Techcrunch has recently ranked Mexico as one of the top investment destinations for tech companies, highlighting its proximity to Silicon Valley (only a short flight away), its economic growth (40% faster than Brazil), and its status as one of the 14 largest economies in the world.
In today’s Latin Interactive World Feature, we interview César Salazar (co-founder of the Mexican VC investment fund, which was recently acquired by 500 Startups. Salazar shares his views on the current state of Mexican startups. Below is an edited version of our interview:
PORTADA: You were just at Startup World in Mexico City, where Mexican VC was also part of the jury. What insights on the state of the Mexican startups industry have you gained through these events?
César Salazar: "We’ve been a part of the growth of this community since its inception at almost zero, to what we see today. We hear of new companies every day and it’s hard for us to attend existing events now because there are so many. We think that is great news for all of us."
PORTADA: Modebo won at that event with technology that offers more efficient energy consumption. Do you see a trend toward technology companies that improve our impact on nature? Is this a departure from the best-known startups model focused on applications and connectivity?
CS : "The growth of one sector does not mean the decline of another. Green technologies have been growing in the last decade and it is normal that they receive a lot of attention. The world’s energy and sustainability problem is no small thing. However, we are most excited about what we're seeing in the services and applications sector, which uses the power of the Internet to reach millions and solve all kinds of day to day problems. With projections calling for over 60 million online users in Mexico by 2015, this is one of our most attractive market opportunities."
PORTADA: In this new world of emerging global powers, what role does Mexico play or should play in technological innovation and startups? How can it compete and/or collaborate with other emerging and established powers?
CS: "Mexico is in an ideal position to compete. Many find it hard to see, but our economy is growing much faster than established economies, which opens up new market opportunities. There is also the human capital needed to develop technology-based products. If we add to that the recent entry of early stage new capital and the strengthening of the entrepreneurial community, we can expect great things. Mexico is considered one of the eight emerging economies in the world (in addition to Russia, China, Brazil, India, South Korea, Turkey and Indonesia) and is by no means at the bottom of the list."
PORTADA: Regarding Mexican VC, how does it link Silicon Valley with Mexico? Are you looking to be a springboard to Silicon Valley or to establish a couple of them in our country?
CS: "Silicon Valley is a unique place that we have no intention of replicating. However, during the long time we spent there, we identified the core cultural aspects that enable high levels of innovation. These are the factors that we’ve been pushing in Mexico for the last four years.
Additionally, having a foot in Silicon Valley gives us access to much more experienced entrepreneurs, as well as capital more accustomed to early investments and links with potential business partners for companies in our portfolio."
PORTADA: What does it mean to you to be joining 500 Startups? How does this change your vision and plans for the future?
CS : "Our vision remains. Our intention is to transform the way technology companies are created in Mexico and to participate in the new winners, generating high returns for our investors. Now, together with 500 Startups, we can do it with greater financial resources but especially with more human resources.
500 Startups is making bets that no one else dares to make and we believe that we’ll be changing the face of venture capital in the world."
PORTADA: What is next for Mexican VC?
CS : "More investments, more events that connect investors and consolidating what we believe is the best program for entrepreneurs to access startups."
César Salazar is Venture Partner at 500 Startups and cofounder of Mexican VC. He was CEO and founder of 42 Claps and the Mexico Web Conference. Salazar studied Information Technology and System Design at Växjö Universitet.