Starting up the Startups

Pedro Martinez provides entrepreneurship opportunity for Mexican citizens

By Justin Walker

Entrepreneurship and startups are buzzwords in today’s society. They represent a new business, fresh ideas and a world of opportunity.

But as Pedro Martinez points out, that’s not always the case for entrepreneurs in Mexico. Roughly 99 percent of all businesses in Mexico are what Martinez refers to as micro small. This is due to most entrepreneurs starting businesses out of necessity, and not opportunity.

“In Mexico, many of the entrepreneurs do not have any more choices,” Martinez said. “Either you start a company or you are going to get hungry.”

Martinez said starting a business is a lot like growing a flower. You plant the seed and it starts to grow. But if the seed, or business, is planted out of necessity, as it grows and sprouts a flower, you cut it. Essentially, once a company meets its needed profits, they stop supplying their goods or services. The plant—or company—will never grow.

“But if you fire up a company because of an opportunity that you see, as soon as the plant starts to grow, you are putting more water in it,” he said. “You don’t cut the flower—you care for it.”

This is why Martinez founded StartupLab MX, a startup designed to inspire, connect and empower people who see opportunity for a business venture. The lab first opened in 2012 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Martinez’ home town.

Martinez serves as the managing director for the nonprofit, where he oversees operations, secures sponsorships and develops alliances with universities and economic development offices. He spends a lot of time traveling between San Luis Potosí, Mexico City and the two newest labs in Tabasco and Zacatecas.

Entrepreneurship is very important to Martinez. He earned his bachelor’s in Business from Tecnológico de Monterrey, where he studied growing businesses. Two years later, he was working on his MBA at Baylor.

“While I was in Monterrey, I applied for the interpreters’ program—you could go to Baylor for a semester or a summer,” he said. “I was always interested in that, but it didn’t happen while I was doing my bachelor’s.”

Following Baylor, Martinez became a professor of Business at Universidad TecMilenio. He spent three years there before returning to Tecnológico de Monterrey, where he eventually became the entrepreneurship programs director. He stayed until the end of 2012, when he left for a government job. When he received a grant offer for StartupLab, he left to work the nonprofit full time.

The first program the lab held was for 15 people. In 2018, more than 6,000 people benefited from the programs. The growth is great, but it has presented challenges.

“In the next 10 years, we will need to solve the problem of facilitating our own programs,” Martinez said. “It’s been a real nightmare to try to pull off three offices in as many states.”

Outside of the challenges, Martinez is proud of what StartupLab has been able to do. It is a fulfilling experience, he said, one that other jobs would never be able to supply.

“It has given me this amazing purpose of how to change things,” he said. “I’m pretty amazed at what we have achieved.”

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