Elias Torres is co-founder and CTO of Drift, a newly minted unicorn that offers an AI-powered solution for marketers. He was born in Nicaragua, and moved to the United States aged 17. Torres was previously the VP of engineering at HubSpot and is also a Henry Crown Fellow at The Aspen Institute.
Drift is a US-based company, but you’re building a lot of connections with Latin America. Can you expand on what that looks like and why you’re doing it?
When you’re building an enduring company, you’re building a global company. It’s not enough to focus on the U.S. market. For talent, traditionally, people are looking to other places because they have lower costs and they’ll go to India, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, or wherever. They don’t really have an attachment. I was like, I am a Latin American, and I want to be in Latin America because of the connection that I personally have and the culture that I know. It was my time to be able to bring jobs that pay really well and that help teach about entrepreneurship. We had advisors saying we should go to India, but I was deadset. I wanted to go where my people are and give them opportunities that I did not have in Nicaragua.
How do you approach the issue of US companies coming to Latin America and hiring away talent?
It’s a tricky question. So in this case, put me down as the evil U.S. company coming in. But in reality, what I bring is an opportunity. I’m not like Globant or Tata Consulting that are going to hire thousands of people and suck the talent out of the system. We’re a much smaller and growing company. My mission is to help Latinos achieve their own version of their success. I want to bring those lessons and be a role model to people everywhere in Latin America so they can then grow and build companies themselves. What you’re going to learn with me for a couple of years is going to be foundational to go start a company. And maybe I would even invest in that company myself.
How do you help build the bridge between the US Latinx community and Latin America?
I’m on the board of Latin American companies, and I’ve invested in companies focused on Latin America as well. I’m going to Guadalajara [Mexico] and hiring engineers that we’re going to train in entrepreneurship that they might not have available at their companies, and they get to stay in Guadalajara. And then I want to build relationships with the universities as my next step to help encourage an entrepreneurial path for students.
I’m learning and figuring out how I can help this ecosystem that is finally emerging. I’m trying to be a bridge between the US and Latin America — just whatever we can do to encourage more Latin Americans to break into tech. We need to be financially secure in order to grow the culture, grow the economy, and support our families. Tech is an amazing space, and we need more Latinos.
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