A Durham-based startup that operates as a marketplace for self-guided tours was selected by Google for the company’s Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund.
The homegrown startup, Built Story, was one of the 50 Latino-founded startups that will receive $100,000 in cash while benefiting from hands-on programming and support from Google, mentorship, free mental health therapy and its community of fellow founders. [Note: we first profiled Built Story last March.]
Built Story’s Co-Founder Brian Alonso said he’s thrilled to be one of the 50 recipients nationwide.
“I think it’s really exciting to bring more Latino voices in technology,” Alonso said. “It’s really important to give this group more of a boost.”
The $5 million fund seeks to invest in high-potential startups founded by Latino entrepreneurs in the United States.
Google launched the fund to increase the economic opportunity for Latino founders, who historically have received a disproportionately low percentage of investments. In venture capital, Latino-founded companies only received around 2 percent of investments last year.
“We are excited to support these talented Latino entrepreneurs as they build innovative solutions and solve tough problems,” said Daniel Navarro, US Marketing Lead of Google for Startups, in a statement. “I hope the launch of our inaugural Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund not only catalyzes the growth of these incredible Latino-led startups, but also inspires other Latino entrepreneurs, and ultimately generates wealth within the community.”
Built Story was founded by Alonso and his wife Alexina Alonso in 2018. Alonso said he’s always been fascinated with the connection between people and place, stemming all the way back to his family’s childhood stories of Cuba. The richness of the history in so many places is what drove the husband-and-wife duo to create a marketplace for self-guided history tours and a way to archive the stories of their communities.
All the self-guided tours are $10, with the revenue shared between the tour creator and Built Story. All users have to do is download the mobile app, pick a tour in their community or travel destination and begin at the first stop.
Although the Alonsos started working on the technology in 2018, it wasn’t until 2020 that Built Story fully launched. Because the pandemic was in full force back then, Built Story expanded its focus to social-distancing-friendly local tours of homes decorated for Halloween and Christmas, which Alonso said brought the community together.
“We’ve just been nimble,” Alonso said. “Having the technology, creating the platform and allowing the content to be flexible has been the best asset for us and allowed us to just keep trying things.”
Throughout Built Story’s journey, Google’s products have been vital. They built the app on Google Maps, and Alonso is looking to use Google Ads to increase Built Story’s marketing and outreach efforts.
“We’ve been invested in Google products and we’re really excited to continue to take that to the next level in addition to the funding with the resources that they’re providing us,” Alonso said.
With the Google funding, Built Story is focused on scaling. The startup has already launched tours in Martha’s Vineyard, London, Madrid and Durham this summer.
“We don’t want to just be the best-kept secret,” Alonso said. “So we’re continuing to get the word out there about what we have, what we’re doing, and getting this into more people’s hands.”