Seven Hispanic and Latin app creators breaking barriers with technology. Founders of Encantos, BiteSight, and Yana on their unexpected journeys to creating apps on the App Store
submitted by Cathy Park, Apple
Often, a truly great app is a reflection of the people who built 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 for everyone, and honor their rich cultures and identities. The teams from Encantos, BiteSight, and Yana — comprised of Hispanic and Latin founders and developers — showcase how creativity combines with 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 heart of their work. Earlier this year, Wolfe Pereira participated in the inaugural Apple Entrepreneur Camp for Hispanic and Latin founders. Encantos, the pair’s flagship app, offers a comprehensive children’s library featuring uplifting content and stories from creators around the world. Canticos — the company’s first app — is now the top bilingual preschool app on the App Store, and provides an interactive way for young children to dive into the Spanish language and Latin heritage.
As part of the first cohort 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 puts accessibility at the forefront. 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 low vision quickly scan and identify food allergens on product ingredient labels — on the App Store. The app also uses haptic feedback and VoiceOver to alert users of allergens they’ve identified, helping blind and low-vision users gain more independence in their daily lives.
Andrea Campos, the creator of Yana, first began working on her chatbot-based app as a side project that combined her two interests — coding and wellness. Yana is designed to tackle negative thoughts linked to anxiety and depression, and focuses on providing access to mental health tools for Spanish-speaking people. The inspiration came from her own childhood struggles with mental health and her desire to offer a widely accessible resource in Spanish. The app climbed from 80,000 downloads to over 1 million after being featured 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 and enabled 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 I would be using technology as a digital canvas to bring immersive story experiences to life for millions of kids. I also couldn’t possibly have known that what I took for granted — my community and my culture — would direct my career in the way that they have, becoming both the source of inspiration and the source of opportunity. I’m an artist and a storyteller. I remember when the first-generation iPad came out, my eyes lit up with the story experience possibilities for kids. Analog media can be so limiting in reach, but with an app, you can put something beautiful together and it can be immersive, interactive, and reach millions all at once.
Steven Wolfe Pereira (SWP), chairman and co-founder of Encantos: We’ve 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 kids 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 Hispanic and Latino people.
Infusing Personal Experiences into App Development
Andrea Campos (AC), founder and CEO of Yana: The nature of depression is feeling like you are alone in the world. I swore I was the only human being who felt like that when I was a teenager. It wasn’t until I pitched Yana for the first time that I saw the reaction from the audience and realized I was not the only one. After coming out of the “mental health closet,” dozens of people I’ve known my whole life came forward to talk about what they had been experiencing as well. 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: Encantos comes from a deeply personal need to be seen. My mother was Dominican and my father was American. I grew up in a bilingual household where we spoke Spanish at home after speaking English everywhere else. The only time I got to see my Latino culture was when we would visit the Dominican Republic. It always struck me as odd that growing up in New York City where there was such diversity, you would never see any culturally authentic Latino products, ranging from shows on TV to goods in a store. Becoming a parent changes you, and you reach a point in your life where you have to be the change you want to see in the world.
SJ: As a Latina mom raising little ones here in the US, I wanted to pass on my language and my love of my Latino culture to my kids. And at the time, there really wasn’t much available for moms like me facing this challenge. As we thought about how to tackle this, we realized the one thing you always have on you is your phone. It made complete sense when we came up with the idea for the world of Canticos that it had to all come together in the form of the app. It was the one place where we could have all of the apps, music, and singalong videos together in one place, but in two languages.
Joining Forces with Like-Minded Innovators
Alejandra A. Enriquez (AAE), lead iOS developer and designer of BiteSight: Our team consists of six people, including myself, and those five people I’ve collaborated with for about 10 weeks have been the most motivational, hardworking, and supportive people I have met. We named our team “Powerhouse” due to an Apple Developer Academy mentor calling us that, and she was right. We are a powerhouse team.
Gabe Martinez (GM), iOS developer, lead project manager, and business of BiteSight: I owned a convenience store in southwest Detroit, but due to the pandemic, I needed to make a change. So I jumped all the way into the Apple Developer Academy. The Apple Developer Academy gave me the power to believe that an idea can be transformed into an app. I changed gears with the App Academy overnight, and I feel like this is what I was always trying to do. And finally it’s coming true. So it’s like a dream coming through.
SWP: We work with diverse creators around the world who are looking to tell culturally authentic stories on Encantos to empower kids. Creators are at the heart of Encantos, and we hope our success to date inspires creators around the world to pursue their dreams.
Being a part of Apple’s inaugural Entrepreneur Camp for Hispanic and Latin founders was truly a dream come true. To have access to Apple engineers, UX designers, product managers, marketers, and execs was just incredible. It wasn’t just one or two people — it was a true cross-functional team that would meet with us every day, and we all learned so much. Whether it was getting direct feedback on user interface improvements to learning how to tell our story in the “Apple” way, it was just a phenomenal program that has made Encantos a better developer and a better company.
Juan A. Rubio (JAR), iOS developer, UX/UI designer, and marketing of BiteSight: I have a passion for using tech to make someone’s everyday life more convenient and independent. After months of research, I found out the US didn’t have many studies or resources around visually impaired people and how they are buying their food. This became a genuine concern to 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 just being able to search and read Live Text can be used by anyone to search for any text. I believe that technology can serve as that extra safety net for people who don’t or can’t always rely on another person for assistance.
AC: Many folks in the Latinx community and beyond aren’t equipped with the emotional resources to deal with struggles and day-to-day challenges they face in life. Due to this lack, people seek to solve their problems through nonprofessional help that ends up being insufficient. Apart from that, they also often end up feeling ignored, misunderstood, insecure, and judged. The Latinx and Hispanic population is the largest ethnic minority group in the US, but data reports that less than 10 percent of them have access to mental health services. While there are a number of reasons why this is — insurance, legal status, cultural stigma — the language barrier for some individuals is what makes accessing mental health services challenging. That’s part of the reason why we decided to launch in Spanish.