Introducing, Boston Start-Ups with Hispanito

The Boston startup & VC scene in many ways is different from the SF/Bay area one. There was, and to a large extend still is, a strong emphasis on telecom, enterprise software and biotech companies. The consumer Internet companies are still a small minority. However, there has been an increase in the start-up activity, mostly, because many large VCs in the Boston Area (such as Polaris, General Catalyst, Charles River Ventures and Venrock ) are starting to pay more attention to consumer oriented startups. Some have even set up specific funds to address this new market. So I will be writing about Boston area startups as I run into them. Here is my first post for GigaOM:

BOSTON: A few days ago I had a chance to chat with Jean Derely, the principal of Hispanito, a Boston based social networking site for Hispanics and Spanish speakers. Hispanito has been around for about six months, and has been slowly gaining popularity. It has about 15,000 members and is adding between 50-120 members a day, though the numbers spike to about 500-a-day on rare occasions. The site includes the usual profile page, friends, etc… that social networking sites include, and also incorporates a jabber server to allow members to chat with each other. The site is attracting visitors from Latin America, as well as Mexico, the US and Spain.

Derely says that the Spanish speaking community is very under served and most of the social networking sites are targeted to English speakers. The popularity of Fotolog, Google’s Orkut and Hi5 in some parts of Latin America indicate that targeted consumer services focused on the Latin American market can become thriving businesses, even though only 20% of Latin America has access to the internet. The internet connections are growing at a rate of 30% a year. At present there is about 8.2 million broadband connections in the Latin America. Derely feels there is a lot of room to grow but it will take 2-3 years to really pan out.

François was a co-founder of Feedster, an RSS search engine. Prior to that he was an information retrieval consultant for 10+ years, during which he created ScienceServer, an electronic journal browsing product he sold to Elsevier Science. He is currently looking for the next “Big Thing”.