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Entrepreneurship Act. 21 Aug 2017

Gutiérrez (Canieti): “There will be 1 billion connected devices in Mexico by 2050”

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His career as an innovator and entrepreneur began at the age of 20 while still at college. The Chairman of the National Chamber of the Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technology Industry discusses how to encourage "other entrepreneurs to work together." Gutierrez Martinez is one of 33 innovators featured in the ebook Hablan los protagonistas (The key players speak).

What services does Canieti provide to the community and its members?

The Chamber represents the following industries: telecommunications, information technology and electronics. We work to support our members and the future of the industry. There is a series of technologies that are driving very rapid change. We have identified 12 technologies that will have an enormous impact over the coming years, ranging from mobile Internet to energy storage. But there are seven in particular where the convergence of information technology, electronics and telecommunications will generate a major financial impact: jointly they are worth some 35 billion dollars.

Which technologies are you referring to?

There are seven of them: mobile Internet, the automation of knowledge, the Internet of things, in-cloud technologies, autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, advanced robotics and 3D printing.

These are the technologies that we work with in our field and that will also benefit other industries. The automation of knowledge means that, for example, a doctor specializing in dermatology can benefit from IT support; an application with thousands of similar burn cases in its database can identify and characterize a specific burn type, and thus offer suggestions for how best to treat the patient.

Mexico has a population of around 125 million. This means there will be some 1 billion connected devices in the country by 2050. The potential for the Internet of Things is enormous. Devices will be connected to the Internet in industry, in the home and in vehicles. This will generate demand and require the rollout of larger telecommunications networks.

How does Canieti support the entrepreneurial system in Mexico?

We are running a number of initiatives. We have built Canieti's work around six cornerstones: talent, innovation, positioning for the global market, legal framework, access to information technologies and telecommunications infrastructure, and corporate economic performance.

In the area of talent, Canieti runs the Mexico First program, which has trained more than 120,000 individuals and certified more than 15,000 nationwide so far, seeking to enhance the expertise of employees at firms in areas such as programming, free software, project management and languages. We also run programs that send students in the final semesters of their studies or company employees to study at US universities. Their applications are sent to Conacyt and grants can be arranged.

How does the Chamber support innovation in the country?

In terms of innovation, in partnership with the Secretariat for Economy, the National Open University (Universidad Nacional Abierta a Distancia) and the National Institute of Technology of Mexico (Tecnológico Nacional de México), last May we launched a virtual innovation course called Innovatic. We are aiming to have over 200,000 students complete the course by 2018, learning about concepts such as business models, client development, defining minimum viable products and landing pages. Then they have to create products and the best are chosen.

As well as covering the risk of submitting innovations to crowdfunding platforms, they get to spend a week in Silicon Valley taking part in workshops and meetings to help drive forward their innovative ideas. The Innovatic course is a large program to drive innovation in the digital economy.

Another program we run is Creare, in partnership with Infotec. We invite IT companies and other firms that use IT to generate innovation via products and services. We started the program to help bring such companies up to date, work with their ideas, provide them with access to Infotec mentors and consultancy. This helps firms to flesh out their innovation ideas and ready them to seek public and private funding.

What are the challenges and obstacles facing entrepreneurs in Mexico today?

First of all, innovative entrepreneurs lack the tools required to drive innovation and improve their products and services. They find it difficult to raise seed capital for their companies or ideas, they lack expertise and face a confusing range of business models, and then they need to learn to identify market requirements very quickly.

They need to learn to pivot, formulate hypotheses regarding what their ideas can do, talk to potential users, conduct experiments and see how their ideas work. Then they need to ensure that the product is catering to market requirements and that they are running a sustainable business model. These are skills that are generally lacking in the country's entrepreneurs and innovators, even in traditional industry and among established entrepreneurs.

How would you define the DNA of the Mexican entrepreneur/innovator?

An entrepreneur needs to learn to navigate through uncertainty, live with risk and to make decisions in a confusing environment. You may not have full information when making a decision, but innovators are able to harness their intuition and focus on the right things. They must also be prepared to accept failure, and be ready to incorporate other styles and listen to experts from other disciplines. Innovating on your own is very difficult. It is easier for a group of people to get an idea off the ground.

What features define the Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystem?

There is no such thing as an innovative country, but there are innovative regions within countries. In the United States there are areas that generate less innovation than we see in Jalisco or Nuevo Leon. The same is true in Mexico. There is no single ecosystem for the entire country. In Jalisco you find a more mature innovative ecosystem, dominated by the key industries that work in innovation. There are states that have established an innovation niche: banking in Nuevo Leon, aerospace on the northern border, the auto industry in El Bajío and knowledge automation in Yucatan. Some of these ecosystems are up and running, while others are more nascent.

The Mexican innovation ecosystem has the global virtue of having close ties with other parts of the world. Innovation that is exclusively local will offer very narrow margins, and Mexico has enough international agreements, the newest being the Transpacific agreement, to allow for enormous possibilities and offer real challenges for ecosystems.

What role do official and non-official bodies play in entrepreneurship?

We have seen both individuals and organizations play some really important roles, and they are not necessarily linked with the public sector, chambers or confederations. I have seen events, newsletters and social networks that voluntarily organize events to support innovation. I see this happen at universities, at the Inter-sectoral Innovation Committee, and at the chambers and confederations that I work with. The academy is taking shape via programs that teach entrepreneurship and above all innovation. One priority for the Confederation of Chambers of Industry, for example, is to support innovation cells, which are now into their eighth generation. These are groups of young people who get together to brainstorm ideas to help tackle problems facing a given company. Companies invest up to 30,000 pesos in these solutions and end up creating a minimum viable product. This is a means of linking up companies with entrepreneurs and innovators.

How would you describe the financial opportunities for Mexican entrepreneurs today?

There are several areas of support, most of them dominated by state or federal programs, which tend to support the largest number of entrepreneurs. There are also initiatives that supplement capital from private funds or other fully private sources. Inadem offers opportunities, while the state also runs specific programs. There is one such example in Yucatan, called Incubatic, which connects entrepreneurs offering capital and young innovators. The program has since been "exported" to other states, including Morelos, Campeche, Veracruz, Tabasco and Sinaloa. A number of private and public organizations have emerged in recent years to support innovators, but they are still just a small fraction of those available in the United States.

How do you see the future of innovation in Mexico?

Innovation is key to ensuring that the country is able to compete in a globalized world, with trade agreements such as the Transpacific agreement. We need to evaluate whether we have generated enough impetus to drive up the aggregate value of our industry and to catch up with other countries. The future also depends on providing students with the tools they need to innovate.

What trends can you identify in the sector?

There is enormous potential to innovate and improve processes in administrative fields and industry, but we also need to exploit niches in other sectors such as oil, medicine and livestock. There are plenty of opportunities to be uncovered by delving into other disciplines. Innovators and entrepreneurs need to think about the seven technologies that will have the largest impact going forward, which we have discussed here.

What advice would you give a prospective entrepreneur in the IT sector?

Do it now, get some experience and then the profits will come. Develop your innovation skills, study and be ready to learn. No matter how much you study and memorize all the models, until you start identifying client requirements and segmenting markets you won't have any real contact with the opportunities offered by innovation. There is a close correlation between youth and enterprise, and we are working to support this. Entrepreneurs need to invest more in development and innovation at companies.

Víctor Gutiérrez Martínez associates entrepreneurship with the activities that young people partake in at high school and college. Training programs are the main tools harnessed by his industry organization to support innovation, seeking to shape future growth opportunities for the tech industry.

The event held on 21 January was an opportunity to hear the players featured in this eBook. Click here to download the entire eBook Hablan los protagonistas: 33 innovadores mexicanos (The key players speak: 33 Mexican innovators).