MITA TechTalks showcases Mexico Tech Innovation to Silicon Valley Investors!
From February 12th to 14th, Punta Mita, the most exclusive destination within the Riviera Nayarit, hosted an elite group of entrepreneurs, investors, corporate executives, and important leaders in the technology and innovation sectors who came together at MITA TechTalks 2017 to discuss the opportunities to create alliances in technology and business, while encouraging foreign investment in the Mexican economy. MITA TechTalks was made possible by the commitment of MITA Ventures to bring global tech industry leaders to Mexico and LatAm.
Over the course of three days consisting of beachside talks and work sessions, themes such as FinTech, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence were addressed. As expected, conversation also centered on the current state of the Mexico-United States relationship, which – according to Michael Camuñez, President and CEO of ManattJones Global Strategies – opens up a wide array of possibilities for the development of Mexico by strengthening its entrepreneurial ecosystem, positioning itself as a leader in technology development, and increasing its visibility as a fertile field for investors.
Innovation transcending borders
In the wake of the more restrictive immigration laws newly implemented by United States President Donald Trump, and the direct impact they may have on the lives of 85,000 foreign workers directly related to the technology industry in the U.S., “Mexico has the possibility of taking two postures. First, reacting on the moral outrage that the construction of a Berlin-style wall style arouses, or reconfiguring the positive relationship that, until this moment, has been achieved. For this to occur, “Mexico needs to develop new ways of collaborating as well as strengthening its ties with the United States private sector – and the MITA TechTalks represents the perfect scenario to initiate and reinforce links between these sectors’, affirmed Camuñez.
Mexico has become extremely attractive for technology companies for several reasons, among them, the significant expansion of tech innovation occurring today in Mexico. This is attracting investors, primarily from the U.S., to bring their investment dollars to this country. Stan Byers, Managing Director of SylvanFrontier, pointed out that by 2050 Mexico is expected to be the world’s fifth-largest economy, principally due to its rapid growth in technology and its continued democratization, modern internet infrastructure, expanding educational opportunities, and the tremendous potential for companies in industries such as FinTech, e-commerce, AI and machine learning — all areas which are very attractive for venture capital investments.
The Mexican government is playing a decisive role by opening its doors to tech companies and to foreign entrepreneurs living in the United States, as expressed by Aristóteles Sandoval, governor of the state of Jalisco, in his letter We want you for Mexico’s Silicon Valley. In it he affirms: “At one point, Jalisco was only known as being the home of Tequila. However today, it is considered the Silicon Valley of Latin America with a prosperous tech industry valued at $21 billion dollars. Jalisco is finding itself in the midst of an economic revolution.”
The government’s confidence in its entrepreneurs is demonstrated by its ongoing efforts of the INADEM (National Institute for Entrepreneurship) and their supporting the growth of venture capital. Mexico’s Fondo de Fondos has as its main objectives the implementation of a strategic plan for the management of third-party resources with the highest international standards, the development of databases unique to the industry, and the recruitment of renowned experts to mentor its founding teams. The Fondo de Fondos is backed by capital consisting of 50% private investment and 50% government funding. For Adriana Tortajada, Venture Capital and Mezzanine Director of the Fondo de Fondos, “It is time for us to update our data, tell our stories, and become ambassadors for Mexico. In this way we will be able to eradicate the misconceptions and biases which exist today among foreign investors.”
“It is incumbent upon the entrepreneurs in Mexico today to better tell the story of how they are driving innovation, creating change, and having a positive impact in the world,” stated Michael Camuñez. “There is a narrative that Mexico has to develop — we have a responsibility to change the misinformation and to bring the modern face of Mexico to bear.”
Mexico: a promising panorama for investing in tech innovation
For Andy Tsao, a Managing Director of Silicon Valley Bank, Mexico has a dynamic and attractive market, which has resulted in an increasing number of investment funds coming in to take a look at what is happening there. According to a study by AMEXCAP (Mexican Association of Private Equity & Venture Capital), in 2013 only 15 VC firms were established. By 2014, this had increased to 41 funds – among which include MITA Ventures, Endeavor, TechStars, 500 Startups, Startup Mexico and the Fondo de Fondos. “In 2010, investors from Silicon Valley initiated their adventure in Brazil; however, Mexican startups have recently created such a stir among Silicon Valley investors that interest in Mexico has gained momentum and is continuing to grow. Due to the democratization of technology, increasingly corporations such as Qualcomm, FEMSA, BBVA Bancomer, and AMEXCAP continue with more active participation, and this increases confidence that the bilateral relationship with Washington will normalize,” affirms Andy Tsao.
MITA TechTalks provided a space for key members of the entrepreneurial and tech ecosystem in Guadalajara to share with Silicon Valley investors the great potential of their Mexican engineers, the determination and commitment of their entrepreneurs, and the opportunities and advantages that the region offers U.S. companies in geographic, political, economic, and social terms.
The growth and impact that an organization focused on technology can achieve is exponential. Such is the case of Wizeline, which in 2016 tripled its size and in 2017 plans to expand its operations to other countries around the globe – with Guadalajara as its headquarters. “It was in 2010 when I truly saw the potential of Guadalajara and its technological capacity for rapidly transforming the image of Mexico,” stated Bismarck Lepe, CEO & founder of Wizeline. “In the past seven years I’ve invested my time and the resources of my company to realize a change in our country. Today, Mexico is respected and seen as one of the global leaders in tech development.”
The FinTech industry represents for many investors a great opportunity to invest in Mexico and it has resulted in success stories including Clip, Kueski and Conekta. Adalberto Flores, CEO of Kueski, and Cristina Randall, Chief Growth Officer of Conekta, shared with attendees the motivation behind each of their companies and the benefits that financial and banking inclusion bring to the region’s population. With regard to FinTech, proximity to the user is essential: “We have decided that the optimal way to work is hand in hand and listening to our clients, and all of our decisions about any product launch are shared with them beforehand. We we have around 50 developers on our team, and each of them has the opportunity to be in direct contact with the client,” commented Cristina Randall.
Jose Carlos Rodriguez, Senior Director at ManattJones Global Strategies, stated that he would like to see in a period of no more than 10 years the general public having more confidence in banking institutions, and to achieve this, the work being done by startups focused on FinTech is essential. However, the banks’ enthusiasm for being part of this digitalization must also be recognized. He predicted that the one who takes the leadership role will be because they have achieved a full understanding of the needs of the consumer.
Participating in the event were Lynne Bairstow and Andreas Kraemer, investors and Managing Partners of MITA Ventures; Francisco Solsona of Google Launchpad; Marcus Dantus from Startup México; Sergio Legorreta, partner at Baker McKenzie; Stan Byers member of the (U.S.) White House National Security Council; Roy Glasberg, Global Manager of Google Launchpad; Errette Dunn, CEO of Rever; Gemi González, Consul General of Mexico in San Francisco; David Weekly, Google, Rapid Rollout Lab; Jonathan Nelson, CEO & founder of Hackers and Founders; Mauricio Alvarez from CocaCola Bridge, Cindy Blanco, Managing Director of StartupGDL; Blas Carvallo, Mexico country lead for PayPal; y Jorge López, founder of VITALIS.
Entrepreneurs from Mexico City and Guadalajara, and accelerator programs including Google Launchpad, Wayra, and 500 Startups were also invited to participate as speakers at MITA TechTalks 2017, sponsored and organized by MITA Ventures.
Social impact at MITA TechTalks 2017
In Mexico, approximately 18,000 schools have no access to electricity, which contributes directly to a lower education level and slower economic development in the region. MITA TechTalks, in collaboration with The Pale Blue Dot, a non-profit organization committed to supplying solar energy to those less-favored regions of the country, launched a donation campaign during MITA TechTalks 2017 to raise funds to fully equip a school in the region of El Nayar, Nayarit – a community consisting entirely of an indigenous Cora and Huichol population. The campaign remains active, so please visit the following link for more information and to make your donation: https://rally.org/ThePaleBlueDot
About MITA Ventures
MITA Ventures combines a venture fund with a strategic mentoring program to invest in disruptive tech innovation in Mexico. MITA Ventures draws on their deep networks in Silicon Valley and Mexico to empower the most promising new tech companies from Mexico which have a global vision — as well as to bring innovation from successful companies from the U.S. and Latin American looking to expand into the high-growth market potential in Mexico. Based in San Francisco, CA, Mexico City and Punta Mita, Mexico, MITA Ventures works to foster cross-cultural opportunities in tech innovation.
The objectives for MITA (MITA Institute and Tech Accelerator) are ambitious – to create a close alliance between Silicon Valley and Mexico’s startup communities and to establish Mexico as an innovation bridge between Latin America and more developed markets. MITA Ventures believes that Mexico, as a country, will benefit greatly from an economy led by tech innovation.