Ecosystem Spotlight: 5 questions to… Jalisco, Mexico
Guadalajara, the capital city of Jalisco, is home to Mexico’s thriving tech industry. Since 2018, the Government of Jalisco has dedicated itself to fostering economic growth in the culturally-rich state through promoting the competitiveness of its productive sectors, and the development of science, technology, and innovation industries. We sat down with the State Government of Jalisco to discuss the region’s singularities, strengths and ambitions.
What is unique about your ecosystem that you’d like to share with an international audience?
The birthplace of tequila and mariachi, Jalisco brings that same inventiveness to its innovation ecosystem as well, being ranked #1 in the innovation sub-index measured by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute (IMCO) in 2022 and #1 nationally for patent applications. The capital city of Guadalajara is the second largest city in the country and is one of the four largest economies in Mexico, representing 7.3% of the country’s total GDP in 2021.
Guadalajara also has a strategic geographic location: with LA, San Francisco and New York all less than five hours away by plane. Direct flights to these destinations and 20 more in the US and Canada are common, and depart on average once per hour! This proximity to major tech and tourism hubs has had a tangible impact upon the region’s success, with more than 2,600 foreign companies of different industrial sectors investing in the state.
Jalisco has benefited directly and indirectly from the bilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements signed by Mexico with over 80 different countries, with 55% of Jalisco’s exports coming from the technology sector. Indeed, the local tech industry is growing remarkably with over 79,000 people employed by the tech sector (2.1% of the total workforce) and $255 million invested into startups since 2018.
Can you provide an example of local initiatives to support your startup community which you feel were successful, and why?
Last year, we launched our “Network of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centers” across Jalisco, REDi; a group of physical innovation centers located in 9 different regions of the State. The spaces promote high-impact entrepreneurship, digital transformation, as well as experimentation, co-creation, co-working, training, and networking. As a result of the implementation of these REDI Innovation Centers, more than 362 workshops, training, and innovation events have been made available to citizens, reaching just over 7,918 people, with more than 4,258 attendees being located outside the metropolitan area. These forums have also successfully brought together actors from the entrepreneurial-innovative ecosystem, academia, and experts to collaborate on different topics.
In 2021, we also launched Jalisco’s first digital incubator and accelerator, PLAi Innovar, an entrepreneurship hub offering diagnostic tools, training resources, personalized advice and networking, and virtual mentorship with the main goal being to promote high-impact entrepreneurship. As of July 2022, this program has reached over 3,000 entrepreneurs in Mexico.
The PLAi Conectar program, powered by Dealroom and launching in Fall 2022, will offer in-depth mapping of all actors in Jalisco’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The platform will make resources more visible to entrepreneurs in the state, and foster connections between entrepreneurs, companies, and talent. Furthermore, this digital tool will make it easier to discover and promote Jalisco’s tech success stories, our entrepreneur communities, and our investors, and serve to strengthen international relationships.
How do you use data to grow and support your tech and investment ecosystem?
Ecosystem data helps to improve decision-making when investing in an institution, and also provides the necessary tools to design public policies that support entrepreneurship in the state. One of our main objectives is to provide more and better opportunities to Jalisco startups by bringing them closer to relevant resources. Having a comprehensive view of the current state of our startup ecosystem, allows us to tailor our approach with respect to identifying venture capital funds and other institutions that can financially support each one of them according to their stage of development.
It is important to us to accurately identify all of the startups born and grown in the region of Jalisco so that we can bring them closer to local innovation communities, public and private accelerator programs, and support programs. Increasing the visibility and dissemination of this data is critical to positioning the state of Jalisco as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship nationally and in Latin America.
How do you foster collaboration within your ecosystem as well as externally / internationally?
We foster collaboration within the ecosystem and internationally through different events and forums:
- TIC Jalisco (2020-2021) (Talent and Innovation Competition of the Americas for Jalisco) in cooperation with the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT), which works in cooperation with the Organization of American States (OAS) offered a platform to internationalize entrepreneurs. 501 teams participated in training tailored to their category at the YABT BootCamp, through content, links with international experts, trends, and tools for their positioning and growth in target markets. In a second stage, the six finalist teams were mentored by international experts and had international projection, and, finally, participated in TIC Americas.
- Innovation Journey – It is a series of specialized events designed to spread, democratize, inspire, learn and co-create around innovation. In three types of events: Innovation Day, Challenges and Bootcamps, which were held at the REDI headquarters in Arandas, Guadalajara Metropolitan Area (AMG), Ocotlán and Zapotlán El Grande, with an impact on 952 participants.
- Innovation Tour – It is a series of knowledge events promoted by the RED of innovation centers (REDi), to bring innovation to 9 municipalities of Jalisco. Through 36 masterclasses, 12 REDi-Talks, and 12 Networking events, students, professionals, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople had the opportunity to interact, transmit their knowledge, inspire, and promote innovation, with an impact on 1,347 participants.
- JalisCONECTA is a forum that seeks to promote the commercial operations of Mexican companies and startups abroad. Organized in collaboration with the Foreign Trade Department of SEDECO, it is aimed at Jalisco entrepreneurs and businessmen who are exporters or with export potential, as well as companies that want to redirect their products and services to national and transnational markets. Two editions have been held: in 2021, it reached more than 700 entrepreneurs in person and virtually through 17 hybrid sessions; In 2022, 13 contents were carried out, impacting more than 400 people -entrepreneurs, academics, innovation managers, managers of startups and institutions-. To finish the forum, a Demo Day was held where 7 of the most outstanding startups in Jalisco made their pitches before four national and international investment funds.
- Hackathons Avo Challenge, Jobs Challenge, Innova brick, Innova Waste (2020) with an impact on 1,077 participants that led to the solution to diverse real-world problems.
FARO Open Innovation events to generate solutions to public, social and environmental problems that impacted 500 entrepreneurs or higher education and postgraduate students.
What is the biggest challenge(s) which you hope to solve in the next 5 years?
There are several big challenges we are actively addressing, such as improving access to financing for startups, addressing our specialized talent deficit, and encouraging innovation and digital transformation among local companies; these challenges are not necessarily unique to Jalisco, and are shared by innovation ecosystems around the world. Specifically within our state we are also striving to create a stronger relationship between innovation and productivity, and broadening the concentration of innovation and entrepreneurship activity in other municipalities and regions across the state.
Lastly, we know that there is always more that can be done to measure and improve our innovation policies and programs. However, important strides have already been taken in this regard, such as with the new “Entrepreneurship law” which was approved by the State Congress in 2021. This Law supports new and established projects through incentives like study programs, and access to connections and financing, and prioritizes gender equality.
We are proud of these public policies and associated programs and the impact they have had on boosting entrepreneurship, enabling strategic actions and promoting the culture of innovation within Jalisco, increasing the competitiveness of our companies.
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