A Look into the Guadalajara Tech Scene (With Wizeline's, Aníbal Arbaca Gil)

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This is a podcast episode titled, A Look into the Guadalajara Tech Scene (With Wizeline's, Aníbal Arbaca Gil). The summary for this episode is: <p>CTO of Wizeline, Aníbal Arbaca Gil, defines his tech company as "an American company with a Mexican heart." That's because Wizeline - a global technology services provider - is headquartered in San Francisco but has its biggest office is in Guadalajara, Mexico.</p><p><br></p><p>In the episode of the American Dream, Aníbal explains why Wizeline invested in Guadalajara, what the tech scene looks like across Mexico today, and he gives advice to other American companies, including Drift, who are thinking about establishing a base in Guadalajara.</p><p><br></p><p>Be sure to hit the subscribe button to get new episodes when they drop every other Tuesday.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>In the meantime, be sure to leave a ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Elias and Aníbal on Twitter at @eliast, @anibalabarca, and @DriftPodcasts.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>For more learnings from Elias, check out his quarterly newsletter, The American Dream. You can subscribe at https://www.drift.com/insider/learn/newsletters/american-dream/</p>
The difficulties of being Latinx in tech in Mexico vs. in the United States
04:55 MIN
Misconceptions American tech companies have when moving to Guadalajara
04:15 MIN
Anibal’s final advice for establishing your tech company in Mexico
01:00 MIN

Elias Torres: Hola. I'm Elias Torres, co- founder and CTO of Drift. You're listening to the American Dream Podcast. On this show, we talk to leaders who have achieved their own version of the American dream. But we also focus on the work that needs to be done to create a more consistent and diverse space of Corporate America. That's why I'm setting aside time to talk to leaders of nonprofit organizations, the people leading the charge to build a brighter future for the next generation. ¡ Bienvenidos a todos! On today's episode of the American Dream Podcast, I'm talking with Aníbal Abarca Gil. Aníbal is the CTO of Wizeline, a global technology service provider based in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Guadalajara. They have grown from over 500 to almost 2, 000 in the past couple of years. So it's a hundred percent year-over- year growth. Fantastic company, please check them out. Aníbal and I connected a few weeks ago, when he spoke on Drift's scaling product development panel. And because I don't know if you've heard, but Drift just announced its newest office location in Guadalajara, Mexico. Guadalajara is a booming technical hub, and we're so excited to get involved with the community down there. Aníbal is based there, so in today's episode, he's going to share his story about how he got into tech, and what the tech scene looks in Mexico and major gotchas, and great advice on how to get really connected with the community there. So please welcome again, Aníbal. Buenos días, Aníbal.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Hi Elias, how are you?

Elias Torres: Great, great.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Good morning.

Elias Torres: Good morning. Buenos días. We're a cold morning in Boston and what's the temperature over there in Guadalajara?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: It's pretty nice. I guess it's in the 20s Celsius. So it's a very, very sunny day. Really enjoying the last few days that are a little bit of cold. Not compared to Boston. I cannot say that we have a real winter, but it's nice to have to wear a sweater, a light jacket, in the mornings.

Elias Torres: Yeah, that's nice. I'll take that any day. I will be there soon. So Aníbal is the CTO of Wizeline, a company founded by Bismarck Lepe, right? That has its major office, its largest office, in Guadalajara, Mexico, but you have offices all over the world, right?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: That's right. We're focused on digital engineering services for large companies, most Fortune 2000 companies. Most of our customers are US- based, and we are growing in Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, mainly. I guess we have been growing a hundred percent year- over- year for the last two years. So it's before the pandemic hit us, we were already growing very fast, but definitely it was a great accelerator for the demand of technology services, digital transformation. Many companies developing new applications, developing new products, to focus on detail markets eCommerce. So definitely the pandemic, because of those reasons, help us accelerate a lot, going from 500 to over 1, 800 now, from January before the pandemic hit, to starting this year. So it was an impressive growth. Also, another thing that helped us a lot was the openness for companies to work with remote workers, with the remote teams. I think that definitely broke a barrier, and it probably that barrier wasn't there, but many companies still thought," Oh prem, I'm in New York, and all my media team and all my engineering team is here. How can we work with you there?" And then the pandemic came and everyone noticed," Oh, actually we're all working remotely." So they were more open to do that. So that definitely helped us as well on accelerating our growth.

Elias Torres: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think the context, and I want to hear a little bit more about your story, right. I think one of the questions a lot of people ask me is how do you... Right now, the biggest problem in the United States is really finding technical talent, right? The battle for technical talent is really, really difficult. And thank God that we move into a digital- first world, because we're able to look for talent now, everywhere in the US, and outside the US. And so when companies are expanding, they have multiple options, right. They either focus mostly in the US, or they go focus, hire anywhere remote, in any country. Just piece nail it, right? Or, they go and establish a base somewhere. So when Drift was looking at where should we expand, we wanted to create an office, and we create a little bit of a geographical location. And we were looking and trying to study from a distance different locations. A lot of people asked me how did you choose Guadalajara? Right? Why did you not go into Mexico City? Why didn't you go to Columbia? Why didn't you go to Eastern Europe? Why didn't you go to India? Asia? Wherever, right? And so tell us, I'll have you share what's great about Guadalajara, right? Let's plug Guadalajara and attract more people there.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yes, of course. So, first of all, I am based in Guadalajara. When Wizeline started about almost eight years ago, the company, at the beginning, it was founded immediately in Silicon Valley and Guadalajara. Right? So all the engineering team was located in Guadalajara, basically a couple of the founders and the business development team was in Silicon Valley. The history, or the background on that decision, comes from the previous company that Bismark founded, which was Ooyala. Ooyala was a video platform for media companies, so they can manage and monetize their video assets. Right. It was founded about, I think it was in 2007, about those years. I met Bismark back in those days, around 2008 I guess. And I met him because I was working for a media company in Monterrey. So, I am not from Guadalajara. I've only been here for four years now, for a little bit more. And I've been in many cities in Mexico. Right. I grew up in Michoacán, in a small town called La Piedad. Then I moved to Monterrey when I went to college, and I stayed there for about nine years in total. So after I graduated, I started working in a media company, in millennial group of Multimedios, and that's when I met Bismark. I was one of the first customers in Ooyala, at least outside the States. And we were going through a transformation focusing our media assets, or our media outlets, into a video first and video- driven media. Right? So we met, we became friends about 13 years ago now. And after a couple of years, probably after a year, when we started working with them, Bismark was looking for other places where to grow their engineering teams, because what you're saying is true, technical and technology talent, it's scarce, right? You cannot find it. And Silicon Valley has been very competitive now for a while. So he wanted to expand that capacity. And they were looking for many places. Bismark's family, he grew up very early in his life, in a small town close to Guadalajara. So he had that idea, okay, probably we should explore Mexico. And he didn't know what to actually expect. And any of their founders and the investors actually, they didn't know about if there was good talent, good opportunities in Mexico. And if that will work, right. They thought about Argentina, they thought about Eastern Europe, but they didn't consider Mexico at first. But she said let's go and explore. And they came to Guadalajara. I think he was also exploring Monterrey, because I remember having those conversations early on. And I met some introductions with the ecosystem in Monterrey, but he came to Guadalajara and he interviewed a few people, see if they were interviewing for their candidates in Silicon Valley. And the results were great, right? Like his co- founder Sean Knapp, the CTO back then with Ooyala, he found I want to bring everyone to inaudible, and they decided let's not do that, right? We can't bring them, why don't we just start here in Guadalajara? Why don't we open our offices in Guadalajara? So they ended up operating an impressive engineering hub. I think at some point there were over 150 people, and they were doing all their professional services, and integrations, and some of the product work as well, from the Guadalajara office. So when Bismark and the team they sold Ooyala, and they decided to start Wizeline, that was a no- brainer, right? Like they have already proven they kind of scale. They have already proven they were able to find the quality and they were able to keep that. And actually keep growing that team. So that's why Wizeline started at the same time, it started in Silicon Valley, but it kicked off in Guadalajara. And I guess, yes, we're an American company. We're US based company with a Mexican heart, right. As an engineering team, and we have our core, we have our heart in Mexico. And of course, many of our team, or most of our team currently, it's located in Mexico. The biggest development center, the biggest hub, continues to be Guadalajara, but now we are in multiple cities.

Elias Torres: No, that is an incredible journey. And just to give context to people, we're talking about... So you had 150 engineers, and you're not the largest company there, right? Now that I've been spending time over there, it just blows my mind. There's companies like IBM, Oracle, Tata, HCL, Globant, Amdocs. Right? It's just each of these companies are throwing numbers of like a thousand plus engineers.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yeah.

Elias Torres: It just blows my mind because a lot of people are saying," Oh, I'm trying to build an office in Latin America, but it won't be able to go scale more than 20 people." Right. It's say we can't find more. And how long had those business companies been around in Guadalajara?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Many years now. So Wizeline has been around for about seven years. I guess in Guadalajara, we are about 500 people, probably between 500 to 700 people in Guadalajara. Oracle has been here for about 12 years maybe, and they have over 2, 500 probably.

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: And we have PXC, which was HP, Amdocs, Tata, many, many more consulting firms and technology firms. But when we think about the background of Guadalajara, the technology companies have been here for more than probably 50 years now. When we think about HP and Dell, probably they have been here for about 20, no more than 30 years at least. Probably actually 40. One of the first companies here was Callback, and IBM, then HP, and then multiple companies. Oracle. And now of course, many, many more consulting firms, and the startup ecosystem is booming as well. The good thing is when I compare what Guadalajara, to Mexico City, and to Monterrey, because I actually live in the three cities.

Elias Torres: All three? Yeah.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: I was in Monterrey for nine years, and I started my career there. I went to college there, and started my career. And I started my own companies there, in Monterrey. Then I moved to Mexico City, and I was there for about seven years. And then I moved to Guadalajara, and I've been here four years. The difference between the three cities is most of the young engineers that we hire in Guadalajara, they come from probably their uncles, their fathers... They have been working in the technology industry for a while now. Right? They used to work at some point with IBM. They used to work for Intel. Some of them, probably even their grandparents used to, or at some point, they were involved with Kodak, right? So the technical system has been here for a while. If you find young people working for other technology companies, or that you find young people with some experience, and you are looking for great talent, most likely they have been working on technology companies already. So they have the best practices. Their friends have been working in technology companies, so they share those best practices. In Mexico City, when it's probably now, you can find a lot of talent that is working already in a lot of technology startups, but five years ago, or probably a bit earlier as well, the most of the people that you were able to hire, they came from the big telco companies, the big banks, the very traditional industry. Right. So when you think about current talent, yeah, you're finding very good talent and they have great potential, but their experiences from non- technology companies that they're doing things like in a very traditional way, right?

Elias Torres: Right.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: And in Monterrey, I think the professional services industry, it started to grow a long time ago. Soft Tech, NEORIS, and many more companies, they have been there for many years now. Infosys came there before any other city in Mexico. Tata came there as well. So most of the software engineers that you were able to hire, and actually my first job was in soft tech, right? So many people came from the services industry, which is great.

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: I mean, we are in the services industry.

Elias Torres: That's because of the Institute in Monterrey, no?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yeah, because of Tec de Monterrey, and other universities, right? But they found that there was at least there were like three big universities in Monterrey, Tec de Monterrey, the Universidad Autónoma, and UDEM, right? And they are great universities. So they have great talent that is always developing and it's growing. So the large services, technology services organizations, they came to Monterrey and they started growing. So if you hire a software in engineer with some experience, most likely you are going to hire them from one of the services companies in Monterrey. If you hire an engineer in Mexico City, most likely you are hiring them either from other startups, which that could be good, or you are hiring them from a very traditional company.

Elias Torres: A bank or a telecompany.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: A bank, or a telco.

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: And when you come to Guadalajara, when you're hiring them, you're hiring them from one of the top technology companies, right? You're hiring them from Oracle, you're hiring them from Intel. And I'm not saying that you have to steal talent. Right. But they share that background. Right.

Elias Torres: Absolutely.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: They share that with their network. They probably have been in contact with those best practices for a while. And I'm talking about decades now, right. From their fathers, uncles, crosstalk.

Elias Torres: That's a fantastic insight there, about the three major regions, right? And I totally agree with you. It totally makes sense, right. And it gives me a better perspective of why Guadalajara is called the Silicon Valley of Mexico, because it has that multi- generational, that even many, many cities in the US don't have that kind of tenure, right. Like Silicon Valley in California has. Right.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yeah.

Elias Torres: And so one of the things there was, there was something there. I just like my own personal journey in Guadalajara is that I was interviewing a young professional there, and he had worked at Microsoft. He had worked in Seattle. I think he had worked in California, great companies. And he said, during the pandemic, he wanted to go work. He wanted to go back to Guadalajara, right. So he went back to Guadalajara, and then got a job immediately working remotely for some top startup in San Francisco. And he's like, I just miss my family. I miss my food, my friends, my culture, right. This is where I grew up. This is where I was born. And it was a very special moment for me to hear that, I think, because Latinos, we have a, I don't know... It's developing countries, right. Mexico obviously is way, way more advanced, but I grew up in Nicaragua and, and to me, there was just no option to stay. Right. It was not possible for me to do that. Right. And so my mind, the only option to succeed was to come to the United States in search of the American dream, because there was no way that I go back there and I could be like, oh, I can get a job. I can do what I've done. But to hear this person have that option, it really wore my heart. Right. Because I think that's one of my dreams right. Would be for people to be able to stay at their country, in a peaceful setting, and be able to accomplish the most that they can accomplish, without having to go somewhere else. Right. So it was really nice. And, and so now you're connecting the dots for me of... It's not just because of the pandemic, that people are able to work remotely, but Guadalajara has had generations of technology companies doing that, and that's kind of what I feel about Drift. For me, Drift going to Guadalajara is like one more company that acknowledges the talent, the people, right. And the community and say let's go and, and bring money into the country as opposed to taking money and people out of the country. Right?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yes, that's right. And, and that's what we're looking for as well in Wizeline, right? And now we are seeing that, because previous to the pandemic, and continues to happen. Right. But many people from Wizeline, that was living in Guadalajara, because that's where most of our team was. Although we already had Querétaro and Mexico City, in Mexico City, we have around 50 people for a while, for a couple of years, probably three years. And in Querétaro we had about 30 to 50, and we were growing steady, but not as fast as we grew after the pandemic, but many people came to Guadalajara, right? Many people from Mexico City, they decided to go to Querétaro, or Guadalajara, many people from any other city, they decided to come to Guadalajara, because Guadalajara is a great city to live. It's not that expensive. It's a beautiful city. Great weather, inaudible all the great services and all the infrastructure of a large city, but it's not as complex as Mexico City. So we were able to attract a lot of talent. When the pandemic hit, many people said, oh, I want to go back to my hometown, to Hermosillo, to Colima, to Aguascalientes... Many cities, right? So they went back. Now we have over 50 people in Monterrey, for example, and we don't have a physical office. We might have about 40 people in Hermosillo. We don't have a physical office in many, probably we have over 60, right. So this crosstalk like getting back to their families, to their hometowns, that happens as well. But the great thing about Guadalajara is that we continue to be able to attract great talent, even if they are not currently located in Guadalajara, because Guadalajara is an amazing place to live actually. It has a great quality of life, and it has great schools, and it has great universities. It's an amazing theater. I really like living.

Elias Torres: What's your perspective on the struggle of Latin Americans in tech, in the US, versus what you're able to see in make? What, what's your perspective from over there?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: What do you mean the struggle? Do you mean like finding jobs? What do you mean with that?

Elias Torres: Being able to get higher, equal pay, be able to stay, retention, be able to get higher positions? How is it over there? Like what you see over there must be completely different than what's happening over here, no?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yes. I don't think I have enough information to compare it, but probably I can explain what I'm seeing here, and you can give your thoughts on what you're seeing in the States, because most of our team, although we have people outside and we have people in the US, most of our team continues be nearshore, right. In Mexico, in South America, we have offices in Colombia, and we are opening offices in other countries in Latin America. So the great thing is the technological system in Latin America is growing, right. It's growing exponential. I think it's becoming very attractive for young students, young people, to get exposure to the benefits of the technology ecosystem from the universities. Lots of are talking about entrepreneurship. Lots of universities are getting exposure to technology- driven events, to startup- driven events, to hackathons, to many more opportunities. To at least get access to that. Not necessarily to be part of that journey, but to get some awareness of what's going on. So I think that happening everywhere, and in all cities, right, not necessarily the top cities in Mexico. And I know that's happening in Colombia as well, and of course in Argentina has been going on that for a while. So I do think that many young people, they are getting access to that. They are getting exposed to that. Then of course, universities are growing and they are become very good at understanding technologies and developing this practices. And in Mexico, we have hundreds of thousands of engineers graduating every year. So that's very, very good. The other thing is many of edtech entrepreneurs now are going into developing boot camps, offering different spaces, so people get awareness and also get prepared to have an opportunity to migrate, or to switch careers, to the technology space. That's already happening as well in Mexico. I guess for us, the difference that I will say is, not many people, or not everyone, has had the opportunity to learn English. I think that's one of the biggest challenges that we still have. And that we're investing, for example, in Wizeline, how can we also help the people to get prepared, to get better in their English skills? Because for us, it's super important, or for us it's mandatory that everyone speaks English, and everyone writes and speaks English very well, because our customers are all in the US, and our official language at Wizeline is English. Not many people have, or not many companies have that barrier. Right.

Elias Torres: Got it.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: So when companies don't have that barrier, I feel that they are going to have lot more opportunity to grow faster in Mexico, and to any place in Latin America. Adding that barrier, you're going to be an important part of the funnel that you will drop a lot of... Like probably like 30% of the candidates because of that. But if you want to start your career as a young student in technology, now it's the best time in Mexico, right? But you have everything. You have great technology companies, large technology companies that are growing and investing in Mexico. You have a lot of companies, startups, that are growing every day. You have large startups that are already unicorns, that are scaling up super fast, that they have the best practices already place, that you can learn a lot, that you can accelerate your career. And then you have a lot of American companies coming into Mexico. Or, not even coming, some of them. They're just opening the doors to hire, and you can work remotely, right? Microsoft used to have all people going to Seattle. Now they're hiring a lot of people in Mexico.

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Google was doing the same, now they're hiring a lot of people remotely in Mexico, right. So it's definitely, I mean from the technology talent perspective, it cannot be a best time, right? I think if you can have access to have great experience, to learn from good companies, to develop best practices, to understand, to get master in the space that you're playing as a software engineer, as a cyber reliability engineer, some OI engineer, whatever you're doing, and improve your English, definitely be a fantastic career acceleration.

Elias Torres: Tell me, educate me here, because I really don't... You just brought up a really important point, right? It's like the master of the English language, and that's a requirement. Should rep require English, or not, in Guadalajara? I mean, it's easy to say yes, right? I mean, it's a no- brainer, but the question is, should I open that up?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: I don't know. It will depend on... We haven't opened that door at Wizeline, even crosstalk

Elias Torres: Yeah, but you have customers though, so it's a little bit different, right?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: But we also have 20% of our business coming from Latin America, so we could decide to have, okay, we're going to have a team that is only going to be working with Latin American customers. We haven't opened that door.

Elias Torres: This might be a stupid question, right, but it's like most of the technical documentation, most of the open source projects, most of the forms, your health stack overflow, all the stuff is in English, right?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yep.

Elias Torres: Can you be as good an engineer without understanding English? Is it understanding English written or is it a matter of being able to be fluent speaking? What's the difference?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: You are right. I think you have different levels of English fluency, right? I do think that if you want to be a good engineer, you have to be very good at reading and understanding English, right. Good enough on writing it, that leads to on the technical space that you are working on, and probably you're not going to be super fluent on communicating, right? And speaking fluently and, and having business level fluency. Most likely because you don't have a lot of practice, you are going to be fine listening. You might not have all the practice you need, right? So I do think that you cannot be a good engineer if you don't read and write English, that's for sure, because we don't have any technical documentation in Spanish. And if you want just to research on, because engineering is... It's self- learning, right? You have to have that curiosity if you want to really be good at that. So if you're not able to read and write, there's going to be a barrier for sure.

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: So certain level of English, it's absolutely required. I guess it's how do you decide on, how do you want to take this barrier, or this new specific level that you want? How far do you want to take it? Right?

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Or, how do you want to develop the team when they get here, and you want to take them to the next level?

Elias Torres: Right.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: That's what we're doing. We're investing in English classes. We're investing in academy, in many, many ways. But our bar is pretty high, because we want crosstalk

Elias Torres: Do you do a test for that? Do you do a test?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: We have a test, yeah. We have an external company doing English assessment.

Elias Torres: So is it like a TOEFL exam?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: It's not as long and hard, but it's definitely a formal test, right?

Elias Torres: Yep.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: We are hiring people with C2 level and above. But again, for us, it's because we haven't opened that door.

Elias Torres: Got it.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Something that you have to decide is whether, if you want to start... I guess my recommendation will be, if you want to open that, you have to find a way to accelerate the development from the entry level you want to accept, to the optimal level that you want to everyone to be at. But what I would've recommend is that you set the optimal level at the beginning, and then you start opening that, right? Because you don't want to have people that, oh, we are the team that speaks English. And we are the team that then therefore we can be working in certain projects, and there is a other team, right?

Elias Torres: Of course, of course.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: You don't want to create, or I wouldn't recommend to create those differences, or separations between teams.

Elias Torres: Yeah.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: But if you want to allow everyone to have the same opportunities, and you feel a way to actually get to that point where you feel everyone in your team is going to be productive, and going to be confident, and comfortable in communicating a big part of the team, I guess that's the optimal point that I would recommend for.

Elias Torres: Absolutely. Several questions come up to mind, what you're saying is like team structure, for example. So two things. One is, do you know what misconceptions companies have when they go to Guadalajara? Or when they start working with you, with Wizeline. American companies. What misconceptions do you see, so that when they hear this, they can be like," Okay, I don't have to worry about that." Can you think of any?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yeah, I think, and I guess this happens with everyone. Let me start with the misconceptions when they work with a company like us. The most common misconception will be on the cultural differences, right? We are different Mexicans, Latin American people. We are definitely different to American citizens, American people, right? We're used to different communication styles. We're used to different view in terms of hierarchy, and our relationship with authority. And if you add to that the language is differences, right? When our team is in a conversation with our counterpart, a customer, a manager, a tech lead, they are not speaking their first language. Right. They have certain challenges as well. So the misconceptions is how do you understand, or how do you enable the understanding in both sides on the cultural differences? And also the acknowledge of you are actually speaking in a foreign language. So there will be certain limitations. There will be certain kind of adaptation, or yeah, I would say adaptation phase at the beginning. So you have to understand that. You have to manage that transition, and way of forming the team, and improving communication. So you are going to be able, later on, to be a very productive, to be a high performing team, but first you have to deal with those differences. Many, many people, they don't take time on that. They don't take time on understanding those differences, on having those conversations, on acknowledging those barriers. Right. I wouldn't say limitations, but those are definitely September, there are barriers that can be managed that can be broken very quickly, but at least to have that acknowledgement and conversations. And the misconception will be, they are not taking care of those. So they expect, oh, I should expect everything to flow and to work perfectly. Right. Just as I do with my team in Silicon Valley, or in New York. That's not necessarily going to happen, right, because there are certain differences. I would say that'll be the misconception. I guess, for companies coming to Mexico, the first misconception that I will say is not everything... You have to build that brand, right? You are doing amazing. I really like the event that you had a couple weeks ago. You have to get to know people, that you have to get people to know you. Many companies, they come to Mexico, like," I'm going to grow the team." And that's great, but who is going to know you, right. How are they going to reach out? How are they going to trust you? How are they going to understand if you are going to be a good team to work for? Right. So not because you are there, people are going to come, right? To do right. So sometimes that takes longer. I have seen some companies coming in and they felt like," Oh, we're going to be so super successful, because we're an amazing company," but they don't do their work there. Right. They don't reach out. They don't connect to the ecosystem. They don't get their brand... And it's very difficult for them to actually grow.

Elias Torres: Obviously, Wizeline is number one you need to connect with when you go to Guadalajara. When you say connect with the community, what would be the top three places you need to connect with when you're in Guadalajara?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: I would say with the universities. In Guadalajara, with Tec de Monterrey, with ITESO, probably with some startup communities, with Techstars, they are doing-

Elias Torres: Techstars is in Guadalajara?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Techstars is in Guadalajara, yes.

Elias Torres: What other startup communities are there that you know by name?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: There are a couple of funds that have been active. Angel Ventures is here. I think the other one is Aquila Ventures, but there are a few, I would say community leaders, that I will look at after and get connections. Of course, then you have some government driven initiatives as well. You have campus party that they have been doing their event every year, so that they have huge amount of followers. So we always participate in that event to give a couple of keynotes, and workshops as well. Participating in campus parties always, it's always... I think they changed the name, but yeah, I will say those events are very good.

Elias Torres: That's excellent. Yeah, I think this is very useful to me, and I hope it's useful to others, right. To get a window into another part of the world that is so rich in tech, in culture, and is based in Latin America. Right.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yes.

Elias Torres: I think everybody thinks always is the hub is the United States, but it really makes me very happy to hear about this and that Drift has the honor, the privilege, to be able to go there, and become a good part of the community, a good citizen, right. And get to know them. So it's been a joy for me to talked to a lot of people there. We've been talking nonstop, and it's great. At least for me, especially as being able to talk to them in Spanish, is really a great thing that helps in breaking down those barriers that you're talking about in trust, and how does the team operate? Who are we?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: Yes.

Elias Torres: It makes a difference, so I think that definitely encouraged should, for companies, something very valuable, right? If they're able to... We are asking companies here to be more diverse. That's Drift's mission, right? To be the new face of corporate America. We're like," Okay, what's the value of it?" And now look at this. The more Latinos you have in your company, the easier will be to you expand when you need to grow, and scale your company, because you can take opportunities of how many people speak Spanish are in Latin America? So this is really good. Anything else? Any last advice that you want to give to people thinking about expanding their teams, team adaptation, or just basically outsource some of their development, right? Or build their teams?

Aníbal Abarca Gil: I guess something that I've been saying is many companies, when they think of Mexico, they think, "Let me focus only on one city." And, I'm not necessarily thinking on actually, how can I get access to all that talent without thinking on a particular geography, right? Like the, I think the playbook can be remote first, instead of focus on the specific, serious, specific place.

Elias Torres: Mm- hmm(affirmative).

Aníbal Abarca Gil: That will give you access to a larger pool of talent, but also will bring that diversity and that flexibility that you're looking for. I understand at the beginning you have to focus on probably on creating a critical mass, and create the hub, but try being more flexible on that will help you grow faster without the geography barriers.

Elias Torres: Yeah, no, total agreement. I think that we thought that we were going to go straight, open an office, everybody wanted to meet, but the reality is that we're finding tech culture in Guadalajara and Mexico is just the same as... The whole world is just unifying in how we work remotely. And people want the same things. People want to work out of their home. They want flexibility. It's a great privilege that is just basically leveling the playing field for everyone.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: I would say anywhere in Mexico. Again, probably you want to focus on creating a specific critical mass, and you want to create a hub, but being flexible with that, because you will have access to a lot more talent. You will have access to amazing people, and you're going to be able to grow faster. Right?

Elias Torres: No, that's great. That's great advice, and something that the team at Drift has been just... As every conversation, we're getting in sync, and we're getting feedback, and sharing with one another, and adapting. We have to be flexible, right? And not with just one mentality. I remember the first time we were starting to talk about," It seems that we're going to have to go other places." And people were like," Oh, no, we were going to do this." And I'm like," No, we have to go with what the community, what the culture is saying," is so important, as well.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: And the reality that I guess that's happening to you, but we are remote, right. I'm still working at home. We have an amazing office, but different... We don't know exactly when/ if we are going back as we used to be. At least at a certain capacity. So having that playbook as a remote first, and it's going to allow you to just grow faster, and be more flexible, right?

Elias Torres: Right.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: So I would say that will help you a lot.

Elias Torres: No, we're excited. We're excited. Thank you so much, Aníbal, for your insight, and sharing about the growth, the success of Wizeline, and the history behind the tech pedigree of talent in companies that have been at it for so long, and that we're just discovering, right.

Aníbal Abarca Gil: It's amazing. I wish you the best for Drift, for you, and the team in this new journey into Mexico, and of course, Guadalajara, and yeah, thank you for having me. I'm looking forward to have a more conversations, and I have really enjoyed this conversation as well as the panel a couple weeks ago. So, looking forward to getting in touch, and seeing Drift becoming a very successful company here in Mexico.

Elias Torres: Thanks for listening to the American dream podcast, make sure to hit subscribe, so you never miss when a new episode drops. If you like this episode, please leave a six- star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And if you're interested in learning more about my American dream mission, subscribe to my newsletter. Link in the show notes.


CTO of Wizeline, Aníbal Arbaca Gil, defines his tech company as "an American company with a Mexican heart." That's because Wizeline - a global technology services provider - is headquartered in San Francisco but has its biggest office is in Guadalajara, Mexico.

In the episode of the American Dream, Aníbal explains why Wizeline invested in Guadalajara, what the tech scene looks like across Mexico today, and he gives advice to other American companies, including Drift, who are thinking about establishing a base in Guadalajara.

Key Moments:

  • (6:04) Why tech companies choose Guadalajara
  • (23:39) The difficulties of being Latinx in tech in Mexico vs. in the United States
  • (30:00) Should there be an English requirement for engineers in Guadalajara?
  • (35:03) Misconceptions American tech companies have when moving to Guadalajara 
  • (39:53) Top resources to connect with Guadalajara
  • (43:24) Anibal’s final advice for establishing your tech company in Mexico

P.S. Did you know Drift is opening an office in Guadalajara? Learn more here.

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