If you drive 15 or 20 minutes north of Mexico city’s richer, more well-tended district of Polanco, you’ll find yourself in the middle of Ampliación Torre Blanca, seemingly just one more crumbling set of traffic-choked blocks in this mega-city’s smoggy sprawl.
But turn down the small street of Ignacio Allende and then again into a small courtyard of #21: There you’ll find Startup Mexico (SUM), a massive converted warehouse thrumming with the energy of scores of new businesses. Once inside, you may as well be in the shared workspaces of New York’s Flatiron or San Francisco’s South of Market. Then it hits you. No one city has dominion over the startup movement: It’s gone global.
Mexico City hosted its first NewCo festival this past week, with more than 50 companies opening their doors to hundreds of deeply engaged attendees over the course of a very packed day. Nearly every session was standing room only, including the presentation from SUM co-founder Marcus Dantus, who gave a humor-filled talk that promoted Mexican entrepreneurs as the most energetic, inventive people in all the world. He also made a compelling case for investment in the country, despite its checkered reputation.
Given its position as a gateway between Latin America and the U.S., it makes sense that Mexico is on the rise as a center of entrepreneurship — a million dollars in commerce is traded between the U.S. and Mexico each minute, according to Dantus. I left convinced that something important was afoot in Mexico.
If I needed any more proof, the founders at Clip, Seenapse, and Media Marketing Knowledge provided it. Adolfo Babatz, co-founder of Clip, nearly tears up when you ask him what change his company will create in the world should it prove successful. Clip is best known as “the Mexican Square,” but as NewCo’s write up last week explains, there’s far more to it than that.
Perhaps the most compelling session I attended was at Media Marketing Knowledge Group, run by one of Mexico’s best-known and successful entrepreneurs, Martha Debayle. As with many famous founders in the U.S., Debayle is a force, and during her NewCo presentation, she roamed her offices like a revivalist preacher, calling out employee after employee to testify to the lessons learned, mistakes made, and victories earned as she and her team built her media business from nothing 16 years ago to a national powerhouse.
Seenapse, which we profiled here, is another inspiring example of Mexico’s startup culture. Sitting in founder Rafael Jimenez’s offices, hearing him rhapsodize about AI-driven creativity with a room full of eager and engaged young entrepreneurs, I forgot for a minute that I was in the heart of Mexico City – I may as well have been in Silicon Valley. Mexico City is yet one more proof point that innovation isn’t confined to a 50-mile radius around San Francisco Bay or Manhattan. The story is now global, and its impact is only just beginning to be felt.
Want to follow the biggest story in business? Get our NewCo Daily newsletter.
Photo: John Battelle