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Introduction to Guadalajara’s Startup Ecosystem
Guadalajara in Mexico (don’t let yourself get confused with the one in Spain) is the second largest city in the country with more than 4.5 million inhabitants enriching it every day, bestowing the area with a hallmark of big cultural contrasts. For the past 30 or so years, the very strong sense of tradition, folklore and conservativeness has merged perfectly with the influx of domestic and foreign migration that leveled the pitch for a culture of innovation and tech entrepreneurship. In StartupBlink’s 2019 report, Guadalajara ranked 3rd in Mexico and 90th globally.
Guadalajara is the capital of Jalisco, which is the 4th largest economy in Mexico by GDP. There are over 700 electronics manufacturing shops and IT companies (ranging from Dev shops, Startups and Platform Companies) throughout the state that combined adds up for more than 17 billion pesos—over 60% of State’s trade exports—making it a predominant activity for Jalisco’s economy. It all started in 1968 when Motorola established a manufacturing unit within the City. The abundance and growth of cheap qualified labor, decent higher education infrastructure and quality of life—that all remains to this day—boosted the arrival of other subsidiaries, competitors and spin-off companies like IBM, NEC, Siemens, Kodak, General Instruments among others. Slowly but consistently the region has overrun the “cheap labor” self-image by attracting R&D and product development units, instead of manufacturing ones.
Guadalajara – A collaboration-driven ecosystem
With over 30+ tech related communities—and growing—helding educational and networking events each week just for the sake of sharing best practices and success cases, that alone has helped to inspire, educate and connect more people to work together and efficiently and then give back to the new entrants.
The most important communities are Hackers and Founders, iTuesday and MakersGDL that each one holds monthly meetings with more than 100 people (besides H&F’s main event there are 4 themed, educational regular events).
Due to this in 2014, Meetroopers was created. A community of communities that aims to integrate and coordinate the efforts and to incentivize the creation of new ones within Guadalajara and throughout the country.
Advantages of starting in Guadalajara
Weather: Never too hot neither too cold. The low average is 11ºC (51.8 ºF). Topping an average of 27ºC (80.6 ºF). It rains a lot during the summer to early autumn.
People: With most of its population ranging from 15 to 64 years old, Guadalajara can be considered a young, vibrant city. As a magnet for new incomers, people tend to be warm and welcoming.
Government: Jalisco was the first Latin American state government to create a Department of Science and Innovation, that has helped promote and foster a culture of innovation within the most influential related entities and to align and coordinate the efforts on this matter.
Disadvantages of starting in Guadalajara
Bureaucracy: Despite having a Department of Science and Innovation, there’s still—as in most governments through Latin America—a proclivity to give priority to bureaucracy and politics when trying to get things done.
The business community and tech adoption: Guadalajara has had a strong nation-wide position in goods trading. From home furniture to processed foods and candies, these large trading companies are family owned and managed in a very traditional way. They tend to be very conservative and risk-averse often seeing technology adoption to improve their processes as a waste of money instead of an investment.
Lack of angel investors: Not having had a major startup exit, local investors—historically—have preferred to put their money in real state and governmental bonds.
Insecurity: Like any large Latin American city, the sense of insecurity is always there. This has an important affection on publicly acknowledging success, reducing the spotlights on those local entrepreneur heroes that prefer to go unnoticed, and probably leaving the country to enjoy their newly acquired wealth.
Most successful startups in Guadalajara
- Kueski (Series A) – Microlending platform.
- WePow (No public stage) – Scale up video job interviewing platform.
- VoxFeed (Series A) – Marketplace for Social Media Influencers
- RIGS (Seed) – Aftermarket auto spare parts marketplace.
- Makeup on us (Seed) – AR for the cosmetic industry.
- Anumex (Exit) – C2C and B2C marketplace.
- com (Seed) – Peer to Peer lending platform.
- Ranktab (Seed) – Crowd decision-making platform.
- Referee Pro (Seed) – Mobile App for Football Referees
- Pitz (Seed) – Digital organizing tool for Amateur Futbol
Biggest startup ecosystem players in Guadalajara
If you are a startup or an established company considering Guadalajara as a good place to operate from, these are a few names you should consider for a soft landing:
Incubators/Accelerators in Guadalajara:
- Reto Zapopan – One of the largest accelerators in the city. Managed by the municipality of Zapopan, they offer office space, mentoring and access to funds. They’re currently on their 3rd batch (2016)
- HF CoopMX – More than an incubator, it is a cooperative of startups combined with world-class mentors, office spaces for your startup and support for international growth. This makes it one of the best options for a startup. This is the first HF incubator out of Silicon Valley.
- Tec Lean Accelerator – Managed by one of the top private universities in LATAM, the access to academia and business partners is one of the key pros of joining this incubator. Tec de Monterrey is part of a very large group of companies, which is a plus to take into account when deciding where to incubate your startup.
Top Universities in Guadalajara:
- Universidad de Guadalajara – The largest and oldest public university in the region.
- Tec de Monterrey – LATAM’s largest and prestigious private university.
- ITESO – The Jesuitic university.
- Universidad Panamericana – Private university focused on business.
- Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara – The first private and independent university in Mexico.
Guadalajara Co-working spaces:
- Hacker Garage – The first Hackerspace in town. 5 years being the hub of the ecosystem. Community managed.
- Nevermind – Recently moved to a newer and bigger facility to allocate more entrepreneurs. With high-end furniture and neatly designed by renowned architect Luis Othon Villegas, it’s focused (but not limited) to the creative community.
- Epic Nest – One of the new players, focused primarily on creating an atmosphere for the developers and hackers.
- Hub Sustentable – A low-cost eco-friendly environment for social entrepreneurs and freelancers.
Annual startup events in Guadalajara:
- Campus Party – Largest Geek Party in the World
- MIT Enterprise Forum – Innovation and Business come together to create a link with the Boston entrepreneurship ecosystem.
- Epicentro Festival – Social Innovation and Music Fest
- International Astronautical Congress – For the Rocket Scientist inside you
Community and Meetups in Guadalajara:
- Hackers and Founders – With more than 5 years making the life of tech entrepreneurs suck less, is the largest community in town. 4 meetups per month.
- Makers GDL – If you like to create physical stuff, this is the community you want to join. They hold monthly meetings and have their own Makerspace within Hacker Garage facilities.
- iTuesday – Their goal is to inspire more people to change the world through technology and innovation. Their monthly meetups include networking and Rocket Pitches from startups of the ecosystem.
- Startup Weekend – The creators of the Mega format. They’ve held two of the largest Startup Weekends worldwide. Check updates for upcoming events.
- Ruby GDL – Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced Ruby developer, their monthly meetings will introduce you with this vibrant community willing to share their best practices.
- Drone Project – They’re just fun. Whether you want to learn how to build your first drone, share your experiences on the fly (no pun intended) or just find someone or somewhere to practice, this is the community for you.
- Tech Women Community – Despite their events not being exclusively for women, the spotlight relies on them. Every meetup, they discuss and share topics related to high-tech and development. Besides the monthly meetup, they frequently organize technical
- Social Valley – The largest social innovation meetup for those who want to improve the world.
- Codeando Mexico – If you’re into civic hacks, open data and social innovation, Codeando Mexico is your place to be. Besides their meetups, they also organize Hackathons and Workshops.
Guadalajara plays an important role in the Mexican startup ecosystem as a whole, given its conditions (great food, weather, infrastructure, educational level, and size; among others). It attracts talent and companies that pave the road to convert Mexico into a tech and innovation hub for Latin America.
About the author:
Oscar Terrazas is a Senior Sales Executive at DWSoftware in Guadalajara. He is also the founder of Blondon Eventos Corporativos and curator of Guadalajara Startup Digest.