San Antonio’s emerging tech scene and its proximity to Mexico has made it a viable and attractive location for many Mexican entrepreneurs to expand or establish their businesses.
Salvador Rosas, a native of Tampico, Tamaulipas in Mexico, is one such entrepreneur.
Considering Monterrey’s proximity to San Antonio — only a few hours drive and a 50-minute flight away — it made sense to expand the company north instead of growing its network further south to Mexican cities such as Guadalajara, Rosas said. Geekdom’s location on Houston Street, in the so-called San Antonio Tech District, made it an ideal spot for Rosas and Neitek President Jaime Martinez to expand to the city and build a strong client base in the U.S.
“I only have a desk right now on the sixth floor (of Geekdom), but eventually we will have 10 people come down here and then we will grow into an office,” Rosas said. “I really like Geekdom and the ecosystem. I think it’s very contagious and I’m excited to work together.”
Rosas started Neitek in Monterrey with three other business partners in 1999. The firm, which now has 125 employees, prides itself in worldwide software solutions and provides alternatives for designing, programming, and implementing effective information management systems for businesses. It also works with IT system support and enterprise resource planning tools. In the past, the company has worked with several international companies like Heineken, PepsiCo, 7 Eleven, Sprint, MetLife, and The Home Depot.
Neitek also is an IBM partner and places a heavy focus on sales performance management (SPM), which involves helping companies steer through better management of incentive compensation plans. The company plans to introduce the latest IBM products and services to the San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas markets.
“IBM invited me to come to the U.S. because they don’t have enough partner companies that have the experience I have when it comes to SPM software,” Rosas said. “They told me, ‘come sell it, implement it, and we will support you.'”
For Rosas, Geekdom was the perfect place to start. And he’s not alone. The tech talent pipeline from Mexico to San Antonio has brought a number of Mexican-born entrepreneurs like Rosas to the city, and to co-working spaces like Geekdom.
The co-working space is currently home to several startups that have a “strong connection to Mexico” or have founders who come from Latin America such as YupiCall, Nebulab, Chamoy Creative, and more, according to Geekdom CEO Lorenzo Gomez.
Luis “Pilo” Gonzalez is a Mexican national who chose Geekdom to launch his startup, Parlevel Systems, a local vending management software company. Over time, Parlevel’s staff grew too big to office out of Geekdom. Gonzalez had to relocate to the Weston Centre office tower.
Jesus “Tito” Salas is another Mexican national who spread his wings at the co-working space. Salas was initially hired to run the MX Challenge for Geekdom, which sought to connect South Texas to Mexican startups. Today he is founder and CEO of CodersLink, a company that brings talented developers across the border to work in leading tech companies.
Rosas and his team of software engineers anticipate similar success for Neitek. So far, Rosas said, they’ve had little to no complications setting up a branch of their company in the U.S. Rosas and his team have already started to implement a strategy for the company’s expansion and have hired a sales representative to cover the Texas territory.
“There’s a lot of opportunity through the Free Trade Agreement. Really, it’s like an extension of your company from Mexico,” Rosas said. “You don’t need much paperwork or investors to really (grow outside of Mexico).”
Neitek began working with U.S. clients years ago, but didn’t have the manpower abroad.
“We would tend to them from Mexico,” Rosas said. “Most of our clients (that we’ve had) in the U.S. were referred by IBM or Progress, or other companies that we’ve partnered with over the years.”
Another reason for expanding Neitek to the U.S., Rosas said, was to partner with larger companies outside of Mexico. The key to building these relationships, however, has been mastering the English language, Rosas said.
“In order to conduct business in Mexico today, one must at least know conversational English,” Rosas said. “And if you don’t, you have to polish it over time.”
Rosas thinks this is why so many U.S. companies have come to Mexico, and vice-versa. Mexico is preparing its next generation to be bilingual, he said. There are a lot of businesses today based on bilingual mastery. Call centers, where employees provide customer service and software support to U.S. consumers, are popping up all over Mexico.
Several call centers in Mexico have set up partnerships with Mexican universities to give partial scholarships to students with outstanding English proficiency who juggle work at the call centers and school.
“A lot of people work in this industry and the schools notice this, so they begin to promote the mastery of the English language even more,” Rosas said.
Mexico also is well known for its high level of education in computer sciences in several universities located throughout the country. Thousands of talented Mexican engineers start their professional careers in large corporations with interesting software challenges. For a company like Neitek, Rosas understands the advantages of hiring employees with a background in several software disciplines coupled with a high level of English proficiency.
“(The employees) at my company are 50% bilingual,” Rosas said. “I think that the talent is there, the only thing is that we have to offer it abroad. We really need to contact the clients and connect, because the capacity is there.”
For now, Rosas said, the majority of the Neitek team will remain at its home base in Monterrey, but he is excited for the company’s growth in San Antonio.
Top image: Neitek Solutions CEO Salvado Rosas. Photo by Scott Ball.