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How to Scale a Unicorn in Mexico

How to Scale a Unicorn in Mexico

Posted by PanamericanWorld on March 14, 2017

“How many billion dollar tech startups were founded in Mexico?”

“Zero.”

I always ask candidates this question before they join our startup, Wizeline(offices in San Francisco, Guadalajara, Mexico City and Ho Chi Minh City). No one ever seems surprised by this, so I appeal to first principles. Mexico graduates about 15,000 coders a year — only one fifth of the United States. Simultaneously, the United States has about 100 billion-dollar, pre-IPO tech companies according to CB InsightsIf access to engineers is the determining factor in growth, Mexico should have around 20 unicorns. Mexico has zero unicorns.

Because the worldwide tech zeitgeist is anchored in the Silicon Valley, we are biased to believe that the difficulties in building great companies are finding engineers and financing. However, in less mature economies there are other constraints that make it even less likely to succeed. Because these constraints aren’t well understood by educators, policy makers, or even entrepreneurs you don’t see focused solutions.

What I’ve personally seen in Mexico is fantastic engineers, artists, and data scientists. However, it’s much harder to find experienced marketers, salespeople, writers, user experience, and product managers. These are the positions that can be found in great quantities in the Silicon Valley, but are virtually non-existent (and thus more valuable!) elsewhere. These missing professionals show up as a ceiling in the size and complexity of startups in Mexico, generally companies founded here stall at about 15–30 employees.

Wizeline’s solution to this problem is a very old one, education. Our education strategy has two forks. First, we hire the best of the best in our San Francisco office who lead teams in Mexico. Experience is the best teacher, for instance by providing young sales people in Mexico with real challenges and top mentorship we’ve seen amazing results that match the performance of hiring directly in SF.

Our second strategy is called Wizeline Academy. Led by Wendy Johansson, these free courses train potential employees in the skills that are missing in those markets. After a few weeks of exposure to best practices with direct mentorship from industry experts, we confidently hire the students who have closed the gap to meet our high standards. Read more about the UX Academy in her design.blog.

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