Blog Post

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”.

26 Responses to “Introducing, Boston Start-Ups with Hispanito”

  1. I’m going to echo Francois and disagree that everyone’s going to converge onto one social networking site. People are tribal in nature, and self-seperate by interests as social mediums evolve and allow for it.

    The history of the magazine industry is a pretty good parallel – look at Time magazine. At one point, it was considered to be the future model for all magazines (inclusive, pithy, and read by all). As more specialized magazines (Taekwondo Times, anyone?) emerged, that idea was shattered. We went from the idea that eveyone would be on the same subscription, sharing ths same stories and perspectives, to a much more vertical slicing by divergent interest groups.

    Sounds kinda familiar, doesn’t it…?

  2. Carlos de Santurde

    There is definitely a space for other “tropicalized” social network.

    The way people interact in the US is very different than the rest of the world:
    In Latin America for example, only 10% of the population went to college. People are expecting easy to use social networks.

    Also, people in Latin America do not travel as much as in the USA. Since their network is limited to their home town, they will not use the social networks to gather the friends they have collected around the country (like facebook users). Also, people in Latin America do not like to “manage their friendship” over the internet, they really prioritize the face-to-face.

    Many other factors makes the role of Social Network different form one region to an other.

    “Tropicalized” social networks have to understand the usage that users will make out of them, and take advantage of it.

  3. I’m looking forward to your future posts, Francois. This is a subject I’ve written about recently, as has Scott Kirsner, who is back writing for the Boston Globe after spending two years in SF/Silicon Valley. Whether it’s cultural or not, historically, there is much more focus on revenue generation and profitability in Boston. I’m hoping there are more events like Tech Cocktail Boston that bring people together more.

  4. I would love to see more coverage on the boston startup and internet scene. There are so many great companies, and intelligent people in boston, but they seem to be so disconnected from one another.

    Looking forward to the highlighted companies.

  5. Everyone will be on facebook or similar? Give me a break. It’s like saying EVERYONE will read USA Today and we all know that’s true. There are no local or regional papers or anything specialized. Guess you haven’t read this on Wired about the sucess story, For non-tech social networks, I bet you will start to see tons of localization and specialization and it’s merely part of what we at Noocleus Media believe as well.

    Om is good to see you covering Bean Town. Hopefully, you’ll make your way down South sometime to the Silicon Peach that is Atlanta.

  6. Hi Francois,
    What’s created online comes to life on the cell phone. It’s a snap with MobileLiving isayusay from, a free contacts-calendar service with online-to-mobile sync in one click. Enjoy!

  7. I disagree that ‘everyone’ will converge on myspace or facebook (look at the growth of Hi5), I see these social networking sites as very fluid as people will join different sites for different reasons and will very likely be on multiple sites catering to different communities with different interests. Facebook is trying to cater to that by creating groups, the problem with that approach is that it is very generic. I may be wrong here but it is not my sense that all spanish speakers are bi-lingual, and english is fast becoming the second language on the internet.

  8. With the help of our Boston friends like Jay Meattle we are pleased to be bringing TECH cocktail to Boston. It will be out 7th TECH cocktail overall and our third city (Chicago, DC and Boston). We are looking forward to it!

    If sounds interesting to you be sure to subscribe to the TECH cocktail updates here:

    Frank Gruber
    Co-Founder TECH cocktail

  9. Great to hear. We are in the process of reworking our site and providing a variety of tools for the small business. Angel investing right now. We are hiring. This is not a or Superpages. It may look like it but we are in the process of rolling out our business model to the small business community. There will be a new site in the coming months.


  10. Another Boston startup to add to the list: – a Real Estate website where you can search for homes, businesses, local events, local community information, and much more. Check it out.

  11. Paula, that does seem to be the case that eventually all these social networks will converge to the main ones like Facebook. What do you suggest then, that people don’t even try to do a social networking startup? The thought that facebook will have everyone doesn’t seem that fun :(

    startup stories

  12. hey, i’m in boston too! would love to see more coverage (excluding of course ;)

    and if there’s an event here, and dicks like me are allowed, definitely let me know..

    as for hispanito – francois – do you think there’s enough of a spanish speaking preference considering that so many spanish speakers are bilingual? is there any data that correlates spanish speaking internet users to bilingual competency OR suggest a language preference?

    it would seem to be great as a niche, but the drawback is that a whole lotta the crowd on facebook and elsewhere won’t be on this site..

    what would be great: an english language module so that ‘outsiders’ could try to engage the community, language lessons, etc…

  13. Sorry to water the party here but I don’t see a bright future for any ‘alternative’ social networking site. Eventually users end up leaving for the main sites like facebook or myspace where the bulk of their friends are. There is no such thing as ‘underserved’ ethnic groups in the social networking space. The main sites are not ‘targeted’. to any group. It’s only a matter of time before facebook comes out with “” and that will be the end of sites like hispanito.

  14. Boston start-up scene is most definitely heating up! great to see some coverage.

    François, a few of us are working on bringing TechCocktail ( to Boston. If you’re in the area on 6th September, you should drop by!