Pilar Aguilar, "In Mexico many of the economic and social problems lead to creativity"
One of the main motivations for Pilar Aguilar, managing director of Endeavor Mexico, is the number of new projects that innovative Mexicans propose within the entrepreneurial environment. Her work focuses on selecting some of those ideas that can become a sustainable model, and even better if they have a social perspective. She is one of 33 players promoting innovation in Mexico.
Describe your business
Endeavor is a non-profit organization that has the mission of promoting the economic development of the country's companies. We select and support entrepreneurs whose ideas have an impact on job creation and the growth it contributes to the country. We support these entrepreneurs through the network of mentors who are successful entrepreneurs that give us their time to provide advice and consolidate contacts. It's worth mentioning that we have a network of over 1,000 selected entrepreneurs and 80 active companies.
What kind of entrepreneurial talent are you looking for?
We have two large groups. First we talk about people who have a good entrepreneurial capacity. These individuals are able to create a growing company and have an innovative idea that transforms the market and becomes scalable. Furthermore, we seek projects with a growth capacity and that, through the mentors and the Endeavor networks, may become a hundred times larger than what they were.
Why do you consider yourself to be innovative?
I think in Endeavor we're very focused on doing what we do the best way possible, with initiatives such as the program supporting technologies that is not an incubator or an accelerator, but a program that helps to provide advice to companies that focus on this branch of entrepreneurship to consolidate their business project internationally. It's a unique program in Mexico because we have the best IT advisers in and outside the country. This is not being done in any other Endeavor anywhere else in the world.
What challenges is Endeavor facing?
The most important challenge is to raise capital. We receive donations from all members of the network to support entrepreneurs, as well as our strategic partners. Keeping that part linked to entrepreneurial support is a key task. The second challenge has to do with the proliferation of entrepreneurship because not all ideas are scalable, so you have to find talent.
How do you define the DNA of the Mexican entrepreneur?
I think that many of the economic and social problems lead us to being very creative. Entrepreneurs are people who break the rules because they like to innovate and change things. They are unhappy with what they see around them and always identify a problem to solve; take risks and, furthermore, I think they have the clarity to define a business model for the ability to reinvent themselves and thus, their business plan. It's very important to maintain a level of knowledge as entrepreneurs must know their market and upcoming trends; that's another feature.
What is the current state of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem?
We're learning that being an entrepreneur is about failing and we're increasingly more open to failure, we are less risk averse and there is more capital flowing into productive projects. I think the industry is growing at significant levels but we still have a lot to learn, like thinking that we are not just up against another company in the Mexican market, but in the global market; this can be achieved if you have the right approach and the human and capital resources. We are currently in an uphill struggle and we find it more difficult than in other countries to close this cycle.
What we have seen in the last three years is an explosion of companies being created, an expansion of capital funds, new social enterprises that are profitable as businesses and this is just the beginning, so Mexico is on track.
What role have government agencies performed?
The Mexican Institute of Entrepreneurship, with its support policy, has succeeded in drawing the attention of Mexican capital to invest in projects with high risk but high return. I think we are seeing major changes in the health education and finance sector that are being used by entrepreneurs.
What are the latest trends in entrepreneurship/innovation in Mexico?
There are social issues we must resolve as a country. There is great inequality in terms of opportunities; we could talk about more than three different Mexicos. Fortunately, there are new generations of entrepreneurs concerned about this issue, such as Kubo Financiero, which awards loans to businesses that would otherwise have no way of requesting them from a more traditional bank. I think all entrepreneurial sectors are focused on solving social problems.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?
Ensure that your business model is viable. Test your idea in a very inexpensive way to find out if you can sell at a lower cost than what it costs to do it. It's important to be prepared; we always hear about entrepreneurs who leave school, but some people need training in technological aspects, for example. Finally, it's important to understand that sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down in the subject of entrepreneurship.
Pilar Aguilar is convinced that in 25 years' time the large Mexican companies will not be the same as today, because the whole picture is changing in favor of entrepreneurs who dare to address and meet the new demands of society.