With Caribu, Miami-innovator Max Tuchman capitalized on her Latina identity, fought her way into the start-up scene, and materialized a visionary project before coronavirus disrupted communications.
If you ask Maxeme (Max) Tuchman what drove the success that led her to be named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Female Founders in 2019 she’ll tell you it was her Latina roots and her beloved Miami. Max, A Cuban immigrant, is the CEO and co-founder of Caribu, a video-calling platform that allows kids to connect with family and friends over books, games, recipes, and more. One feature that everybody loves is that adults can read and draw with children regardless of their location.
Max’s journey to tech entrepreneurship is one of tenacity and fearless pursuit of opportunities. She started as a high school teacher in Miami through Teach For America, which ignited her passion for making quality educational opportunities available to all children. She also earned a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard University, an experience she says taught her to manage her fears and get comfortable with the unknown, such as how to get by and focus on her studies with little money in her bank account.
These experiences led her to take roles of increasing responsibility, from Executive Director of the Teach For America Miami-Dade region to serving in President Obama’s administration as a senior policy advisor and White House Fellow at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where she applied her own experiences to address the challenges of student loans.
Access to venture funding is extremely hard for women of color. According to the Office of Advocacy U.S. of the Small Business Administration, roughly 1.2 million of the 12.2 million business owners in the United States are immigrant Latinos. Even with these constraints, U.S.-born Latino entrepreneurs make important contributions to the economy, generating $26 billion in business income.
Max credits the scrappiness and resilience inherent in the immigrant experience of her Cuban family with giving her the courage to go after unprecedented support and funding for her startup, resulting in her being the first Latino entrepreneur, male or female, to raise $1 million in crowdfunding.
When asked what advice she has for aspiring Latina entrepreneurs, Max shared, “we Latinas grew up making noise, dancing to loud music, spending time with big families, shouting over big meals, and wearing lots of color. Yet we’re asked to tone that down when we get to the business world and to assimilate. Launching a startup is only defensible because of who you are as the founder. Everyone has ideas but few can execute, and no one can execute your idea like you can.”
Entering the world of startups and technology innovation, Max received the typical advice to relocate to the Bay Area in California, the hub of technology and venture capital. On the surface, this advice makes sense, but Max could see beyond that.
She realized she needed to lead from her place of power and strength, and for her this was back home in Miami, Florida. Miami is not only home to her family and friends but it is where she had already built a strong professional network she could leverage and had the support system to take the risks that a startup requires.
On the courage it takes to launch a business, Max says, “No matter what others say, if your customers love what you make, keep going. Take that side hustle that people love, jump in chancletas-first, and launch that idea you’ve always had to make the world a better place.”
Caribu is a learning tool, inspired by how much Max values literacy given she learned English as a second language. It is also a social connection platform, inspired by her love of family and connections across generations.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has brought isolating quarantines, the ability to gather via video calls has become an essential way of staying connected. Caribu, one of Time magazine’s best inventions of 2019, has emerged as a welcomed alternative to engage and build relationships with young kids over activities that capture their attention and are entertaining.
Through a partnership with AT&T, Caribu is currently available free of cost until May 24. This provides an opportunity for extended family members, grandparents, or “fabuelas,” short for fabulous abuelas, as they lovingly call them in Caribu, to connect with young kids and enjoy the collection of games and books, including many in Spanish.