Mexico’s Silicon Valley, Guadalajara, is about to open its doors to entrepreneurs and businesses around the world, as the JalisConnect initiative and a new Tech Visa are launched this week.
Kicking things off on Thursday February 15, JalisConnect introduces a new soft landing initiative that can offer office space, staffing, admin, and other services that enable a company to set up a team in Guadalajara.
Launching alongside it, the new Tech Visa program was developed by JalisConnect in collaboration with the Mexican consulate in San Francisco. The visa is essentially a re-purposed residential visa for international businesspeople that are utilizing JalisConnect’s soft landing program.
Visa Prerequisites and Conditions
Holders of the Tech Visa can stay in Guadalajara long term, as long as they only receive financial remuneration in the country where their company is registered.
The financial requirements for the visa are that the individual can maintain themselves economically, with a minimum foreign income of US$2,000 per month. According to Cuco Vega, Executive Director at Centro Jalisco in San Francisco and ringleader for the JalisConnect program, this is the only prerequisite for the visa.
“We understand how hard it is for startups today that are not getting enough funding to actually succeed in Silicon Valley, so we want to bring them to a different ecosystem where they can grow and develop, and then connect them with other international ecosystems too,” said Vega.
Once the financial requirements have been confirmed by the consulate, the visa can be turned around in less than 24 hours. Applicants are welcome to stay in Jalisco for up to four years, with the possibility of it being renewed at that time.
“While the visa can be obtained by people in any industry, we at Jalisconnect are focusing on people that either work in tech or have a tech company,” said Vega. “The intention is for Jalisco and Jalisconnect to become a prototype model that can be replicated by other states at a later date, hopefully at a federal level. Also, the Tech Visa program should make people at a federal level look at the possibility of a real, more flexible working visa for international talent.”
A Deeper, Long-term Focus
One of the key ideas behind the visa, Vega says, is to attract people that can act as mentors for local startups. They could be experienced industry veterans themselves, or even fresh-off-the-boat developers, as long as they either work for a company in the US, or own a company in the US.
Vega assures that there will be other countries where this visa will be applicable too, but right now the program is still in a prototype phase, so is under testing.
“This is the first project of its kind, so the experiment is likely to be tried, failed, and then be perfected over time, just like any good startup,” he said. “As we are in the first phase of launching this, we will be registering as many partners as we can, from incubators and accelerators, to any kind of capital firms, from VCs to Angels and even banks, creating visibility for the platform and making it easier to connect to and grow the ecosystem.”
One early adopter is already seeing huge potential for the initiatives, namely Mita Ventures.
“Both programs, JalisConnect and the Tech Visa are the right thing to do at the right time,” said Andreas Kraemer, Managing Partner at Mita Ventures. “Mexico has an opportunity to become less dependent on the US and, given the political environment there, is making the right steps to connect to other ecosystems, for example in Asia and Europe. Guadalajara, in particular, has a great opportunity here to expand on its status as the tech center of Mexico, but what is needed is more talent, more mentors, and more sophisticated investors to further develop the startup ecosystem.”
Kraemer believes that JalisConnect and the Tech Visa will help toward these goals, stating that his company is a great supporter of the program.
“I immediately took the opportunity to move from the Bay Area to Guadalajara when I heard about the visa,” he said. “There is so much happening in Jalisco that we needed to have a presence there, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Getting the right talent through the visa and making other startup ecosystems aware of what is going on in Guadalajara are two steps in the right direction.”
Building Diversity and Shifting Perceptions in Jalisco
Since the JalisConnect office was opened a year and a half ago in San Francisco, much of the program’s efforts have been on bringing startups directly from Jalisco to Silicon Valley, but many of them didn’t have much opportunity to do so due to their level of funding.
“Many companies in Guadalajara already have offices in the US, so a lot of them could register employees in the US and then train them in Guadalajara on the Tech Visa,” said Vega. “The benefits of this for the employees are cheaper rent, better cost of living, and a way to test Guadalajara before settling in, experiencing what it is to work in the state and collaborate with other companies in the community.”
Once the company arrives in Guadalajara, Jalisconnect picks them up from the airport, shows them around, and settles them in by introducing them to different communities, event organizers, industry veterans, and tech meetups.
“For any other country that is trying to work with the US, especially emerging economies, we know how US media is representing them, including Mexico,” said Vega, “We felt like the Jalisconnect program could change that and is something that can finally offer something attractive for US companies to come here.”
The question for most companies and entrepreneurs in the US is why Jalisco? Why would you move to Mexico to if your business is already in the US?
“One reason is obviously the possibility to make your money last longer in Guadalajara than in Silicon Valley, for instance,” said Vega. “But the real benefit is that Guadalajara has an immensely strong, connected ecosystem, with industry, universities, government, and communities working together. This is why the government is supporting the program, as it connects more people to the industry.”
“Around the world, I feel like a lot of countries like Mexico have an open window of opportunity, but no one knows how long it will be before it closes. Very few people in Silicon Valley know where Jalisco is, and the ones that do generally have an idea of the place, but it’s never the same as actually experiencing it. Those who visit Guadalajara end up with a sense of amazement that a place that that exists in Mexico, so we are still having to deal with an international image crisis but we hope to mend it with this new, hands-on initiative,” concluded Vega.
Check out our unique infographic timeline that charts Guadalajara’s history behind it becoming Mexico’s Silicon Valley. Click here.