Mexico’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Interview 1 – Jorge Madrigal: Founder & CEO, Aventura

When I started to research the entrepreneurship scene in Mexico I immediately discovered Jorge Madrigal. He’s the Founder and CEO of Aventura, runs numerous startup events in Mexico City including Apptualizate and Tech Startup Nights, and has been interviewed for and contributed to The Next Web. Lucky for me, he’s also a friend of a friend of mine. When I asked for an intro from that friend I was informed that,

“Jorge is entrepreneurship in Mexico,”

so I was extremely excited that he agreed to let me pick his brain about the Mexican startup scene.

Naturally, the first thing I wanted to know was how Jorge got into the startup scene in Mexico in the first place. Born and raised in Mexico, Jorge went to the U.S. for college where he joined his school’s entrepreneurship club. The faculty adviser often spoke about how international students come to the U.S. and then never return to their home countries to “fix things.” Jorge didn’t want to be one of those people and believed that Mexico had a lot of potential, so he returned to Mexico looking for a job in private equity but ended up at an angel fund instead. Here he says he learned how far behind entrepreneurs in Mexico really were as compared to their counterparts in the U.S.

As Jorge sees it, Mexico has plenty of people with a lot of money, but they don’t necessarily want to invest it in helping someone else build a company. At the same time, U.S.-based investors are open to investment in Mexican companies, but there just isn’t enough deal flow to make them sit up and notice. Despite all of the hype about access to capital as a key issue, Jorge sees it differently. He says,

“If you have 20,50, 100 companies doing interesting things, money will come.”

When Jorge asks investors to come to Mexico City to work with his startups they’re happy to, but they ask him to deliver a certain number of interesting companies/potential deals for them within their investment niche and he simply can’t do it.

And the #1 reason there isn’t enough deal flow? According to Jorge, the most important thing lacking is a community of entrepreneurs and support for their endeavors. He doesn’t see people sharing and developing a sense of community despite major investment from the government including the creation of clusters, incubators, accelerators, etc. As Jorge sees it, these efforts are falling short because the government is attempting to copy other countries’ models but,

“Mexico has Mexican problems [to overcome] – not Chinese problems or U.S. problems – problems that are innate to Mexico. The biggest mistake,” according to Jorge,” is trying to do things exactly as they’re done in other countries.”

One of those “Mexican issues” that Jorge identifies is that entrepreneurship is not accepted as a legitimate career choice. In fact, it’s often seen as a euphemism for not having a job. This is partly because there are not enough Mexican entrepreneurs serving as role models to show how you can actually make a great living through entrepreneurship and partly because the Mexican family is more economically dependent on all of its members across multiple generations than in, say, the United States, so the decision to try a startup will likely affect an entire family, not just the individual entrepreneur. Plus, when a young person is still living with his/her parents (which, different from the U.S., is often true until s/he gets married) it can be much tougher to break from this disapproval and give a startup a chance.

Another issue that Jorge points out is the greater socio-economic stratification present in Mexican society. The networking opportunities, education, or money to be able to take the first steps into entrepreneurship aren’t readily available to everyone. This is one reason that all of the events Jorge hosts for current and aspiring entrepreneurs are free. A typical event like his, but hosted by another organization, would cost 700 – 1,000 pesos, he says. That’s less than $100 USD (at the high end), but for a young person making maybe $500-$700 USD per month, it’s a big expense if they’re not yet sure if entrepreneurship is right for them. In fact, Jorge says,

“For me, this whole entrepreneurship thing is really about creating more social mobility in Mexico.”

His efforts are certainly working. When Jorge began hosting events less than 2 years ago he was able to pull in just 45 attendees in a metropolitan area of well over 20 million people. Now, he’s able to attract more than 200 attendees per month. He’s also successfully helped students at 3 universities start entrepreneurship clubs to start getting young people thinking and talking about entrepreneurship and building the next generation of the entrepreneurship community.

So, with all of the efforts that Jorge and others are making to develop Mexico’s entrepreneurship community and all of the potential that the country has, where does he see the Mexico City startup scene in 5 – 10 years? “I don’t know,” he says.

“The thing I fear the most is …that our tech entrepreneurship community doesn’t get to the point that if the current promoters quit or leave the whole thing won’t die.”

But for now anyway, Jorge will hold down the fort in Mexico City trying to build a more robust tech startup ecosystem and to develop the next generation of Mexican entrepreneurs.

 

Do you have experience in the Mexico City startup scene? If so, please let me know your thoughts on what Jorge had to say in the comments sections below. Our next interview will be with Joshua Ford of Endeavor Mexico.

Mexico City Startup Overview

Mexico City – Mexico’s capital – is a major metropolitan hub and the driving force of the country’s economy, generating nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP. It’s also just a short plane ride from Silicon Valley and has been growing its entrepreneurial ecosystem in recent years. With easy connections to both the U.S. and the rest of Latin America, increasing adoption of technology, and government efforts to support entrepreneurship, the city is primed to be able to make a name for itself as a major startup hub.

However, economic and cultural issues hold the city (and the rest of the country) back and there is work to be done before Mexico City can claim its seat at the table of truly vibrant world startup hubs.

Taking a look at these visualizations from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor you can see that while Mexico has lagged the United States in terms of established business ownership, it’s making a real push to catch up – and maybe even pass the U.S. – in terms of new business starts.

Established Business Ownership Rate in Mexico - Global Entrepreneurship Monitor
Established Business Ownership Rate
Percentage of 18-64 population who are currently owner-manager of an established business, i.e., owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages, or any other payments to the owners for more than 42 months.
http://www.gemconsortium.org/visualizations
New Business Ownership Rate in Mexico - Global Entrepreneurship Monitor
New Business Ownership Rate
Percentage of 18-64 population who are currently a owner-manager of a new business, i.e., owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages, or any other payments to the owners for more than three months, but not more than 42 months.
http://www.gemconsortium.org/visualizations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My next few posts will be interviews with movers and shakers in the startup world of Mexico City who will share their takes on where the startup ecosystem in Mexico’s capital city stands, what obstacles Mexico City faces in creating a more vibrant startup community, how the city can help to develop its entrepreneurial ecosystem, and where the startup community in the city will be in 5 to 10 years.

 

 

Spring Equinox Celebration at the Pyramids of Teotihuacan

About an hour outside of Mexico City sit the ruins of the ancient city of Teotihuacan and last month I visited to experience the Spring Equinox Celebration hosted there where people believe they can absorb the energy of the sun by wearing white and soaking up the rays while exploring the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.

I won’t give you all of the details about Teotihuacan, as it’s easily Googleable, but you can watch my video of the Spring Equinox Celebration below.

In order to get from Mexico City to Teotihuacan you can go to Autobuses del Norte station on the Mexico City metro. When you come out of the metro you will see the bus station directly in front of you and you want to go all the way to the left of the station (gate 8) to purchase a bus ticket to Teotihuacan. Make sure you’re headed to the pyramids/ruins and not just to the town of Teotihuacan. The bus costs 40 pesos (less than $4 USD) and takes about an hour. From there you stand in line to buy your tickets to enter, which are 57 pesos each. Please note, if you have a video camera you have to pay extra to bring it in and you need to purchase the ticket at the same place that you purchase your entrance ticket, but nobody will tell you that until you walk all of the way to the next gate and you’ll be sent back. How much the video camera charge is depends on your camera’s model.

Once inside you’re basically free to explore on your own and you can exit and re-enter all day with your ticket so I recommend going out to the street vendors for lunch, drinks, and some jewelry. When you’re ready to head back to Mexico City just return to your entrance gate and you’ll see buses lined up to take you back.

It’s an incredibly easy day trip from Mexico City and well worth it. Just remember to bring your sunscreen!

Funding Sources Available to Entrepreneurs to Start or Grow a Small Business or Startup

One of the biggest stresses for entrepreneurs can be figuring out where to get the necessary to capital to start your dream business or to grow your existing business to its full potential. If you don’t have a finance background and/or this is your first time as an entrepreneur, you may not be familiar with all of the funding options available to you and choosing the best option for your business is critical to your company’s continued growth and success.

This video will give you a quick overview of the funding options available to help you get started with exploring the best financing for your small business. If you’re still confused and need some help deciding what type of financing is best for your company, talk to a mentor or head to the “Work with Cate” page and make an appointment to speak with me about how best to move your dream business forward.

Tips for Choosing a Cofounder for Your New Startup

Choosing a cofounder to help you build the startup you envision into a real business is one of the most important first steps in laying the foundation for success. Poorly matched cofounders will have innumerable disagreements, create TONS of unnecessary headaches, and hold back the growth of a business. Yet, despite knowing this, many entrepreneurs don’t put the necessary time and effort into vetting potential cofounders to ensure that the founding team will work well together, complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and effectively delegate to build their budding business into a thriving company.

If you’re about to get into bed with a new cofounder, use these tips to make sure you’ll avoid the biggest pitfalls and choose a cofounder who will help you get ahead, not one who will hold you back.

The Basics of Writing a Business Plan for Your Small Business or Startup

While some may tell you otherwise, a business plan – whether formal or informal – is vitally important to any entrepreneur as he or she begins to move forward with starting and growing his or her business. This video gives a brief overview explaining the basic components that every entrepreneur should include in the business plan for his/her small business or startup.

The Monarch Butterflies in Michoacan / Las Mariposas Monarcas de Michoacan

Las Mariposas de Michoacan
My new butterfly friend at the butterfly preserve in Michoacan, Mexico.

One of the things I was most excited about seeing when I came to Mexico was the monarch butterfly preserve in Michoacan. All of the monarch butterflies in North American migrate south to Mexico to wait out the cold season in this one area, so there are literally millions of butterflies flying all around you and it’s an incredible experience. The butterflies are only in Michoacan from October to March, and I arrived in March, so this is the first adventure I had in Mexico because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Take a look at this video of the preserve and if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, the info on how to get there is below.

It’s super easy to get to the butterfly preserves from Mexico City, where I’m staying. I took a bus from Mexico City to a town called Zitacuaro and from there to a town called Ocampo. Altogether the buses cost about $15 USD one way. In Ocampo, which is a tiny little town, I was only able to find one hotel called Hotel San Carlos. It was basic but clean and the lady who helped was wonderful. The hotel for one night cost roughly $20 USD. It’s best to go up to Ocampo the day before, spend the night, and then head up to the preserve in the morning (around 8 or 9). You don’t want to go too early because it’s cold in the morning so the butterflies are not that active, but you also don’t want to go too late or the preserve will start to get crowded. You can take a taxi or a group van up to the preserve from Ocampo. A taxi will run you just under $10 USD, the van will be less than 2 bucks (even with the surcharge you’ll get for not being Mexican).

Once at the preserve, we opted to ride horses up to the actual butterfly area. The price is about $6.25 USD but this is a one-way fee so be sure to double whatever price they tell you. I loved riding up to the butterfly area but if you’ve never ridden a horse before I wouldn’t suggest making this your first try. The horses have saddles, but the reins aren’t full reins, they’re strings, and if you’re too short for the stirrups (like me) they won’t adjust them for you so you end up bouncing around quite a bit. It’s also a pretty steep climb and the horses sometimes stumble a bit. You ride the horses about 3/4 of the way up and then you have to get off and walk the rest of the way with a guide. You’re not allowed to enter the woods without a guide but they’re just there to make sure you don’t wander off where you’re not supposed to be, not to give any information about the preserve or the butterflies, so try to do some research before you get there. Once you get to the observation spot you’re allowed to stay as long as you wish but you have to remain quiet in the area so as not to disturb the butterflies. Trust me, you can get lost in the fluttering for well over an hour. Whenever you’re ready you just grab your guide and head back down where you can grab another cab or van back to Ocampo.

We had dinner in Ocampo before turning in the day we got there and then had breakfast and lunch there the next day before heading home. The total for the three meals was maybe $10 or $15 USD per person and they were big, tasty meals made by someone’s mom or grandmother. That means all told the entire adventure cost less than $100 and was absolutely well worth it.

Italy, Greece, and Turkey

I love to travel, so even when I’m not being a nomad I take a trip every year for my birthday. This year I took a cruise – with my parents and cousin – to Italy, Greece, and Turkey and it was AMAZING!

I’ve been trying to get my parents to try out cruising ever since I worked on a cruise ship after finishing undergrad and this is the first time they finally agreed to take one. We went on the Norwegian Jade out of Civitavecchia, which is about an hour outside of Rome. I’d been to Italy before, but this was my first time in both Greece and Turkey and it was also my first time as a full-fledged guest on a ship and my first time on Norwegian (I worked on Royal Caribbean).

We had some serious difficulties getting to Italy because of flight delays but, luckily, we’d given ourselves a day buffer so we didn’t miss our ship. I emphatically recommend getting to your departure port at least an entire day early if you’re ever going on a cruise. There are just too many things that could delay you and you wouldn’t want to miss your cruise just because you were too cheap to get a hotel for one night. Once we made it to the ship, however, it was smooth sailing (pun intended) and we had a fabulous time. Thank you so much to Freddy, Joe, Rodrigo, and the rest of the Jade crew for showing me a fabulous time! I’m still partial to Royal Caribbean (better food) but you all made sure my birthday cruise kicked booty.

We decided to go in the winter for a few reasons: 1) We didn’t want to deal with the crazy heat in the summer 2) We got avoid the worst of the crowds because it was low season 3) We chose winter for the other two reasons, but the bonus was it’s cheaper to go on the off season. All around, it was a GREAT decision and I would definitely do the Med on the off season again. The weather really wasn’t that bad if you dressed appropriately and we were happy to avoid the lines and sunstroke that we know are common at the sites we visited during the summer months.

After Rome we headed to Greece and visited Olympia and Athens. We took tours organized from the ship in both ports and had a great time.

In Oympia, we visited an olive farm and saw the ruins.

Ruins at Olympia
As our tour guide said: “The ruins are in ruins,” at Olympia.

 

Dancing at an Olive Farm Near Olympia, Greece
Our tour took us to an olive farm where we got to taste ouzo and wine, enjoy a Greek lunch, and have some fun dancing.

In Athens we took a tour of the city and went to the New Acropolis Museum and saw the Parthenon.

New Acropolis Museum with the Parthenon in the Background
In Athens we took a tour of the city including the New Acropolis Museum and the Parthenon (in the background of the pic).

Next we headed to Turkey where we stopped in Izmir and Istanbul. In Izmir we visited the ruins at Ephesus, which are probably the most incredibly ruins I’ve ever seen. The city is very well preserved and the infrastructure they had in place at that time was amazing.

Ephesus
This is one of the main streets in Ephesus
The Library at Ephesus
Apparently, the library at Ephesus had a secret passageway that led to the brothel across the street. I guess some things never change,
The Library at Ephesus
Another shot of the Library at Ephesus.
The Amphitheater at Ephesus
The Amphitheater at Ephesus.
One of the Main Streets in Ephesus
One of the Main Streets in Ephesus.
Sign Outside of Ephesus
I added this pic just for fun, but this is an awesome sign we saw at vendor’s stand just outside of Ephesus.

Next we went to Istanbul and saw the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, and the Palace at Dolmabahce. To be completely honest,  I wasn’t all that impressed with either the Hagia Sofia or the Blue Mosque but the Palace was really enjoyable. I also got to see an old friend of mine who lives in Istanbul now so I had a blast.

Inside the Hagia Sohpia
Inside the Hagia Sohpia.
Outside the Blue Mosque
Outside the Blue Mosque.
Outside the Blue Mosque
My cousin and I right before we went into the Blue Mosque. I’m not sure why we’re sparkling, but it’s a cool photo.
Outside a Mosque Lit Up at Night in Istanbul
Outside a Mosque Lit Up at Night in Istanbul.
Outside the Gate at Dolmabahce Palace
Outside the Gate at Dolmabahce Palace.
Aqueduct in Istanbul
This aqueduct in Istanbul is special because it’s not closed off for preservation – cars still drive under it every day.

After Turkey it was time to head back to Italy and we stopped in Naples before heading back to Civitavecchia. We took a tour to Pompei and had some incredible pizza before getting back on the ship and heading home.

Pompei
One of the main streets in Pompei.
Plaster of a Body from Pompei
Our tour guide told us that as they excavated Pompei, they made plaster casts of the spaces left in the ash by the bodies of those who perished there. This is one of those casts.

After Pompei it was back to Rome for us where went to see St. Peter’s in Vatican City (a little hectic given we were there right after the Pope announced his resignation).

 All in all it was an amazing trip and it was the perfect way to start out my year as a nomad. I had a wonderful time and I hope get to see my friends on the Jade again soon.

And the Journey Begins!

So far in my life I’ve been lucky enough to visit dozens of places around the world – many numerous times – and I love to explore new countries and cities. That’s why I’ve decided to bite the bullet and leave my day job so that I can have the freedom (one of the greatest benefits of being an entrepreneur) to travel where and when I please.

While I’ve loved helping the small businesses of Washington, DC start and grow I can’t be tied down geographically anymore so I’m heading out. Because I think aspiring entrepreneurs might need to see a little taste of where their lives could take them, I’ll be sharing some of my travel adventures with you here.

First up this month: Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Greece and Turkey are new for me – so please share your suggestions for what to do and see in Istanbul, Izmir, Athens, and Olympia! I’ve been to Italy before, but I’m excited to explore it as a slightly older and wiser traveler!

I might not be online much while I’m off exploring, but I promise to post as soon as I’m back. Wish me luck!

Welcome to Our New Home

Hello New Venture Mentor followers. Welcome to our new home here as part of CateCosta.com.

I started this blog giving tips, tricks, and tutorials for entrepreneurs last year and kept it up for a few months but then I set it to the side to focus on some more pressing issues with my clients. Now I’m back and instead of giving all of the goodies to you at http://newventurementor.wordpress.com/ I’ve decided to house the New Venture Mentor blog right here as part of CateCosta.com. It’ll still have the same great info, just a new home.

Thanks for checking us out and I look forward to getting started with the blog again in the near future.