My two biggest passions in life are entrepreneurship and traveling. One of the reasons I chose to move to San Diego instead of San Francisco or Los Angeles was the proximity of Mexico. I see San Diego, Tijuana and the Baja California region one day being a super economy. The ability to travel, learn about another culture, do international business and practice your Spanish within 30 minutes from San Diego is something that most San Diegans ignore because of the stigma created by the US media. Very few people have this luxury on their doorstep.
In recent news, the US President and Republican party have laid down plans for a wall to be built between the US and Mexico. I’m not a politician so it would be futile to debate this stance. However, as an entrepreneur, I feel it is now my duty (and the duty of every entrepreneur in San Diego and California) to look at how we can build bridges not walls between the US and Mexico. The US sets the example for the rest of the world. The way it encourages an entrepreneurial ecosystem is far more progressive than most countries. So with Tijuana so close, here are a few ideas of how we can collaborate:
1). Launch projects like the Dos Puertas International Trade and Innovation Center
The project is spearheaded by Carl Nettleton and his plan is to create a place where, for the first time, the border can be seen as a place to come together rather than an obstacle to cross. When I first heard about this, it was described to me as a building that had a virtual borderline running through the middle of it. Mexicans and Americans could effectively be collaborating freely and working on big ideas.
2). Stage more events like Tijuana Innovodora
Tijuana Innovodora Creativa 2016 brought elected officials from both sides of the border to Tijuana’s World Trade Center. They celebrated Tijuana’s potential and the broader cross border region.The eight day event brought creatives, startups and food trucks together for a cultural melting pot. Mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer is one of many prominent officials that is championing Tijuana and has even looked at teaming up with Tijuana to make it a bi-national event with San Diego.
3). Introduce More Foreign Exchange Programs
When I attended the Mind Hub Demo Day at the San Diego Downtown Library, I was blown away. Here was a Tijuana company bringing the startups it was incubating to a foreign country, getting them up on stage to pitch (in English not their native Spanish) and then getting useful feedback from startup people. It made me think, why aren’t there more programs for US startups to go to Tijuana, learn Spanish and then pitch in Tijuana? What an incredible experience and a way to truly broaden your mind.
4). Create More Micro Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
When I visited Estación Federal in December 2016 for a posada (a fiesta loosely based on a traditional Christmas celebration), I saw something really interesting. Imagine a vibrant neighborhood that had been reduced to the size of a block. Now imagine a mini co-working space, restaurant, coffee shop and galleries then throw a communal area in the middle and you have this creative space. This model needs to be adopted in San Diego to create micro hubs for entrepreneurs to thrive.
5). Consider Mexico For Manufacturing
You may be used to seeing “Made In China” on most products you find in US retailers but “Hecho En Mexico” (made in Mexico) is on the rise. Factories in Mexico are competing with Chinese factories and causing them to close. The other benefit of partnering with a Mexican factory is that you are on the same time zone, can drive to it to oversee production and have similar labor costs as you would in China. Your product can also be shipped and arrive much faster. If you also have a factory in the US, you can invite Mexican employees to the US to learn from the American employees and vice versa.
6). Launch Cross Border Investment Funds
Why focus where everyone else is looking (Silicon Valley) when you can invest in Tijuana startups? If you back Silicon Valley startups, the high cost of living up there, high cost of team members and operating costs will mean your investment will need to be much higher and will not go far. Plus, competition for equity will be sky high. With an exchange rate of $1 to 20 pesos, investing in Tijuana means your dollar is stretched so much further. If you can then help them launch their products in the US market, your return would be good.
What are your thoughts on these concepts?