When it comes to entrepreneurship, it’s better to be accompanied than alone. That’s the premise of the hub, a place for making connections that people can take advantage of to grow their startups.
At the hub, entrepreneurs can find incubation and acceleration programs, mentoring and business development services, training, community experiences, and interaction with other entrepreneurs, as well as co-working spaces.
This is according to three entrepreneurship experts, who in an interview for Tec Review, shed light on the advantages of starting a business with the help of a hub.
What’s a hub?
“A hub is linked to entrepreneurship ecosystems, or local, regional, or international businesses, where you can get access to other resources such as funding or investors, business connections, institutional mentors, international accelerators, or government programs,” explains Rafael Lorenzo, the Innovative Entrepreneurship Network director at Tecnológico de Monterrey.
According to Lozano, there are also hubs that specialize in specific industries or verticals such as biotechnology, artificial intelligence, or social entrepreneurship.
In all of these cases, it’s about startups not having to reinvent the wheel, but rather to catalyze ideas, and above all, find the best way to materialize them in the real world.
Tec de Monterrey has a hub called the Innovative Entrepreneurship Zone (Zona Ei), where students, graduates, teachers, and the community in general come together to brainstorm.
“There’s also Tec Lean, an accelerated incubation system, or the Enlace + program for professionalization and growth of companies that have been around for at least two years and have 5 million pesos in sales,” adds Lozano.
It’s important to note that in the world of entrepreneurship, original ideas by themselves tend to take a backseat, and the way in which they’re carried out is becoming increasingly important thanks to a plan conceived by people with different but harmonious points of view, like the pieces of a puzzle.
“I recommend that entrepreneurs always look for a powerful execution team or partners, ideally three people who have strengths that complement them,” says Agustín Rotondo, the regional manager of Wayra Hispam, an interface between Telefónica and digital entrepreneur ecosystems, which is present at seven hubs in nine European and Latin American countries, including Mexico.
It’s very common that, at first, entrepreneurs look for partners who are like them. According to Rotundo, this has a positive side because people are used to working based on similarity of vision. However, a hub serves precisely to break this inertia, and to direct the project toward integrating people with different talents.
“If, for example, someone has experience in the commercial area and considers themselves a good salesperson, they probably need someone to complement them in technology, because there are certain skills that can’t be delegated to a third party or another company. They must be part of the founding team.”
Wayra Hispam invests up to 250,000 dollars in startups with growth potential, in order to collaborate with entrepreneurs on the creation of new business ties related to the company.
“When the startup’s goals are aligned with Wayra’s goals, that’s when the magic happens,” says Rotondo.
The hub model also serves to combat the lack of consolidation of new micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), as it focuses precisely on rectifying the historical shortcomings of entrepreneurship in Mexico.
“Limited specialization of people and lack of business skills contribute to the related problem (…) There’s a high proportion of MSMEs (84.7%) that don’t train their staff and 40.4% of people in micro-enterprises don’t carry out remedial actions when difficulties arise in the production process,” reads a report from the Ministry of Trade.
The laboratory hub option
AXCEL Foundation is part of Technology Hub in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Its objective is to launch projects that contribute to the democratization of knowledge and equal opportunities in the border region.
It offers a laboratory where entrepreneurs find sophisticated digital tools to develop product and service prototypes at a low cost.
“When entrepreneurs come to us, we put all our machines at their disposal: laser cutters, vinyl cutters, 3D printers, and sublimators,” says Lennys Cristina Sánchez, executive director of the Axcel foundation.
To illustrate the usefulness of this machinery, it’s enough to say that 3D printers make it easy to make prototypes of a single piece, without the need to resort to suppliers that only offer this service to entrepreneurs for hundreds of pieces.
“So, the generation of the idea, seeing it materialize, comes out cheaper, at least on a smaller scale than the one projected by entrepreneurs for the future,” details Sánchez.
She also says that the foundation she runs doesn’t invest capital in startups, but it does take care of preparing them so that they can start looking for funding in the smartest way possible.
“Our hub lab also benefits entrepreneurs in the sense of services, because we can direct them to technological systems that help them facilitate those sales processes and quotes they may need,” states the director.
In short, there’s no doubt that “it’s better to be alone than in bad company,” but when it comes to entrepreneurship, a hub will never be bad company, but rather a complement to an individual’s ideas.