04 Feb 2022

RISE Fellow: Diego Salas (MBA 2022)


by Shona Simkin

This fall, as part of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Action Plan for Advancing Racial Equity, 20 MBA students were selected as the inaugural recipients of the Recognizing Individuals Seeking Equity (RISE) Fellowship. The fellows were chosen for their demonstrated commitment to serving Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and other marginalized communities of color within the US prior to enrolling at HBS.

The 2021 RISE fellows are MBA Class of 2023’s Adan Acevedo, Jerome Fulton Jr, Amari Griffin, Tarebi John, Zoe Matthew, Alejandro Molina, Ted Obi, Chidalu Onyenso, Lanita Patton, Nashae Roundtree, David Velasquez, Mireille Verdonk; and MBA Class of 2022’s Siham Adous, Aaron Hancock, Brian Hollins, Diego Salas, Devon Sandford, Lucas Santos, Xonana Scrubb, and Tracey Thompson.

Diego Salas (MBA 2022)

Since leaving Venezuela at age 18, Diego Salas’s (MBA 2022) career and educational paths have been shaped by his passion for the Latin American community and his quest for a sense of belonging and normalcy.

In 2013, after a brief stint in Europe with the World Education Program, Salas started his first year of college at Northeastern University. He set about navigating the city and his new environment, but nothing felt normal. Day to day realities were an improvement from the instabilities in Venezuela—his bank account was unaffected by currency fluctuations and there was an abundance of choice at the supermarket—but it was also unsettling in its newness. He saw a clear goal: easing that transition for others and helping Latin American communities in need. He received an investment banking job offer after his second internship, accelerated his degree path, and graduated from Northeastern in four years.

After seven months at an investment bank, Salas realized that his work was not making the impact he wanted and switched gears, becoming a software engineer at IBM.

“For me, it is about ideating on scalable tech-enabled solutions that have the potential to transform the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets I grew up in. My mission is to elevate the way we live, and technology finally gives us a tool to satisfy that standard.”

Over the next year, he joined Management Leaders for Tomorrow (MLT) and started a nonprofit organization to share stories of Venezuelan immigrants. He threw himself into volunteering and attending conferences for MLT and transitioned to mentoring and strategizing on advancing careers for underserved populations. While networking and researching venture trends, he noted a lack of financial investment in Latin America. Within a year, he applied to and was accepted to HBS, and founded his own venture capital firm focused on Latin American founders.

“My passion for the Latin American community is central to my mission,” said Salas. “Coming out of IBM I realized I saw things differently–I had learned about scaling and building, the nuances of tech in the real world, and legal and accountability problems. I thought a lot about how I could create more change now that I had this increased capability and capacity. I knew that I could create a niche for funding startups in Latin America and invest in companies making a difference in their communities.”

Read the profiles of all eight RISE fellows.

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