Emerging Startup Scene Sparks Hope for Tech Renaissance in Tijuana

6/16/14Follow @samquinones7

In a large grey building that was once a supermarket, just south of Tijuana’s downtown, a group of some 50 of the city’s young aspiring entrepreneurs wait their turn to explain a business idea whose time, each feels, has surely come.

It’s Friday night. Many of the participants are business managers or professionals. They represent a young demographic that would, in just about any other city, be sampling the town’s nightlife. Instead, each takes a microphone, stands before the assembled software designers, engineers, graphic designers, and business students, and delivers a one-minute spiel.

One is an app for adopting trees around Tijuana. Another for teaching sex education. A third that ranks Tijuana doctors for Americans crossing the border for medical services. An app for finding one’s car. An app matching people who need blood with those willing to donate.

The presentations go on for half an hour, as ideas tumble from the participants. Some are good; some, not so much.

A presentation at Startup Weekend Tijuana

A presentation at Startup Weekend Tijuana

Welcome to Startup Weekend, a bi-annual event that many credit with helping to ignite a movement toward risk-taking and tech innovation in this city of 1.3 million people.

The event is part of an international nonprofit movement based in Seattle that brings innovative communities together to “inspire, educate, and empower” in what amounts to a high-tech barn-raising. Software developers, entrepreneurs, and others come together during a Startup Weekend event for a 54-hour effort to create a prototype, give a demo, or launch a company. The events have spread to more than 700 cities around the globe.

Tijuana held its first Startup Weekend in 2012. At that time, organizers touted it as the beginning of a new era of high-tech innovation in the biggest city on the Baja California peninsula. It followed the formation of the Tijuana Innovadora conference in 2010 to showcase the city and its high-tech aspirations. Amid all the promotional marketing, some found it easy to see the tech revolution in Tijuana as mostly hype.

But Startup Weekend, in fact, has done a lot to ignite many Tijuana residents, who seem to have been waiting for something like this to come around, say those close to the event.

“After that first one, there began to grow a … Next Page »

Sam Quinones is a former Los Angeles Times reporter. You can reach him at samquinones7@yahoo.com or www.samquinones.com Follow @samquinones7

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