Global Greening – Angel de la Independencia in Mexico City on St. Patrick’s Day

Today’s post really isn’t all that exciting because I didn’t have any grand adventures. In fact, it was the day after I’d gone to Xochimilco, where I’d had a fabulous day drinking and spending time with friends, and I would have happily called it a night early that evening.

However, it was St. Patrick’s day and 1) I am (half) Irish-American (half Puerto Rican) 2) A good friend of mine I hadn’t seen in years was coming to town and 3) I actually happened to be in a city that was participating in Global Greening, so there was no way I was going to stay in. Global Greening is a program that the embassies of Ireland organize around the world every year on St. Patrick’s Day where they turn some of the world’s most recognized landmarks green to celebrate. They’ve done iconic structures like the pyramids in Egypt and the Eiffel Tower in France in the past and this year, it was the Angel de la Independencia smack dab in the middle of my city (my city for that month anyway).

Given all the reasons I had to celebrate, I painted my finger nails green, donned my green garb, picked up my friend at his hotel, and met up with some others at the Angel just after 7pm, the time when the greening was to happen. I have to say, it was a bit anticlimactic. I had expected a bit more fanfare and many more Irish or pseudo-Irish people to be out celebrating, but it was a bit of a dead night. Far less activity than my 2013 St. Patrick’s Day, which I also spent in Mexico City. The Angel did look cool lit up in green though, so here are some pics for your enjoyment 🙂

Global Greening 2014 - Angel de la Independencia - Mexico City
The Angel as we approached from my friend’s hotel.
Global Greening 2014 - Angel de la Independencia - Mexico City
The Angel close up.
Global Greening 2014 - Angel de la Independencia - Mexico City
My friend Mark and I in front of the Angel before playing a game of Frogger to get close to it.
Global Greening 2014 - Angel de la Independencia - Mexico City
My friend James (the visitor) and I in front of the Angel.
Global Greening 2014 - Angel de la Independencia - Mexico City
Can you tell this one is not thanks to my horrendous photography skills? Thanks, Mark!
Startup Nomad Interview with Bianca Loew

Startup Nomad Interview with Bianca Loew

We’re winding down my time in Latin America and this week’s interview is with Bianca Loew, Founder of Life of Two, the makers of Twyxt, a messaging app for couples. Bianca is originally from Germany, lived for many years in Mexico, and is now based in San Francisco.

Comparing the ecosystems of Silicon Valley and Mexico City, Bianca said: “How do you compare it: It’s day and night I would say.” She continued on:

“Silicon Valley is so developed. There is an ecosystem there, it’s already developed and it’s huge and here in Mexico it is everything but...

…When I started up with Life of Two there was no ecosystem, it was non-existent in Mexico, which is the reason that we decided to go to San Francisco, because here in Mexico there wasn’t anything or, if there was something, it was only just starting…It’s only starting to get organized, there are lots of funds being created from one moment to the other…

…things are really happening but it’s really, really early stage…

There are people that are doing things right, organizations that are really serious, but there are also those that really aren’t…I think it’s a matter of time before it will get more mature but still, Mexico City, there is not going to be a second Silicon Valley.”

Getting into more detail about what is missing from the Mexican ecosystem she said: “I don’t know if it’s one thing, I think it’s many things together. 1 thing is of course capital, access to capital. [Also], really great talent is still pretty scarce so there are great people but they are not looking around for jobs. When it comes to money, when it comes to talent, when it comes to the whole infrastructure like legal issues – there are very few legal firms that specialize in startups…

…This whole framework has yet to evolve.”

She does see it changing, however:

“It’s very small, it’s not yet very mature, but it’s very exciting and it’s growing a lot,” she said.

“It’s important that Mexico is finally giving more attention to the entrepreneurs, it’s important that there are finally funds available for entrepreneurs…these things are happening now and they’re very important for Mexico, for the country, for the economy…This new wave that is happening right now in Mexico. A lot of things are going to happen in 5 years – I don’t know if [the ecosystem] is going to be mature, but definitely we can expect a lot of things happening here in Mexico…

…I see a lot of progress. Mexico is on a good path. I don’t know what’s going to happen in 5 years but it’s definitely going to look different.”

So what is Bianca’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?:

“Not everyone is made to be an entrepreneur,” she told me. She encourages everyone to give it a try if they have a great idea, but warns that it’s not all fun, freedom, and glitz. It is hard work that requires discipline and self-motivation and is not right for everyone. She also said,

“You need to have the right people around you, you need to have the right cofounder. You can have the best idea but if you don’t have someone to help you develop it, if you don’t have a reliable cofounder [you won’t succeed].”

Finally,  “You need to be fast; don’t try to make the perfect product, just test it very fast with something basic and see if that takes you somewhere.”


What do you think of BIanca had to say about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexican? Let me know in the comments section below!

Torre Latinoamericana

The Torre Latinoamericana (Latin American Tower) in downtown Mexico City provides great views of the city (which seems to continue on endlessly to the horizon) and the surrounding mountains. There is an observation deck, however, I opted instead for visiting the bar 2 floors below and still got a lovely (and free) view right around sunset.

View of the city from the tower.
View of the city from the tower.
View of the Zocalo from the tower.
View of the Zocalo from the tower.
Getting close to sunset...
Getting close to sunset…
My friend and I in the tower.
My friend and I in the tower.
Bellas Artes from above.
Bellas Artes from above.
The dirty window is ruining the view here a little, but you can still see.
The dirty window is ruining the view here a little, but you can still see.
Post sunset view from the tower.
Post sunset view from the tower.


One of my favorite day trips while living in Mexico City was my visit to Xochimilco. Xochimilco, while formerly an independent city, is now actually one of the sections of Mexico City and is known (facetiously) as the Venice of Mexico. It’s a fun outing for people that want to escape the city for a nice day of food and drink on the water aboard small boats called trajineras. Basically, you hop on and float around the hundreds of (crowded) canals just enjoying time with your “shipmates.” You pay by the hour for your time on the trajinera (you pay by boat, not by passenger) and there are vendors that float around on other boats offering up everything from roasted corn on the cob to serenades from live mariachi bands.

If you have more than a few days in Mexico City and a great group of friends to go with, I would definitely recommend this outing.

Bienvenidos a Xochimilco
Bienvenidos a Xochimilco
The "gondoliers" steer the trajineras with long sticks - harder than it looks I think
The “gondoliers” steer the trajineras with long sticks – harder than it looks I think
The flags and names at the top of each trajinera are based on past passengers - I was promised my boat would be named Cate and fly the US and Puerto Rican flags :)
The flags and names at the top of each trajinera are based on past passengers – I was promised my boat would be named Cate and fly the US and Puerto Rican flags 🙂
Mariachi serenade
Mariachi serenade
Me with the mariachis
Me with the mariachis
We got stuck in a bit of a traffic jam
We got stuck in a bit of a traffic jam
We got stuck in a bit of a traffic jam
We got stuck in a bit of a traffic jam
My Xochimilco "shipmates" - France, Mexico, and the US represented :)
My Xochimilco “shipmates” – France, Mexico, and the US represented 🙂

Mexico City

Today’s post will be a quickie – just some photos of my time in Mexico City and I will do some other posts about specific attractions and adventures I’ve had here. The capital of Mexico is actually not one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country as many people prefer to head to the beach, however, it does have a lot to offer, as you’ll begin to see over my next few posts. Last year while I was here I took little day or weekend trips out to the pyramids of Teotihuacan, to Puebla, and to the pyramid at Cholula. This year I explored a bit of the city itself and will be sharing some weekend trips that are just a little further away, so stay tuned.

Fun fact: Mexico City is not part of any of the states that make up the United States of Mexico. It is a separate federal district (hence the name México, Distrito Federal) similar to Washington, DC in the U.S. of A.

Mexico City
Snapping some shots around the Zocalo
Mexico City
Outside the huge church in the Zocalo
Mexico City
Random murals – sorry for the fuzziness – it was a friend’s camera, not mine 😉
Mexico City
Palacio de las Bellas Artes
Mexico City
I actually don’t know what this building is but it looks pretty cool, right? Photo credit does not go to me though, thanks, James!
Mexico City
The entrance to Arena México right before we head in to watch some Lucha Libre

Castillo de Chapultepec / Chapultepec Castle

One of my quick little weekend day adventures while in Mexico City was a brief visit to the Castle of Chapultepec, a royal castle that been used as everything from a royal residence, to a military academy, to a museum. It’s easy to get to on public transportation (it has its own metro stop) and is a quick little adventure for a morning or afternoon in Mexico City that will give you some nice views of the city.

While I can’t say that the museum was all that impressive, it was fun enough and it was worth the trip to see the only(?) royal castle in North America, some great views of the city, and some interesting murals and artifacts. The day I went, there was also a free ballet performance on an open stage out in front of the castle’s entrance.

Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
The castle behind me…too bright to open my eyes! lol
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
View of Mexico City from the castle.
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
The back of the castle…I think is supposedly the site of the niños heroes.
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
Truthfully, I don’t remember what this is but it is in the front of the castle heading towards Reforma.
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
Weird, bending, panoramic view from the castle.

Mexico’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (Flashback): Interview with Andrea Rodriguez Rojas

I’ve tried to keep my Startup Nomad posts roughly following my travels geographically, however, there was one entrepreneur from Mexico City whom I didn’t get to interview until I arrived in Chile. She’s awesome and I still wanted to include her in the blog before next year when I make it back to D.F., so this week we’re doing a brief flashback to Mexico and speaking with Andrea Rodriguez Rojas, the entrepreneur behind Viajero Emprendedor.

Check out the video below to hear what she has to say about Mexico’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and Latin America more broadly, and then let me know what you think in the comments section below! (I’m back-lit and had a slower internet connection, so I’m basically a blob. The important part is that you can see and hear Andrea, though, which you can. Sorry about the poor quality on my end and enjoy the video anyway!)



Mexico’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Interview 4 – Jackie Hyland: Project Analyst, Angel Ventures Mexico

It’s almost time to leave Mexico (okay, by the time I post this I will have already been in Costa Rica for 2 weeks – but it’s almost time for the blog to leave Mexico) but before heading to the airport I was lucky enough to be able to sit down for a coffee chat with Jackie Hyland. She’s a Project Analyst at Angel Ventures Mexico and interacts regularly with both startups and investors, so she has a pretty insightful take on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico City.

Since Jackie works at an angel fund, our conversation naturally started with a discussion of the investment environment and, according to Jackie, there’s a big gap at that initial seed-stage capital between what entrepreneurs need and what investors are willing to offer. She says:

“There are people who want to invest but very few that want to join in on a company that is at the prototype or even seed stage. [Investors] want to see sales.”

Just like some of the other insiders I spoke to, Jackie says she’s seen a lot of the family business culture and the monopoly culture. While in the U.S. when we think of an angel investor we may conjure images of a serial entrepreneur who’s started and sold numerous businesses, in Mexico the angel investors tend to come from a more corporate traditional background or have run a family business so they’re more risk averse.

On the positive side, however, Jackie says that the investment environment in Mexico is very open, meaning that investors share deals with other investors rather then trying to keep the next hot thing to themselves.

“Between the funding organizations, we want to share what we know,” Jackie says. 

She thinks the risk aversion and openness will change though, and that change process has already begun.  The government is saying the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem is a priority for them by creating the new entrepreneurship institute  and the entrepreneurs and investors are becoming more active.

“The movement has started now. There are people saying ‘I don’t need to just take over my Dad’s company or get a job. I can start something,'” she says. “But it will take another 3 or 4 years before people start seeing it’s not just about starting a company, it’s about coming up with something really unique.”

Unfortunately, Jackie sees that increased deal flow leading to less open communication between investors: “I think [funding organizations’ openness] is going to change once the deal flow changes and there are a lot of really hot projects with high value,” she says.

These changes are a part of the evolution of the ecosystem. According to Jackie, just a few years ago in Mexico entrepreneurship was just starting to come out of people’s mouths and now it’s exploding. Now that there are numerous incubators and accelerators that have started, people know about them, and people are in them; people are beginning to try to figure out how to make them better.

“Everyone says this is the prototype phase and now let’s go to phase two: let’s make it better,” Jackie says.

And part of making the ecosystem better is about tweaking the models so that they fit with the Mexican culture and ecosystem. “A lot of other countries want to mimic Silicon Valley: What do they do? What do they have? How do we bring that here?” Jackie says. But in order to truly succeed, the Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystem needs to adapt those models to Mexican realities.

“What I think and what I always ask Mexicans,” Jackie says, is “why do you feel like you need to mimic when you’re bringing something from another culture? Why not try to do more than transplant and see how this model fits with Mexico and make it bigger and better?”

However the ecosystem continues to evolve – as an attempted direct copy of places like Silicon Valley or as something intentionally uniquely Mexican – Jackie says, “the flow will pick up when entrepreneurs say: ‘Okay we’ve been doing this, we’ve been making companies, let’s figure out how to do this better, how to make a big difference.'” Thus, the question of the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico seems to be one of how and how quickly, not if.


Do you have experience in the Mexico City startup scene? If so, please let me know your thoughts on what Jackie had to say in the comments sections below. Next up we head off to San Jose, Costa Rica to explore the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ticolandia. 

Mexico’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Interview 3 – Scott Wofford: Project Leader, Ashoka

After visiting Endeavor Mexico, Josh Ford put me in touch with Scott Wofford, a consultant and project leader at Ashoka who is developing a map of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico City including development organizations, funding organizations, universities, etc. JACK POT – this is just the kind of information that I am interested in.

Unfortunately, Scott’s report isn’t yet released publicly so I can’t share any lovely links, but Scott was kind enough to grab lunch with me and give me another take on what’s happening in the world of entrepreneurship in Mexico City and where the city’s ecosystem is headed in the near future.

One of the key differences he identifies between the ecosystem in Mexico and that in the United States are that there is more classism for aspiring entrepreneurs to contend with in Mexico and that

“classism impacts many things about being an entrepreneur including raising capital and being part of the right networks.”

Additionally, because of the social stratification, there is more need-based entrepreneurship in Mexico than in the United States. Many people become business owners because it is the only option they have to support themselves or their families, however, these are not the entrepreneurs that have the resources or desire to grow those enterprises into fully functioning, scalable companies.

At the same time, there’s a lack of investment capital – specifically venture capital, in Mexico. Scott believes this lack of venture capital has a few causes: venture capitalists have trouble finding a pipeline; lots of monopolies prevent industries from taking off through a startup because those monopolies have a choke hold and since the startups cannot make it “really big” they are less attractive to investors; and Mexico is missing the qualified talent to manage a successful fund.

Scott also identifies more entrenched corruption in Mexico as something that differentiates the ecosystem there from that in the United States. Because of this corruption, Mexico doesn’t fare well on the ease-of-doing-business index and it can be difficult for entrepreneurs without the right connections to get the proper permits and licenses to begin doing business or to expand an existing business.

On the positive side, however, because the social divisions are so defined,

“Once you’re in, you’re in,” Scott says. “Some of the success stories go through all of the programs – Ashoka, Endeavor, etc. even though they don’t necessarily need the help.”

This is a theme that came up in other interviews in Mexico City as well – because the ecosystem is still at its early stages, it’s a small community in which everyone knows everyone.

Mexico also maintains a strong family structure as a deeply entrenched part of its culture so friends and family “rounds” of investment are more common. Additionally, Mexico has a growing middle class and good macro-economic growth that, combined with its proximity to the U.S., position it well to bring established U.S. models and apply them in Mexico – usually for less risk.

So where does Scott see the Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystem in 5 – 10 years?

“Right now, 80%-90% of entrepreneurs who’ve been invested in or accelerated by one of the big programs will increase 25%-30% per year but only a few will be big success cases in terms of ROI.” In 5 – 10 years, “I think that there will be a couple of big success cases where entrepreneurs become pretty famous.”


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


Mexico’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Interview 2 – Joshua Ford: Analyst of Entrepreneur Services and Search & Selection, Endeavor Mexico

After speaking with Jorge Madrigal of Aventura in my last Startup Nomad post I was really excited about Mexico City’s potential as a startup hub. I wanted to speak to someone connected to an international organization to get a comparison between the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico City and ecosystems in other cities, so I headed over to Endeavor Mexico to talk to Joshua Ford.

Josh is an Analyst of Entrepreneur Services & Selection, so he’s on the front lines interfacing with entrepreneurs who would like to become a part of Endeavor’s program and he gets to help decide who’s ready to get going with the program, who needs a little bit more work before entering the program, and who just isn’t a good fit for what Endeavor offers. He was kind enough to show me around the Endeavor offices in Mexico City (very Google-esque) and to let me grill him about what he sees happening in Mexico City’s world of entrepreneurship.

According to Josh,

“Mexico is just starting to get to the point where people are starting to think about entrepreneurship,”

and he sees some key differences between entrepreneurship in Mexico and entrepreneurship in the U.S. Firstly, he sees a lack of capital in Mexico. According to him, venture funds are smaller and more hesitant to invest because of “cultural stuff,” while, at the same time, entrepreneurs are hesitant to give equity stakes because they’re more guarded as the practice is not as familiar, there isn’t much understanding of how to value a company, and many entrepreneurs don’t realize that they could/should be looking outside of their network of friends and family for money to start or grow their businesses.

This mentality brings us to another difference that Josh identified between the U.S. and Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystems: Mexico’s lack of an entrepreneurship culture. There aren’t nearly as many pitch competitions, mentorship programs, or academic programs highlighting entrepreneurship as a viable career path and educating Mexicans about how to pursue it. There is also greater social stratification with most entrepreneurs coming from wealthy families because the “life tracks” start at a very early age. Public education in Mexico, according to Josh, is not as good as that in the U.S. so the wealthy in Mexico have an even bigger leg up than those in the States. Plus, since there are so few “rags to riches” stories there are not role models available to encourage entrepreneurship among less-well-off young people. Thus, the potential pool of entrepreneurs is the top 5-10% of the population (economically) instead of the entire population.

Finally, Mexico lacks some of the basic infrastructure to really be a tech, startup, and innovation powerhouse because the availability of things such as high-speed internet varies greatly from place to place within the country.

However, just like Jorge, Josh sees these barriers starting to crumble. In 5-10 years he believes that entrepreneurship will be more of a “known thing” and that young people will be talking about it, which will lead to more mature innovation. He says,

“One of the coolest things is that in emerging markets [like Mexico] there is still tons of opportunity. So far a lot has been taking ideas from the U.S. and Europe and doing them here, but in the future we’ll see more people innovating from zero and creating completely new ideas [in Mexico].”

The growth of entrepreneurship is a cycle, so that next level of innovation will lead to more conversation, awareness, and availability of mentors and role models so that more people will be inspired to pursue entrepreneurship and the growth will continue. In Josh’s opinion the biggest success was having an entrepreneur come through the Endeavor program, succeed, and create a contest to encourage young entrepreneurs.

Josh also expects to see more expansion into the rest of Latin America because Mexico is simply better positioned to enter those markets than the U.S. is. He also predicts that more money will start to flow into Mexico as the violence decreases and more people educated abroad return to Mexico to fill holes in the market.

So what’s his advice for current and aspiring entrepreneurs? Well, he has a lot of it: Firstly,

“There is no substitute for hard work,” he says. “It’s easy to work hard for 2 or 3 months but the typical success takes many, many years.”

He also advises entrepreneurs to be very strategic about who their market is and how they’ll target that market.

“You need to know your market inside and out,” he says. ” There’s no way you’ll be able to capture a market if you don’t know what the market is.”

He suggests you find the niches – whether geographic, class, etc. – and try to figure out how to get ahead of the curve and weather the storm while you educate your customers because you’re ahead of the trend.

“Entrepreneurs really need to look at not only what’s been Mexican forever – what’s already a part of the fiber – but also what could be a part of the fiber and figure how to tell the consumers what they want,” he says.

He also suggests that entrepreneurs move strategically, not necessarily rapidly. “Don’t expand just for the sake of expanding,” he recommends. He also stresses that you need to know your numbers because, “no matter how good your idea is or how excited you are, [investors] want to see your financials.” Therefore, you need to know your finances or, at least, bring on someone who does.

Finally, he says:

“Know your weaknesses AND know your strengths. A lot of times people are so focused on their weaknesses that they let their strengths fall. You want to bring everything up, not let your strengths and weaknesses meet in the middle.”


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