Mosaic Stories

    Roberto Garcia

    A few years ago, Roberto Garcia went to the movie theater to see Iron Man 2. Sitting in the chairs in front of him were a boy and his father. When the movie began, the boy began translating the movie, speaking the Spanish in his father’s ear. “It was very endearing” Roberto noted, “but very heartbreaking because someone came in and kicked them out of the theater. “That really moved me, it moved me to try to find a solution to that situation.”

    Roberto first arrived in the United States as an international student twelve years ago, receiving a sports scholarship to run track and field at the University of Notre Dame. After graduation, he moved to Austin, Texas to work for an advertising agency, and specialized in reaching out to the Hispanic market. After working with numerous big-name clients, one of his clients – Anheuser-Busch – hired him to work for them internally, offering him a position on the marketing team at their headquarters in St. Louis. Five years ago, Roberto arrived in St. Louis with his wife. He started at Anheuser-Busch as a brand manager, and then became a brand director for a variety of brands. He worked numerous projects, from smaller ones like bar promotions to more large-scale initiatives like new brand launches and Super Bowl commercials. However, he never forgot his experience back in the movie theater in Texas. He still had the desire to find a solution to the problem, so every time he received a paycheck, he set aside a portion of the money for eventually working to develop a solution to help those who do not speak English have an opportunity to visit and enjoy going to the movie theater. As he saved his money, he researched various alternatives for funding and business plans, and then came up with the idea for Listo.

    Working with the Hispanic market, Roberto was familiar with the figures: nearly 62 million people in the United States speak a language other than English. This means that approximately one out of every five residents of this country speaks a language other than English in their homes. He thought about how there is this huge population of individuals who do not have to opportunity to go to an average movie theater and enjoy – let alone understand – the films. Listo, a smartphone application, named for the Spanish word meaning “ready!” or “let’s go!”, is a viable solution for this problem.

    Listo uses the technology of acoustic fingerprinting, in that it detects and listens to the audio playing and can recognize the sounds to determine exactly where you are through the movie. The app then can begin playing the soundtrack in Spanish (or any other language programmed) from that exact spot. It does not translate the movie on the go, but rather it pulls from a collection of film soundtracks already programmed into the app that have audio in these translated languages, and syncs up to the movie that is playing. The acquisition of film soundtracks within the app will operate similarly to iTunes, in that consumers can download the app, and then purchase the film soundtracks in other languages for a small fee. The consumer can then understand and enjoy a movie in their preferred language.

    Roberto, along with co-founder Nathan Merrick and the Listo team, have been working with studios that already have dubs of films in other languages, many of which had already been prepared for international film releases. Roberto is currently working with these studios to gain access to these pre-existing files, and developing the terms of partnership and usability for making these files accessible to the public via the Listo app. He is also working with studios in Mexican cities that are popular destinations for American tourists, working to add English soundtracks of Spanish films to the Listo library. The app would benefit these studios and tourists alike, as the theaters can then show their movies in Spanish but also give the tourists access to watch the movies in English. “Listo is a huge benefit for all of the parties involved,” he explains. "It’s mutually beneficial.”

    While creating and developing the multiple facets of the app, Roberto has truly benefitted from the St. Louis entrepreneurial scene. There are numerous resources in the city to help immigrants develop connections and accelerate success, and the St. Louis Mosaic Project’s neighborhood business ecosystem map conveys the abundance of such resources available in the community. Such resources, coupled with good investment opportunities in the city have created a great environment for entrepreneurs like himself. Roberto’s future as an entrepreneurial St. Louisian is exceptionally bright. Listo was recently awarded an Arch Grant, a $50,000 start-up award competition for the best and brightest ideas to develop and prosper in St. Louis. This recent grant money, coupled with his passion and perseverance to solve a problem, steer him towards achieving his goal of making a difference in millions of people’s lives.

    In addition to the benefits of being an up-and-coming entrepreneurial hub, Roberto speaks volumes about the wonderful people he has encountered, and the sense of community that surrounds him each day. “St. Louis is a city with a true sense of community, one that I have not found in other cities in the US,” he says. “It’s a community focused on potential and how great we can become.”

    Roberto is a big believer in the mission of the St. Louis Mosaic Project. By facilitating connections between immigrants to great people in the community, working to promote regional prosperity through immigration and innovation, he sees the importance and great potential for St. Louis. Not only is it “the right thing to do” he says, “but also our city is at a competitive disadvantage by not being about to attract and retain foreign born talent.”

    As a member of the St. Louis Mosaic Project’s Immigrant Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, Roberto has provided formal and informal mentoring for fellow foreign-born entrepreneurs, to work to retain such talent. As an immigrant entrepreneur himself with years of advice and connections to local resources, he uses his own perspective to help others work through similar issues. For example, he talks with immigrants who do not have adequate language skills to convey their successes to others in the community, and thus struggle to even schedule meetings or showcase their products and successes. Roberto then provides grounding advice, helping them work through their struggles as foreign-born individuals that inhibit them from achieving success in a new context. “I would want someone to be doing that for me,” Roberto says. “While I know that because of their smarts and impression that they won’t need me in six months or a year, but while I can be of help, I am very happy to do so. “I’m glad to be that help, helping to make an inclusive community.”

    As an immigrant entrepreneur in a city with great attractions, wonderful people, a relatively low cost of living, abundant resources, and a great environment in which to raise a family, Roberto hopes to be in St. Louis for many years. He believes in fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone, and further developing the city as an entrepreneurial hub for people like himself to have the resources to find solutions to community problems. In speaking to anyone with a passion to solve a problem, Roberto provides a rich perspective: “It is important to choose your battles,” he advises. “Pick a niche thing, but pick something where you can make a real difference, and go for it. For me, it’s bringing that father and son back to the theater.”