Meet the 2022 VCU Alumni Pitch Competition winner
Inspired by his parents, Carlos Jimenez Morales develops translation software to support Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs
By Catherine Brown
Carlos Jimenez Morales (B.S.’18/H&S; M.P.I.’20/DVC; Cert.’21/N), a child of El Salvadoran immigrants, has often helped his parents navigate language barriers, in both their personal and professional lives. “Since I was a kid, I’ve been translating for them,” he says. “I’ve been helping them solve some of their problems.”
Supporting his parents became more difficult when he left home in northern Virginia to attend VCU in 2014. “Sometimes I would be busy in class, and I wouldn’t be able to respond to my mom or dad as quickly as I would like, and that would impact their business.” His father owns a construction business, and his mother runs two restaurants.
He and his parents figured out how to use technology so he could continue to help from Richmond; they would send him photos and texts, and he’d translate for them as needed.
Eventually, he realized there was potential in helping many more immigrant entrepreneurs who must overcome language barriers in situations such as negotiating contracts or sending invoices. In April, he began researching possible business concepts with support from Activation Capital and Opportunity Hub, a partnership that champions Black and brown tech entrepreneurs.
He soon realized there were many people like him, and research led to the idea for translation software to support Spanish-speaking immigrants in the construction industry.
“It just clicked with me that I could help a lot of people,” Jimenez Morales says.
On Nov. 10, he took first place in VCU’s Alumni Pitch Competition for his business concept, receiving $3,000 and consultation services.
He appreciates the financial award, feedback from judges, and other resources the competition has provided. Another benefit? The chance to connect with other entrepreneurs at the in-person ceremony.
“Before the event started, we were all chatting and learning about each other and thinking of ways we could help each other,” Jimenez Morales says. “It was awesome to be in the room with like-minded individuals.”
He is developing his business, Invoice Supply Inc., at StartUp Virginia’s 1717 Innovation Center; they awarded the 10 Activation Capital and Opportunity Hub finalists free memberships. Jiminez Morales also works part time driving product strategy and managing employer-partner relationships with Tribaja, a talent marketplace for undersupported tech talent.
“As someone with experience and a background in technology and user research, it feels like it would be a disservice to not work on developing this translation software,” he says.
Jimenez Morales’ goal is to test the product with 30 businesses. If that proves successful, he plans to hire a team to work with more companies. He hopes to eventually grow the business to work with entrepreneurs in different industries and serve people who speak languages other than Spanish.
In 2014, when he decided to attend VCU, he ultimately planned to become a doctor, not an entrepreneur. “Being an entrepreneur wasn’t really talked about a lot in our culture,” Jimenez Morales says. “Our culture always focuses on becoming a doctor or lawyer.”
While working toward his bachelor’s in psychology, though, he learned about innovation and realized he could make a difference by solving problems in a unique way. That led him to earn a master’s of product innovation at VCU’s da Vinci Center in 2020, and, in 2021, he earned VCU’s first graduate certificate in health care innovation, a collaborative program of the da Vinci Center and the School of Nursing.
“When I was growing up, I always thought my role model would be a doctor,” Jimenez Morales says. “But my parents, who are entrepreneurs, are the role models I want to live up to. I’m inspired by what they have done with limited resources, and now I have the opportunity to make an impact using resources at my disposal, including support from the community and support from family and friends.”
The other finalists in the 2022 Alumni Pitch Competition were:
- Lennox McNeary, M.D. (M.D.’04/M), founder of ArchiveCore, a professional identity management software to help employers obtain and verify licensing documents
- Sarah Weber, (B.S.’11/GPA), creator of Spot, connecting dog owners with dog-friendly local businesses
- Erin Hanley, Ph.D., (B.S.’13/H&S; Ph.D.’21/E), founder of the Katherine Johnson Community Center, a Richmond, Virginia, hub for Black women to connect, network and develop their community.
The Katherine Johnson Community Center was chosen as the fan favorite, and Hanley received a VCU prize pack and the purchase of software of her choosing.