October 6, 2022
Meet seven Hispanic and Latino app builders who are breaking barriers with technology
Founders of Charms, BiteSight, and Yana on their unexpected journeys to build apps on the App Store
A truly great app is often a reflection of the people who created it. Entrepreneurs around the world are launching apps on the App Store to provide meaningful avenues for connection and empathy, make the world more inclusive and accessible to all, and honor their rich cultures and identities. The Encantos, BightSite and Yana teams of Hispanic and Latino founders and developers show how creativity meets passion and skill to bring best-in-class apps to life.
For Encantos co-founders Steven Wolfe Pereira and Susie Jaramillo, diverse representation has always been at the core of their work. Earlier this year, Wolfe Pereira participated in the inaugural Apple Entrepreneur Camp for Hispanic and Latino founders. Charms, the pair’s flagship app, offers a comprehensive kids’ library of inspiring content and stories from creators around the world. Canticos, the company’s first app, is now the best bilingual preschool app on the App Store, offering an interactive way for young children to immerse themselves in the Spanish language and Latino heritage.
As part of the first group of students at the Apple Developer Academy in Detroit, teammates Alejandra A. Enriquez, Juan A. Rubio, Gabe Martinez, and Joshua Gomez collaborated to create an app that prioritizes accessibility. Though they all come from different backgrounds, their drive to help others brought them together to launch BiteSight, an app that helps people who are blind or have low vision quickly scan and identify food allergens on product ingredient labels, on the AppStore. The app also uses haptic feedback and VoiceOver to alert users to allergens they have identified, helping blind and low vision users gain more independence in their daily lives.
Andrea Campos, the creator of Yana, started working on her chatbot-based app as a side project that combined her two interests: coding and wellness. Yana is designed to address negative thoughts related to anxiety and depression, and focuses on providing access to mental health tools for Spanish-speakers. The inspiration came from her own childhood struggles with mental health and her desire to offer a widely accessible resource in Spanish. The app went from 80,000 downloads to over 1 million after appearing on the App Store at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below, the founders of these app companies share how their personal experiences have fueled their passion for helping others, enabling them to turn a simple idea into an app that can reach millions of users around the world.
Merging Creativity and Technology
Susie Jaramillo (SJ), CEO and co-founder of Encantos: I never could have imagined using technology as a digital canvas to bring immersive story experiences to life for millions of children. Nor could I have known that what I took for granted – my community and culture – would drive my career the way they have, becoming both the source of inspiration and the source of opportunity. I am an artist and storyteller. I remember when the first generation iPad came out, my eyes lit up at the possibilities of the story experience for kids. Analog media can be so limited in scope, but with an app, you can create something beautiful and it can be immersive, interactive, and reach millions of people at once.
Steven Wolfe Pereira (SWP), President and Co-Founder of Charms: We have always believed in the power of technology to help bring our stories and characters to life. Encantos was founded by two Latino families focused on creating culturally authentic entertainment for children and families. Everything is driven by technology today, so technology plays an incredibly important role in helping to preserve, recognize, and celebrate the cultural contributions of Hispanics and Latinos.
Infuse personal experiences into app development
Andrea Campos (AC), founder and CEO of Yana: The nature of depression is to feel that you are alone in the world. I swore I was the only human being who felt this way as a teenager. It wasn’t until I introduced Yana for the first time that I saw the reaction from the audience and realized that he wasn’t the only one. After coming out of the “mental health closet,” dozens of people I’ve known my whole life reached out to talk about what they’d also been experiencing. With Yana, I want to empower people with emotional education through a safe, judgment-free zone where they can change the way they feel by learning to change the way they think.
SWP: Charms arises from a deeply personal need to be seen. My mother was Dominican and my father American. I grew up in a bilingual household where we spoke Spanish at home after speaking English everywhere else. The only time I was able to see my Latin culture was when we were visiting the Dominican Republic. It always seemed strange to me that growing up in New York City, where there was so much diversity, you would never see culturally authentic Latino products, from TV shows to products in a store. Being a parent changes you and you get to a point in your life where you have to be the change you want to see in the world.
SJ: As a Latina mother raising little ones here in the US, I wanted to pass on my language and my love of the Latino culture to my children. And at the time, there really wasn’t much available for moms like me facing this challenge. As we thought about how to approach this, we realized that the only thing you always have with you is your phone. It made a lot of sense when we came up with the idea for the world of Canticos, which had to come together in the form of the app. It was the only place where we could have all the apps, music and videos to sing together in one place, but in two languages.
Joining forces with like-minded innovators
Alejandra A. Enríquez (AAE), Lead iOS Developer and BiteSight Designer: Our team consists of six people, including myself, and those five people I’ve collaborated with for about 10 weeks have been the most motivating, hard-working, and supportive people I’ve ever met. We named our team “Powerhouse” because an Apple Developer Academy mentor called us that, and he was right. We are a power team.
Gabe Martinez (GM), iOS Developer, Senior Business and Project Manager for BiteSight: He had a convenience store in southwest Detroit, but due to the pandemic, he needed to make a change. So I dove right into the Apple Developer Academy. Apple Developer Academy empowered me to believe that an idea can be turned into an app. I switched gears with App Academy overnight and I feel like this is what I’ve always tried to do. And it’s finally coming true. So it’s like a dream coming through.
SWP: We work with diverse creators from around the world who seek to tell culturally authentic stories in Charms to empower children. Creators are at the heart of Charms, and we hope that our success to date inspires creators around the world to pursue their dreams.
Being a part of Apple’s inaugural Hispanic and Latino Founder Camp was truly a dream come true. Having access to Apple engineers, UX designers, product managers, marketers, and executives was just amazing. It wasn’t just one or two people, it was a true cross-functional team that met with us every day and we all learned a lot. Whether it was getting direct feedback on UI improvements to learning how to tell our story the “Apple” way, it was simply a phenomenal program that has made Charms a better developer and a better company.
Juan A. Rubio (JAR), iOS Developer, UX/UI Designer, and BiteSight Marketing: I am passionate about using technology to make someone’s everyday life more convenient and independent. After months of research, I discovered that the US did not have many studies or resources on people with visual impairments and how they buy their food. This became a genuine concern for me. I kept asking myself Why are there limited resources for visually impaired people with dietary restrictions?
After going through the challenge-based learning process at the Developer Academy, my team and I came up with the idea of giving someone the power to see through their phone. The functionality of being able to search and read Live Text can be used by anyone to search for any text. I think technology can serve as that extra safety net for people who can’t always rely on someone else for help.
AC: Many people in the Latinx community and beyond are not equipped with the emotional resources to deal with the daily struggles and challenges they face in life. Due to this lack, people seek to solve their problems through non-professional help that ends up being insufficient. Aside from that, they also often end up feeling ignored, misunderstood, insecure, and judged. The Hispanic and Latino population is the largest minority ethnic group in the US, yet data reports that less than 10 percent of them have access to mental health services. While there are a number of reasons this is so (insurance, legal status, cultural stigma), the language barrier for some people is what makes it difficult to access mental health services. That’s part of the reason we decided to release in Spanish.
Katie Clark Alsadder
Apple Media Helpline