En el Centro de Lenguas recibimos hace poco este correo de Cindy Blanco Ochoa, alumna del ITESO que tuvo una experiencia que ha marcado su vida.
Hace un año, me incorporé como practicante de una non-profit del MIT que apoya el ecosistema de alto impacto en México llamada MIT Enterprise Fórum México.
Desde que entré al mundo del emprendimiento y la innovación, me sentí en mi lugar. Me apasiona lo que hago y veo en ello una forma de contribuir al desarrollo del país a través de su capital humano. De lo anterior que este verano haya buscado unas prácticas para irme a vivir la experiencia de Silicon Valley, y bueno, una cosa me ha llevado a la otra. Estando allá conocí a Bismark Lepe, un Mexican-American que fue uno de los primeros empleados de Google y actualmente es el CEO de Wizeline, una empresa de tecnología que está basada en San Francisco.
Esta empresa lleva poco de haber incursionado en México y al regresar de mi verano en California, me ofrecieron liderar dos de sus proyectos aquí en Guadalajara, así que respondiendo a tu pregunta, mi plan ahora que me gradúo es dejar el MIT Enterprise Forum México donde me ofrecieron un puesto de tiempo completo, para incorporarme en Wizeline y liderar los dos proyectos enfocados a Guadalajara. Estoy muy contenta pero nerviosa a la vez, sin embargo pienso que quedarme donde estoy sería estancarme en mi zona de confort y renunciar por miedo a la incertidumbre a una oportunidad de mucho crecimiento, tanto personal como profesional….
En fin, si algo me queda claro de estas experiencias es que hablar y escribir bien en inglés me ha abierto muchas puertas…
Cindy Blanco Ochoa
Harvest from “The Valley”
by Cindy Blanco Ochoa
For some reason life is pushing me into the “techworld”. Funny thought, since I’m not a tech person myself (believe me, a few months ago I still had the Iphone 4 with the most basic apps on it). But randomly, my path once again lead me to this exciting techworld when I got a summer job offer at Plugand Play Tech Center.
My job primarily consisted on bridging the gap between Mexico and all the innovation from the Valley through the platform that Plug and Play represents: I had to do daily outreach to have Mexican and Latin American corporations coming to visit the headquarters. Also, managing the partnership with the Mexican “Anchor Partner”; and I contributed on the process to select Mexican startups to receive a 25K investment plus a “ticket” for the Acceleration Program in exchange of a 5% of equity.
The experience of being working right in the heart of Silicon Valley ecosystem, not only gave me a wide and deep understanding of what entrepreneurship, innovation, networking and “success exit” means in this vibrant place of the world. But also, it gave me some clues of what the “growing ecosystems” (as I like to call the developing tech ecosystems in regions as Latin America) could learn in order to have “harvests” as productive and competitive as the ones from the Western Valley.
And I emphasize “learn”, (not to replicate neither copy), because Silicon Valley has its own natural conditions as a result of its unique culture, location, history, etc.
I concluded that countries moving towards an innovation and knowledge economy, should strive to:
1. Generate competition
Competition between companies is not only good, is necessary. The same happens inside the corporations. Employees and companies that are exposed to competition tend to be more productive and innovative.
This is a constant that I found within Silicon Valley’s ecosystem: Competition is a driving force, is the “daily fertilizer” of this rich land. Entrepreneurs are competing against other at an early stage and growing startups. In this way, companies are challenged by the innovation speed of the competence.
Therefore, innovation and creativity are a direct consequence of the market battle.
It is important to underline that despite the fact of the competitive environment, entrepreneurs, companies and even employees maintain a deep culture of collaboration and willingness to share ideas and expertise.
Moreover, many of the tech startups that are being attracted or created in this ecosystem are primarily focused on B2B model (business to business) rather than B2C model (business to customers). I found that this tendency responds to the wider possibilities of a startup to grow and scale globally when focusing on big corporations as customers.
Despite the fact that countries in Latin America as Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia are leading the use of social media and internet, a great majority of the startups that I reviewed from this region are focused on solving local problems. They are developing the socall “copycats” or they are aiming to develop products and services without involving too much disruptive technology that generates added value.
This lack of “global ambition” and the inclusion of technology of some of the startups from the growing ecosystems reduces significantly their possibilities to scale, to compete in the global market and to generate growth in their countries.
2. It’s all about connections
Tech Ecosystems are very similar to a country’s infrastructure: The better connected it is, the more productive and rich they becomes.
Corporations, mentors, venture capital firms, academia, accelerators, incubators are all somehow connected in the Valley. This situation is quite benefic, not only for the startups development, but also for the whole innovation cycle that involves all the actors within the ecosystem:
Entrepreneurs are able to reach venture capital firms, incubators and accelerators to fund and grow their startups. Consolidated corporations (especially the ones aiming to migrate to new business models) can easily reach early stage startups in order to attract them to become more competitive, and at the same time, help the startup to reach a bigger market segment. Successful startups can break paradigms and generate competition that fosters innovation and competition in Silicon Valley.
In conclusion, this type of well connected environment allows some sort of “transversal networking” between industries, knowledge areas and expertise, widening the possibilities of innovation and productivity for everybody.
Therefore, growing ecosystems must strive to connect their actors and facilitate high quality networking in order to foster entrepreneurship.
3. Feet on the ground
If there is something that distinguishes Silicon Valley from the rest of the tech ecosystems of the world it is the open minded and friendly culture floating in the environment.
CEO’s, investors, mentors, etc. they are generally willing to interact, and why not, advise and help other inexperienced entrepreneurs in their journey to success. It doesn’t really matter how big their company is, or how disruptive their new technology is, I found that in the Valley the person “makes” the position, and not the other way around.
The situation is very different in growing ecosystems as the ones in Latin America, where wealth inequality is one of the biggest issues. The result has been less egalitarian societies in which classicism predominates. In this context, hitting on key people as executives, directors, etc. is a constant difficulty for entrepreneurs.
In my personal experience at Plug and Play Tech Center I got inspired by the CEO, Saeed Amidi, who held daily morning meetings to hear the goals and progress on projects of every single person working there. However, I got even more inspired by entrepreneurs from all over the world who are expecting to fail as part of the process of launching a successful, innovative and game changing startup.
I concluded that growing ecosystems must inculcate this culture inwards themselves. Almost all the entrepreneurs that I have met since I ventured in the tech world have a positive DNA against failure. But a culture that sees failure as failure and not as an achievement of knowledge and experience is far from being as innovative as the Valley. Fear to fail is a big inhibitor of innovation.
4. We are not so different
Eating lunch was my favorite time at the office. There were entrepreneurs from all over the world making line for the excellent food served by a bunch of friendly Mexican cooks.
After a few days of eating my lunch there, I became aware of two interesting things: First of all, the genuine openness of the Valley to embrace immigrants. I was impressed to see how many different languages and nationalities you could see in just one day. I liked to picture Plug and Play as the United Nations for entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurs, executives, board teams, students and a few curious from all sort of nationalities visited the headquarters every day. This rich and complex mosaic of people allows multicultural interactions within Silicon Valley, fostering the exchange of different points of view, perspectives and ideas, exponentially widening the innovation opportunities.
The second thing that I found is that, despite the obvious differences, many of the growing ecosystems are facing the same obstacles to grow and to strengthen entrepreneurship and innovation.
During my conversations with entrepreneurs, especially from Brazil, they were pointing out some of the issues regarding the development of their ecosystem. These issues were the same ones that I have found in Mexico, as the lack of Angel Investors and early stage capital, the low willingness of the private sector to make high risk investments, the way the governmental budget is assigned for entrepreneurship, among others.
However, interesting things are happening at the regional level, such as the Pacific Alliance Entrepreneurship Regional Initiative with the support of the InterAmerican Development Bank. These joint efforts may be a mechanism to tackle some of the main obstacles that the growing ecosystems are facing.
5. Breaking the glass ceiling
Tech industry and entrepreneurship in general is still dominated by men. Silicon Valley is not the exception.
Nowadays, women entrepreneurs in the world are still facing many obstacles that decrease the growing pace of their startups. I did asked around about this gender issue in the field of entrepreneurship and I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed to find out that women receive less investment than men.
Nevertheless, I consider that entrepreneurship is becoming a new dimension to strive for gender equality.
While I was at Silicon Valley I saw many young women pitching, coding and interacting within the tech ecosystem. This is why I think entrepreneurship has the potential to become a fascinating way to break the glass ceiling that has limited women success in the tech world.
To conclude, I believe that encouraging a meritocracy culture is very necessary, both, in Silicon Valley, but specially in the growing ecosystems.