its own traditions, demographics, events, and local cuisine and culture. Such a variety of communities and interests open opportunities to develop endless solutions to serve a diversity of needs. A diversity of communities, with specific needs and with ideas from around the world intersects with the strong traditions of entrepreneurship and hard-working business skills intrinsic to the American culture and at the huge scale of the US market, creating an ideal ecosystem to develop great innovations and scalable solutions.
An example in the consumer space is the accelerated growth of the CPG ethnic-inspired flavors, the explosion of a variety of flavors coming from all over the world that enter the U.S. market, gain popularity, and become worldwide names, scaling fast. This was clear in the growth of this category at shows like ExpoWest and Fancy Food Show which our team recently attended.
Another example is the merging of traditional food and beverage products with high innovation and technology to adapt to the U.S. market. The immigrant community in the U.S. has brought with them ancestral ingredients and traditional recipes that usually take hours to cook. As people adapt their palate and lifestyle to the fast pace in the U.S., new innovations come to the frozen aisle and ready-to-eat food inspired by worldwide flavors that are growing rapidly.
Small and Mid-sized Businesses are Core to the Growth of Our Economy
The diversity of communities in the U.S. makes it a huge market not just for diverse consumers but for entrepreneurs opening businesses in different spaces.
Small and mid-size businesses are determinants to grow local economies, bringing wealth generation, employment, and development. There is a huge opportunity to empower diverse founders and small and mid-sized business owners with data to better understand their market potential and with technology solutions to help optimize their processes.
My work at Dathic has given me firsthand experience of the high return on investments and the benefits for communities when closing the technology gap for this business segment.
A mind-blowing number was coming recently from a fellow Latino grossing $10 million annually with his traditional Mexican Tamales food truck business in a local town in Texas. With Hispanics representing the state’s largest demographic group and a market of over 37 million Mexicans country-wide, he was using the data and analytics to identify strategic markets to expand his business to new regions and target to reach a previously unattainable goal for a small business owner, creating a billion-dollar business by strategically placing tamale trucks in communities across the U.S.
A family-owned popular Puerto Rican bread we have worked with since its early entrance into the US retail market is another amazing example. Although for many the U.S. Puerto Rican market could be considered pretty small, their closer connection with the Latino market, and the ability to identify strategic communities through data, gave them confidence in the potential, and in just a few years have expanded their distribution from a few stores in one city to over eight thousand nationwide becoming a leading Latino brand in the largest retailers.
There is a huge benefit to using the power of technology and data to connect
There is magic in sharing, and it is natural for humans to want to belong and connect with people with similar interests, values, and knowledge. As YouTube, Google Maps, or Reddit's success show, data, and algorithms have been valuable in helping people find and connect as a community; from finding people that share your passion for hot sauce to, as in my case, finding others who love Latino food and share nostalgia after moving from Colombia.
Technology, data, and artificial intelligence are powerful tools to connect businesses with multicultural communities, expanding the boundaries of physical locations, and making them feel included and valued. We’ve seen this in local communities, where for years retailers haven’t offered organic or authentic ethnic products, how e-commerce has come in to fill the gaps connecting consumers with products they love in easy-to-order and delivery options. In food desert areas, digital payment methods enable people to place online orders using their food stamps, which has been a huge benefit to accessing healthier options.
As the data available grows and the technology to interpret it becomes more accessible, brands have a great opportunity to understand the vast diversity of communities in the U.S. to create authentic connections to their specific needs and cultural values and to serve them with products and services improve their quality of life and drive prosperity and welfare to their local communities, resulting in the loyalty of these fastest-growing markets.
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