We have been part of many events in the United States, from fashion to technology to entrepreneurship. For the first time with the help of Higher Circle, Machina did it’s first event focused 100% on the company.
Taken place in San Francisco, California; Machina was live from Rocha Art Gallery and from Stanford University. This is a crucial time for us therefore, we decided to ask our CEO, Linda Franco the questions that no one really asks or media doesn’t take into account.
- How has the Mexican market evolved in the recent years?
Over the last three decades, Mexico has made the transition from a commodity and agricultural based economy to one dominated by manufacturing and different kinds of services.
Mexico has begun to beat China as a manufacturing base to produce an array of products, from plastic toys to high end products like electronics and pharmaceuticals converting the manufacturing industry a crucial role in Mexico’s growth. Oil once represented 75% of Mexico’s exports, today it’s manufactured goods that produce three out of every four export dollars.
Mexico has more free trade agreements than any other country, covering 44 countries. That’s more than the U.S.A. and China combined. Even though Mexico is reaching out to our “front yard” neighbor, it is also actively looking south. In 2012, it became a founding member of the Pacific Alliance, alongside Chile, Colombia and Perú.
As Mexico’s economy has changed, so has it’s society. I like to think of Mexico as a multicultural country. There are large communities of outsiders living all over Mexico. From Europeans to Japanese, Korean, Chinese including some of our latin brothers like Colombians and Venezuelans. Just as a fact, the largest concentration of Americans living outside of the USA, lives in Mexico Ciy with over 600,000 Americans.
In a country that is mostly known for crime, corruption and impunity, it is also part of the United States most ambitious international trade effort. Today, Mexico still struggles with uneven playing fields in business, from monopolies and oligopolies across various sectors. However having what seems like setbacks to a society has backfired a rise of thriving innovators. I am sure this is only the beginning of a true Mexican market evolution.
2. How should you describe the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico today?
Mexico now has more engineers than the United States, Canada, Germany or even Brazil. Making Mexico one of the top producers of engineers in the world. However, most great engineers are obliged to find jobs outside of Mexico.
There is not a lot of venture capital, despite the fact that there is more today than there was 10–20 years ago. Venture capital funds today, lack real startup investor culture, we are still a conservative country and that can sometimes be reflected in business. There are not many believers or risk takers on startups or entrepreneurs. There is a balance, with the rise of many accelerator programs like Wayra, Startup México, 500 Startups, Naranya, among others. As entrepreneurs you can also count on government funds from INADEM. This gives the entrepreneur to have other funding alternative to grow.
Mexico is a very social country, therefore events are very big deal for the entrepreneurial culture. As an example, last year, Mexico had more Startup Weekend events than any country other than the United States. Mexico replicates top notch events from all over the world like Startup Grind, Tedx, Startup Weekend, and many others. This is a good indicator of how the level of enthusiasm for technology entrepreneurship is growing.
I have been an entrepreneur for almost ten years now and I can see that the ecosystem is slowly changing but still has a long way to go.
3. Can you elaborate strengths to the level of multinational companies?
Of course! I consider Machina Wearable Technology as a multinational company as well. Besides Mexico City, we have a team in Japan, Spain and this year we will start building our team in the USA.
With the rise of the internet, we are practically living a digital era far beyond social media and Google. Our consumers are always connected and have instant access to our products and to those of our competitors. This opens the door to coordinating supply and demand in an unanticipated way. On the other hand, it gives us the opportunity to have a multi cultural team that is led through digital communication channels delivering great results for the company.
Operating overseas in our case has taken advantage to lower labor costs in the same way as outsourcing, while at the same time there is a greater supervision and control to ensure quality control and intellectual property protection.
4. You were one of the first to develop wearable that was actually wearable. What’s your vision on wearable technology?
Wearable technology is not exactly new, it has existed since the 1980's; the concept has redefined itself through the decades. Since the invention of the first computer, computers have become smaller, more efficient and more powerful. With wearable technology in play, users are looking for wearable to be smaller, flexible, comfortable and washable.
Everyone is more connected with each other, we know about the problems of the world faster than ever before. Human beings are social animals. We are meant to be in constant communication and interaction. We are reliant on our digital devices for our everyday life in such a pace that it is beginning to be integrated through accessories and clothing. Wearables are the next frontier for human/technology interaction where technology will become adaptive to people and ways of life.
There will be a new age of doctor patient relationship where wearable technology will collect data of what people’s lives look like. Patients will be able to own their data and share it with other patients that might have similar problems. With all data acquired, wearables eventually will adapt to the human lifestyle for a better well being and medical centers as well as doctors will be able to gain insights into new disease categories.
Everything that is part of your life will have something of technology that’s talking to other technology which will end enhancing your experience through everyday life.
More than anything, wearable tech is all about keeping us safe. Fitness bracelets are just the beginning. Super powers will be in total reach having a new generation of performance wear and exoskeletons whom which you will be able to run faster, carry objects never imagined before.
In the future, you will express yourself through 3D printed clothes, LED clothing with programmable options and even auto adjustable clothing not just in size but in body temperature. There will be stronger, independent generations where style and human expression will take place through a wearable. A wearable is an intimate device that’s potential doesn’t end at technology, fashion will represent itself in new ways never ever seen before.This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential of wearable technology, specifically with how quickly development has accelerated compared to previous decades. In the future instead of smartphones and tablets, humans will be plugged into the cloud through clothing.
The future is starting now. This is truly an exciting time to be living in.
5. What innovations in manufacturing, distribution, and retailing are required to address the issues of affordability and accessibility in your industry?
Mexico City is not the most important key player in the country anymore. With other cities like Guadalajara, Monterrey, Oaxaca, Merida and even Tijuana are rising with great innovation.
There is a boom in almost all industries taking place in Mexico. Let’s take for example the story of Chris Anderson and Jordi Muñoz, the two met online and after a while they started 3D Robotics, one of the largest manufacturers of commercial drones in the United States. Because of its close proximity to California, engineering and development gets done in San Diego while production is handled in Tijuana, taking advantage of it’s high skilled workers.
Today’s current government created INADEM (Mexico’s national institute for entrepreneurship) which is active in helping all sorts of entrepreneurs and small companies operate their businesses. This gives entrepreneurs and small companies the opportunity to accelerate their business not only in manufacturing but in investigation, development or even sales.
6. Have you learned any lessons from observing and competing with international players? Have they made mistakes that you want to avoid?
All the time! Specially in a relatively new industry being wearable technology. Even the greatest business minds like Google with it’s Google Glass, Nike with it’s FuelBand among others have made mistakes. Glass failed to help consumers understand why they need such a device, not to forget that the design was never thought for mass consumption. Nike Fuel Band decided to stick to developing software because hardware is expensive and difficult to accomplish.
We are living an era where consumers are more demanding than ever before. As a brand, company or institution we are obliged to satisfy that demand. If not you are dead.
In Machina it is a basic need for all team members to be aware about what other companies are doing, what’s the next big thing, have sensors gotten smaller, faster etc. We’ve seen our competition have a look at what we are doing as well. They sometimes attend our events, copy our design or communication style. It’s ok. We believe success depends on execution. The law of survival and who does it first. That’s what it’s all about.
7. Now you’re taking your business model outside Mexico by expanding internationally. How does your organization need to evolve to meet its needs as a global company?
The future of work is absolutely breaking down barriers between teams and geographies. Traditional working models see only people in the same team or physical location. Our organization is connected where information, collaboration and communication take place without boundaries.
There’s a reason why large organizations are stereotyped as being slow, bureaucratic, old fashioned and simply outdated. They are. Collaboration is something very important to us. When working on a project, sometimes a team member isn’t going to know everything they might need to. By collaborating with others in different departments or even offices, skills can be pooled in order to make the project more successful. For example, our strongest technology team members are based in Spain, but at the same time they have been working with our developers in Switzerland to improve our technology with great success. Distance has not been a problem, we work a lot through collaboration online platforms and social networks which enable accessibility to information in all of our companies areas.
By shifting physical work to the digital world we do not only have access to the company information any time and anywhere but we improve flexibility in working hours and reduce costs. This has been great for us now that we are working with our team in Japan! While our team in Japan sleeps, we work and visa versa.
Having a multidisciplinary global team has given us a great opportunity to understand markets from locals and have presence in some of the most important cities worldwide.
8. Why do you think many multinationals either avoid emerging markets or enter them only in a limited fashion?
Mexico has suffered some great tragedies in the last of couple of years. Either we want it or not, media impacts most of our aspects in our daily life even one’s perception of things. I have traveled to many places around the world and it truly amazes me the questions that I am sometimes asked by the people of the region regarding my country. I don’t blame them, their only source is media. If we look at the news, it is rare we here great news about another country, specifically those who are in emerging markets.
For example, Yemen is one of the countries with the most female entrepreneurs and business woman. Who knows about this? Not many.
Investors, multinationals have a perspective from a place our country because of what is heard not necessarily because they know the place. Several times i’ve been to the US, I have been asked how come a Mexican can speak english. That is a very awkward question from a very well “developed” country. Besides being neighbor to an english speaking country, it is a requirement for Mexicans to be bilingual if they want to find a good job.
I understand most emerging markets have great barriers to break. But one must understand that us of us who come from these kinds of places innovate out of necessity and lifestyle. In first world countries, creatives are creatives just because. In our country, we innovate to find solutions and improve most social problems.
By: @LindaLFranco Co-Founder & CEO at Machina Wearable Technology