By Duncan Tucker
Mexican must boost its performance in science and technology, a government official told a group of around 130 entrepreneurs, investors and researchers in Guadalajara.
Mexico’s primary obstacle is a “cultural problem,” said Theodore Schultz Hoeflich, the guest speaker at the third monthly iTuesday meeting. “We are really great in sociology, psychology and law, but science and technology is what really demonstrates the level of a country,” calling for more research activity in these areas.
He told the group that just 7.5 percent of the patents filed in Mexico last year were the work of Mexicans, and only 63 of these were in the state of Jalisco, of which Guadalajara is the capital. Hoeflich heads the western office of IMPI, the government agency responsible for the protection of intellectual property.
This month’s edition of iTuesday was held for the first time in the Cinvestav center for research and advanced studies, reflecting, as iTuesday coordinator Alem Muminovic noted, the significant role that researchers play alongside entrepreneurs and investors in the local ecosystem.
A federally funded specialist college on the edge of the Primavera forest, Cinvestav is the only research center in Jalisco to offer degrees in electrical engineering. It has links with the likes of Hewlett Packard, IBM and Intel, said Director General Bernardino Castillo Toledo.
As always, iTuesday also provided a forum for local start-ups to pitch their projects. Among those presenting this month were Fernando Heyer and Miguel Martinez, the creators of Cactus, a smartphone app that functions as a virtual discount card for restaurants.
Cactus started out as a website listing promotions for discounts, but after a year the founders decided to transform it into an app, working with 145 affiliated restaurants across Mexico. Available on iOS and Android, Cactus is currently on sale at a promotional price of just 49 pesos, but the cost is expected to rise to 350 pesos ($25 USD) as the app becomes more established.
Heyer and Martinez received funding of $30,000 USD from Silicon Valley-based seed fund Mexican.VC nine months ago and are now hoping for a second round of investment.
In another pitch, Fernando Miramontes and Alexis Mendez presented Prestaris, a Guadalajara-based company that plans to provide small, short-term loans. It is aimed at people with no savings who find themselves in urgent need of money.
Miramontes described it as an “efficient, economic option” that is safer than going to a loan shark and quicker and easier than going to a bank. The concept is simple: Prestaris provides loans of 1,000 to 5,000 pesos ($74 to $371 USD). These must be paid back over four to 20 weeks, at an interest rate of 3 percent per month.
While locally based, the project has benefitted from international input. The algorithms for Prestaris were done in India, the website was developed in Pakistan, and the logo designed in Argentina.
“The idea came to us in January 2011 and we formally founded Prestaris last March,” said Miramontes, adding that Prestaris now has five full-time staff and another three or four part-time workers.
“We need a decent amount of money to be able to loan out,” Miramontes added. The nature of the project obviously requires significant funds and they are hoping for investment of six million pesos ($445,000 USD) by the end of the year.
Finally, Claudia Ibarra, of the State Entrepreneur Agency (Sistema Estatal de Emprendurismo) announced a business incubator management training program run by infoDev and a specialist conference hosted by the National Business Incubation Association at the Hotel Fiesta Americana Minerva from October 15-19.
Attendance costs 5,000 pesos, although 50 grants are available to interested parties based in Jalisco. For more information email [email protected]