It is the stuff of legend in the technology world: Strapped for cash, but hoping to fund and launch a technology startup, a young AOL intern finds a couch in a forgotten corner of the Silicon Valley behemoth. Armed with a laptop – and supported by AOL’s free lunches, showers, drycleaning and wi-fi – the intern skates by for two months in 2012 before he was discovered and shown the door. No matter: Eric Simons’ 60 days of squatting was the more than sufficient to help him launch Class Connect, an online resource for educators.
Today, startup-minded folks bemoan the resources needed to benefit from the mojo in Silicon Valley: Entrepreneur magazine reportsthat contract engineers here command more than $75 per hour, and a crash pad – a shared room in a home – will run you more than $1,200 per month.
Even time-tested alternatives – including China and the United Arab Emirates – are now considered too inaccessible – from a collaboration, resource and cultural standpoint.
But, ever so quietly, an exodus has been providing a welcome harbor for conservation-minded startups. From Monterrey, to Jalisco, to iTexico’s home in tech-friendly Guadalajara, Mexico has become the place where aspiring entrepreneurs can eat, code and launch without feeling poorer than – or more disconnected from – their American-based counterparts.
Of course, magic like this doesn’t happen overnight. Twenty years in the making, today’s startup-loving Mexico had its roots in good-old American foreign policy; and then grew through a dose of vision, risk-taking and dogged determination.
Here are three major factors in this renaissance:
The shifting of “trade” winds
According to Wired magazine, the aforementioned roots were laid when the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, opened up new channels between the U.S. and Mexico that eased the ability to invest in capital-intensive endeavors. Today, Mexico has at least 44 free-trade agreements – more than any other country and double the number in China.
Investment from within
Though Mexico certainly gained its catalyst from these trade agreements, it didn’t count on U.S. dollars as its sole source of nourishment. The Mexican government came to the table with its own initiatives, including reforms in labor and tax laws. The cornerstone of Mexico’s tech-centered efforts is INADEM, the National Entrepreneur’s Institute, which has brought more than 100 incubators and 20 accelerators to the country while pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into entrepreneurial activity, according to the website Tech.co.
The culture club
Our proximity to Mexico lends itself to some very close ties, in ways that are much more than a matter of geography. American entrepreneurs who set up shop in Mexico know that they will be collaborating with their U.S.-based counterparts in real time, and can benefit from efficient transit options between the two countries. And, particularly with Texas-based operations, the cultural connection – forged from years of cross-border emigration – creates a sense of fellowship that is hard to replicate with distant ports of call. Finally, Mexico’s talent pool of engineering and technology resources continues to grow. More than 118,000 engineers matriculate each year from Mexican universities – where enrollment has tripled in the past 30 years, and now tops 3 million students.
To sum up, why Mexico is the new haven for tech startups?
Have you considered engaging technology resources in Mexico?