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Tortajada (Inadem): "The challenge facing Mexican entrepreneurs is visibility"

As an employee of the National Entrepreneurship Institute (Inadem), Tortajada gives us an overview of the efforts being made by the public sector to support entrepreneurship in the country. She explains that strong alliances have been made with the private sector to reinforce the entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem in Mexico. She is one of the 33 Mexican innovators interviewed for the eBook 'Hablan los protagonistas' (The key players speak).

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What is the role of the Inadem and the area you manage?

The National Entrepreneurship Institute was created in early 2013. One of President Enrique Peña Nieto's main activities is meeting with the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is a platform designed to integrate all the efforts being generated through public policies in favor of entrepreneurship, scalability for micro, small and medium sized enterprises, their association, added value and the incorporation of new tools. In other words, a means of bringing all the efforts that go towards increasing the competitiveness of our SMEs and entrepreneurs together in the same place.

It has five departments, and in my particular case I'm in charge of coordinating all the work in the Department of High Impact Entrepreneurship Programs and Financing. This area covers smart finances to differentiate a high-impact entrepreneurial product, process or service. It is also responsible for creating financial instruments –both through loans and through capital or technology tools– to support all the needs of a company throughout all its different phases, from birth right through to scaling. Through the National Guarantee System we have products with the development bank to encourage improvements in financial products.

We also have a whole area for developing new investment vehicles that include resources, networking , and differentiated business models. We have alliances throughout the whole ecosystem, we have programs to incentivize the financial culture, and all this is supported through our category in the National Fund for Entrepreneurs.

What are the challenges or obstacles facing entrepreneurs/innovators in Mexico today?

In my opinion, in a world where everything is moving at breakneck speed and where we're all competing at the same time –whatever region or emerging or developed economy we may be in–, the main challenge facing Mexican entrepreneurs is visibility. Today with everything the Inadem is channeling and assembling through its support network –which combines the offer in the public, private and academic sectors– to promote entrepreneurship in Mexico, we have different programs so we can design specific support to respond to the needs we're hearing from all the actors. I think the great challenge we have now is to make them more visible. Many of our entrepreneurs have told us that apart from resources, they hope the Inadem will be the platform the ecosystem needs, which despite its youth has already clocked up some significant achievements. We are the second largest economy in the Latin American and Caribbean region, and the 14th worldwide.

There's no question that Mexico has numerous benchmark platforms and sectors, and what we want to do is make sure our entrepreneurs also get that same recognition. And we're doing a lot of work to achieve this, so we can gain more traction from being one of the most open economies in the world, with treaties with over 43 countries –all those included in the TPP–, and the opportunities we have with the Pacific Alliance and with North America. What we want to do is make this platform grow, shine the spotlight on all the entrepreneurial potential we have in this country.

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

This is an excellent question and one I love, because we define an entrepreneur in Mexico as someone who never stops trying, who follows his or her passion in whatever inspires him through to the very end, and who becomes a professional in the process. So the DNA of a Mexican entrepreneur is that of a person who takes risks, who doesn't give up and who's also creating opportunities, making a substantial social, cultural, and digital impact, who's creative, and is therefore changing the environment in the country.

What are the government initiatives designed to strengthen companies after the early stages of entrepreneurship?

Within the Inadem we have set ourselves the task of providing an instrument to support each one of the types of entrepreneurship there is in the country. Of course there are high-impact entrepreneurs, but there are also traditional enterprises, and we want to find a solution from within the offering we've compiled, both with our own support programs and the programs we have with our strategic partners. The overriding aim is that each entrepreneur should build their own success story, and our aim is to be the great agglutinator of all the efforts in our country and also at the international level.


Tortajada is an employee of the National Entrepreneurship Institute.

What do you think should be done to encourage the private sector to play a greater role in supporting new companies and innovative ideas?

We are setting great store by the Entrepreneur Support Network –which recently launched its version 3.0– as the tool for the integration of the ecosystem in the public, private and academic sector, and whose aim is to combine all these efforts in a single space. This way anyone who wants to start up a business, or study, or become specialized, or simply wishes to increase their network of contacts so they can grow their sales, will only have to knock on one door instead of many, and that will be the network platform. And that's where the private sector has played a key role, and we think we can substantially scale by each specialized industry.

All the major telemarketing and distribution companies have different initiatives with us, and provide a wide variety of solutions for incorporating information and communication technologies for microentrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid with traditional businesses. This offering is allowing them to become more competitive, to join supply networks, venture into the area of purchasing from entrepreneurs-innovators or from mini-SMEs who do not always have great muscle but who can give very competitive solutions. The big corporations are almost certainly taking another look at the National Entrepreneurial Institute's channels so they can reach those best providers, customers or strategic partners and help them become the country's mini-SMEs.

Elsewhere, we also have a very interesting platform called Inadem Challenges, and we're working to make sure that all the talent in Mexico, with this great demographic advantage –we're the country with the second highest number of young people (the average age in our country is 26)– are all well-educated –we're producing more than 110,000 engineering graduates a year– so they can be the ones to give us new solutions to all our old problems in both the public sphere and in the big corporations.

The challenge is to be able to create a platform so we can address a particular problem highlighted by corporations or institutions, so it can be solved through the whole collective intelligence of these young people, so they come up with solutions for each challenge. This part is also very interesting –the fact that the corporations should come to us. It's a very streamlined, dynamic and economical way –if you'll allow me to express it like that– of finding solutions to the problems which, because of the question of tenders and large contracts today, are very complicated and laborious.

In this scenario we've tackled financial challenges in everything from the healthcare sector and the information technology sector through to the payment of taxes. Here we work very closely to coordinate with the National Digital Strategy in the Office of the Presidency, where they too have a platform of challenges for contracting companies. We have a platform of challenges for things to do with ideas and contacts that corporations can develop internally, or that they can contract from this vast pool of innovators to provide their products.

How do you see the future of entrepreneurship and innovation in Mexico?

Entrepreneurship and innovation are unquestionably an indissoluble tandem. In our country it's already part of our DNA, as I said, and there's no doubt that evolution is the driving force for economic development, as has been shown in many economies. In my over 15 years of experience in this area, I've also worked in the private banking industry and in other initiatives, but this passion that so involves all of us in the entrepreneurial and innovation sector in Mexico has meant that all actors, regardless of our area, are committed to supporting it and making it grow.

Our expectations are to continue managing the efforts of the public sector, creating ever closer partnerships with corporations, the private sector and with large international consortia and civil society, because this is the motor for our economy. The outlook is that the strategy will not only continue gaining ground, but will also become consolidated and reinforced, maybe even more so with the new actors that are joining up to this great crusade for entrepreneurship and innovation in our country.

This was really necessary, it was something that had been going on in an isolated way –so to speak–, and I think the creation of the Inadem by the federal government is the most effective way to give visibility to the whole global context and the capacity of Mexican talent.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become an entrepreneur in Mexico?

I would tell him or her to be brave and take the plunge, because there's nothing worse than wishing you'd done something when it's too late. But now is the best possible time to be an entrepreneur in Mexico. We're seeing an all-time high in the number of initiatives we're spotlighting through the Inadem platform, and the support we're seeing from all spheres of activity.

I would tell them to go for it, take a risk, but they should first make a minimal validation test of the product or service they're offering, before going the whole way. They have to have a very clear idea of what they're passionate about, and be willing to make it a lifelong project, to specialize, and see it through to its ultimate conclusions. What's more, they shouldn't overlook teamwork. Nobody invented anything on their own, nobody set up a major company on their own and it's important that this should become part of our DNA too –not only in Mexico, but in the whole of Latin America.

Based on her professional experience of over 15 years in this sector, Adriana Tortajada sees entrepreneurship and innovation as an “indissoluble tandem”, whose evolution would make them the driving economic force in Mexico.