Reporter’s Notebook: Zombies, fireworks, and avocados, but no drug wars in Guadalajara.
(One reason I’ve been off-line lately is a busy travel schedule, including to Guadalajara, Mexico, in my role as editor of the Global Delivery Report. Thought you’d be interested in some of the sights and sounds…)
From the 22nd floor of the Presidente Guadalajara hotel, I heard the loud popping of explosions. Not to worry; it was only early celebrants of the country’s Independence Day. And, maybe the popping of a few more of my preconceptions about Mexico’s self-proclaimed “Silicon Valley of Mexico.”
The description is not exactly accurate: Guadalajara has robust manufacturing and fashion industries along with the IT manufacturers and service providers who have been in town for close to 40 years. And Guadalajara, its own backers admit, lacks the rich web of venture capitalists and angel investors who keep Bay Area geeks in Jolt cola and office space.
But if sheer drive and vision and talent are the ingredients for a start-up haven, Guadalajara is a cake that’s ready to bake. Some anecdotal proof points from a jam-packed 24 hours in the city:
- Seeing rows of students – equipped with not only desktop PCs, but Bloomberg financial data terminals – studying stock valuations on the immaculate Tec de Monterrey college.
- Finding even more multimedia and animation startups hatching at the Centro Del Software tech incubator than I did six months ago, with yet more crowded rooms of 20-somethings feverishly creating digital creatures on drawing tablets.
Trying to find a place to sit in the hotel lobby among a swarm of local anesthesiologists checking their smartphones and iPads for appointments.
- Hearing two stories in as many hours about owners of traditional Guadalajara-area manufacturing businesses investing in tech start-ups or moving into professional services to boost their margins while reducing their risk.
- Running into an engineering student at a Starbucks who, in his spare time, opened a seafood restaurant in the historic downtown. In his other spare time, he got a close to $1 million investment for a start-up trading in, of all things, avocados.
Locals are increasingly talking of how, in the last five or six years, the amount and quality of arts and culture in Guadalajara has exploded, largely focused in the Tlaquepaque sector near downtown. Some of it is definitely not my style (one half of our film crew is working on an ambitious multimedia project involving zombies, as an analogy for the unthinking masses on social networks.)
But the point is that such edgy entertainment and ideas are what draw a young, skilled workforce to an area, and also help them think outside of the box for the next big idea.
And that “is Mexico safe” question, which everyone asked me, again, before this trip? Still a non-issue, at least in Guadalajara and at least right now. The engineering student says he regularly works till the wee hours at his restaurant, with little fear. I tried walking across the street for dinner, but ducked back in terror – not from crazed drug lords in gun-laden SUVs, but the ubiquitous Nissan taxicabs zooming past at lethal speeds.
Look for deeper coverage of all these trends in the Global Delivery Report in the coming weeks and months. But the first day of my second visit to Guadalajara hit me like a hammer: The talent, drive, education, leadership and amenities required to create a creative and technical hot spot are crystallizing faster than ever.
Filed under: Tech Trends
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