San Antonio Launches HeroX Challenge By Targeting Mexican Innovators
[Corrected 1/15/14, 9:49 pm. See below.] To help boost San Antonio’s startup ecosystem, its entrepreneurs are looking south.
To Mexico, that is, as part of an effort called San Antonio Mx Challenge— the “Mx” stands for Mexican Entrepreneurial Exchange. The challenge, which is officially being announced today, is the first offshoot of the HeroX competition, which was started last year by Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the XPrize Foundation. The contestants’ mission: find a way to leverage the existing cultural and business ties between South Texas and Mexico and encourage Mexican IT startups to relocate or expand into San Antonio.
“San Antonio already has a cultural and business connection with Mexico,” says Jesus Salas, project manager at Geekdom, a co-working space in San Antonio that is hosting the competition. “And now a lot of Mexican entrepreneurs are coming here from Mexico due to the insecurity, the drug cartels.”
San Antonio Mx, he added, can take that momentum to a new level.
The program will run for two years, after which a panel of civic and business leaders will award the $500,000 to the team that is most successful at boosting the presence of Mexican tech companies in San Antonio. Graham Weston, who founded the cloud-hosting company Rackspace in the city, is funding San AntonioMx through Geekdom, the co-working space he launched in 2011. [Due to incorrect information provided by Geekdom, an earlier version of this paragraph stated that Weston would fund the competition through his personal 80/20 Foundation.]
The Alamo City has long been a destination for wealthy Mexicans, who have bought second homes in the city and visit it to shop. In 1996, the Asociación de Empresas Mexicanos, a chamber of commerce for Mexican companies stateside, opened its first office in San Antonio; it later established one in Los Angeles as well. Largely due to the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico is one of the United States’ largest trading partners, after Canada and China. And initiatives such as last month’s privatization of state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, are spurring Mexican entrepreneurs to seek opportunities to innovate.
Salas says the challenge teams will be asked to connect with entrepreneurial hubs in the Mexico City, the nation’s capital, as well as in Guadalajara, and Monterrey. The teams will be evaluated on the number of companies they attract over the two years, the sustainability of the companies they attract and their model for attracting them, and the total revenue of the companies they attract. “We are going to highlight we are one of the leading cities for entrepreneurs, and the city that has the strongest connection with Mexico,” he says.