5 Local Black- And Latino-Led Startups Get Funding Boost From Google

Certiverse, GuardianVets, Innovare, SAVVI AI and Speeko received $150,000 each to support their tech companies.

CHICAGO — Google awarded grants this week to five Chicago-based, minority-founded tech companies as part of its Black Founders Fund and Latino Founders Fund programs.

The five recipients — Certiverse, GuardianVets, Innovare, SAVVI AI and Speeko — garnered $150,000 each to support their startups.

Representatives from the five startups attended a Tuesday press conference with Mayor Brandon Johnson to accept their checks from Google.

Certiverse CEO and co-founder Ruben Arturo Garcia helped launch the online platform to help organizations develop exams in a matter of weeks so that test applicants can earn their certifications in their respective trades. 

As a Mexican immigrant studying at Loyola University, Garcia said he took an exam to get tech certification that paved the way for his future career. He saw “firsthand the power of these exams to change people’s lives.”

Half of the Certiverse team is Latino so “being part of this Latino Founders cohort is deeply meaningful for our company as a whole,” Garcia said. 

He said he will use the money to lower certification expenses so that their company can reach more people.

Speeko is an AI-operated speech coach that tracks a person’s pace, tone and words to help them sharpen their public speaking skills. 

CEO Nico Aguilar said his inspiration to start Speeko stemmed from his life’s greatest fear: public speaking. 

Aguilar grew up a shy kid and always struggled speaking up. It took years for him to build up his confidence, he said. 

“That’s why I’ve made it my mission to democratize the skill of public speaking. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to overcome a fear of speaking up, and I want to help others achieve their full potential,” he said. 

As one of the Latino recipients of the Google for Startups grant, Aguilar said, “It’s wild to me that there are only a handful of Latino-led technology startups. We need to bridge that gap to make sure the future of Chicago’s innovation economy reflects the city as a whole.”

Innovare is an online organization system for educators and nonprofit workers to keep track of goals, assessments, agendas and more. The company was founded by brothers AJ DeLeón and Fernando DeLeón in 2017 along with Nick Freeman.

The co-founders wanted to “support education and [help] social impact leaders succeed,” according to their website.

Guardian Vets is an online communication platform that allows customers to ask health-related questions about their pets to veterinary professionals. 

“As pet owners ourselves, we know firsthand how difficult it can be to have a health-related question at night or during the weekend and only have the emergency clinic or a Google search as a resource,” according to the company’s website. Customers can contact licensed veterinarians through text, call or video chat. 

SAVVI AI is an online tool that helps companies build their own AI apps in minutes and organize data, according to its website.

“Our northstar is about helping all teams use AI to achieve their goals — regardless of their access to specialists or large resources. Equitability happens when everyone can succeed because the technology playing field is leveled with easy-to-use tools,” SAVVI AI co-founder Alex Muller said in a statement.

Jen Crichlow, another SAVVI co-founder and vice president of operations, was among the five startup execs who attended the press event Tuesday.

“It’s a priority of my administration to increase access to opportunity in Black and Latino communities, so I was thrilled to join @Google today in announcing its investment of $150,000 in founder grants to five minority businesses. Grateful to have such a great partner in Google!,” tweeted Johnson.

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