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Meet The Latino Tech Co-Founders Inviting You To Social Media Site Swim

Meet The Latino Tech Co-Founders Inviting You To Social Media Site Swim
Written by publishing team

Latinos create more new businesses per capita than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, make up 18% of the population, yet hold only 5% of tech jobs in Silicon Valley and receive less than 2% of total investment funding. Despite these headwinds, Mexican nationals JC Felten and Venezuelan-born Mary Ann Torrealba pursue their dream. The duo co-founded a social networking tool for places called Swimming. The new app is designed as a community space where Generation Z can connect, hang out and explore life, which was initially launched around university campuses.

Felten, a Harvard Business School graduate and serial entrepreneur, and Torrealba, a digital innovation consultant, are booting this startup in San Francisco, with plans to raise growth capital after the beta test ends and the app officially launches. Current team members include consultant Joaquín Paz, Google’s global head of product, as well as development teams in Latin America.

Felten and Turrialba talk about how they came together, what makes their app distinct from others already on the market, and why they believe consumers are looking for “social reality” options, rather than social media.

These questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

There are three co-founders, you two and Joaquin Paz. How did you meet?

JC Felten: Mary Ann and Joaquin are married. My client was on Google for Innovation Lab, another company I started that runs hackathons and runs accelerators in Europe. During breakfast we were talking about how hard it was to feel and know the mood of the place and we came up with the idea. We’re not technical people, but Mary Ann is. She is an engineer and has brought in an engineering team from Latin America and Europe.

Is it important that all founders be Hispanic?

JC Felten: There is a lot of talent in the Latino community. For us, this is also important because we believe that when you pay someone 10 times what they would normally earn back home, you raise their well-being and morale. We give them an opening to a world they weren’t expecting. And we still got a very good deal.

Mary Ann Torrealba: We have hired developers in Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Brazil. It also matters because Latinos are in the minority in technology. We want to provide access. If swimm gets to the point of changing our lives, we want to do the same for them. imagined!

The app is primarily located in the US now, isn’t it?

Mary Ann Torrealba: In New York, specifically during the beta testing phase.

Hispanics make up approximately 30% of the population of the Big Apple. Is this you did that?

JC Felten: If you’re in Argentina, you can download Swim from the App Store. We wouldn’t ban anyone from using it, but we’re testing in one market, New York City, to maximize our marketing dollars. It’s only available on iOS for now, but we’ll be releasing an Android version soon.

Mary Ann Torrealba: We began testing for five months with 1,000 young people associated with New York University. And not just Latinos. Swim is for everyone, and it’s an app that anyone can use to bring places to life.

JC Felten: We didn’t want this to be a new college app, but universities have connections, which is perfect for creating pools, and spaces for us to interact with others.

Why NYU and not other colleges?

JC Felten: New York University is an open and well-integrated campus in the city. This enabled us to have our cake and eat it too when it came to testing in a real-world environment..

How did you come up with the name “Swim”?

Mary Ann Torrealba: The first model was a digital board that we called “BoardIN” like “LinkedIN”. But we are not native speakers of English. We took the name for our pioneers, a group of 10 testers at New York University. They said the name sounded a lot like “boring”.

JC Felten: My May Dylan, granddaughter [singer] Bob Dylan suggested the name “swimming”. We asked why. She said because the app enables you to navigate life.

Mary Ann Torrealba: She is very creative and one of our General Zers who have been advising us and guiding our production direction since the beginning.

JC Felten: We liked her suggestion and we changed the name of the company. “Swimming” is a fun language and is pronounced the same way in any language.

Facebook Meta and other social media has been in the hot seat lately. What makes swimming different?

JC Felten: Kids are addicted to social media – they know it, but they still can’t get out. They worry about how they communicate with friends. The Swim App fixes issues caused by Facebook likes. Swim has no likes. Either you participate or you don’t. In order to be friends with someone, you have to follow them – and they should follow you too. So, you are friends. We connect everything to the site because, as COVID-19 has made clear, no one wants to live fully in the digital world.

I had a friend who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [Lou Gehrig’s disease]. When the disease made it impossible to talk about and difficulty moving, his way of communicating was to write a letter at a time on social media. Facebook can be a lifeline of communication for people like it.

JC Felten: For some, social media hasn’t been a failure. Facebook would be a great thing – if it didn’t have an algorithm designed to make you a victim of their greed. Social networks are not designed with places in mind.

Mary Ann Torrealba: We want to create an app that you can use to discover and interact with what’s going on around you. Also, we want users to be able to better organize their lives in Swim. We don’t have an algorithm that decides what to show you and when.

Swim connects physical places with the digital world, creating networks that allow anyone to interact with, own and monetize the content in them. We build the app around Web3 technology [a new iteration of the World Wide Web that incorporates decentralization based on blockchains], which gives the user, not us, control over their interactions.

Your website states that consumers crave ‘social reality’. What does it mean?

JC Felten: Technology must enhance life. It should not replace anything. It must be invisible. The term “social reality” refers to applications that do not ignore that you live in the real world. Actually we don’t have an algorithm. We don’t need an algorithm, just like in messaging apps, there is no algorithm that tells you which message should appear first. This is the app that users own and control.

like a river. You can dive into the stream or not, but the water is an hour ago.

JC Felten: On Instagram, it’s a bit surreal. You don’t see the content in chronological order. See what the algorithm decides to show you. Someone else is controlling your experience. We want to create a mix between Slack [a work collaboration hub] and Nextdoor [an app for neighborhoods].

What is your ultimate goal with your new company?

Mary Ann Torrealba: We’re creating an app that gives you control over your data, interactions, and conversations, and connects you to places.

JC Felten: We envision empowering people to use technology in a better way, a way that enhances your life, that you don’t control. We can have a huge number of users without having to get them addicted to the app. There is good work to be done – and a lot of money – without hurting people. This is how we were brought up in Latin America.

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