Build Networks, not Walls: A Report From Mexico City


Anyone wishing to change the channel from Trumps dystopian reality show would have done well to tune in to the second NewCo Festival in Mexico City this past week. The inside out NewCo Festival once again revealed a generation of determined business leaders working hard to make the world a better place.

Mexico City has been a hive of human activity for over 500 years. In 2016, it has all the mind-bending juxtapositions of any mega city in the developing world. It also has the fertile ingredients for burgeoning innovation scene:

  • Talent drawn from around the world. This past week I meet entrepreneurs in Mexico who hailed from Germany, Canada, and the US.
  • Creative inspiration in the form of daring architecture, world class parks and museums, international cuisine, and uniquely Mexican entertainment. For example, my wife and I enjoyed some late night jazz in a pulqueria.
  • A growing entrepreneurial support system. NewCo Mexico City sponsors included Mexico IT, a public/private initiative to support the local tech industry; Digilant, a global programmatic marketing tech firm, and co-working companies Kokatu and WeWork. Pepe Villatoro, the General Manager of the first WeWork facility in Mexico City, said they had signed up 1,600 members and were at capacity just months after launching.

Any NewCo attendee knows the format forces hard choices with what companies you can get in to see. Some highlights for me were:

Tu Canton

After working in financial services in the US, the founders of Tu Canton (housing for you), spotted an opportunity after the great recession chased away many businesses innovating the archaic Mexican real estate system. According to Tu Canton, at any time in Mexico City, over 400,000 apartments sit vacant because of friction in the sector. Tu Canton is a mash up of Zillow, a real estate broker, and a mortgage broker.


Rodrigo Arevalo, General Manager of Uber Latin America presents at the NewCo session.

Three years after arriving, Mexico City is Uber’s largest market by ride volume. From personal experience, Uber provides a safe and reliable way to get to and from anywhere in the city. Hopefully Uber will succeed in its mission to get private cars off the road and provide some relief for Mexico city’s ever present traffic.


Despite the lack of government subsidies, Enlight is driving smart solar adoption for businesses and residences. Enlight views Mexico’s sunny climate as a natural resource. They help design, fabricate, and finance solar systems.

Enlight CEO Julian Willenbrock displays an electric vehicle charger during the NewCo session.


Victoria147 is an accelerator for female entrepreneurs. They offer training, incubation, and growing alumni network to assist their community. NewCo Attendees were introduced to two members of the current cohort:

  • Conekta: a digital payments platform custom designed for the Mexican market
  • MakaMexico: an ecommerce company for hand-made Mexican apparrel and fashion.

Despite the passion on display, there was a bit of a dark shadow from the American election. It is hard to avoid when the peso fluctuates based on the US Presidential debates! The Mexican entrepreneurs to whom I spoke are both insulted by Trump and shocked that more than 40% of Americans support his policies. It was a poignant reminder that Silicon Valley’s prominence in the global innovation ecosystem is based partly on admiration and trust that should be treasured and preserved at all costs.

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