The e-interview: Mario Valle, Electronic Arts

Mario Valle

“the [Mexican] ecosystem is early and bumpy, but bold, scrappy and very promising”

LinkedIn: Mario Valle
Twitter: @bilbeny

What do you do currently?
I’m Director of Business Development in Emerging Markets for Electronic Arts, a public gaming company headquartered in Silicon Valley. I live in San Francisco since 2010. I mentor and invest in startups since 2011 as an angel, but right now I’m in the process to participate in VC in a more active/structured way. I travel the world doing a lot of public speaking on subjects around my work (gaming, emerging markets, startups, development, tech trends, etc.) and about a book I wrote and published in 2013. I’m the President of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Mexican Global Network, a pretty cool initiative created by Mexican citizens living abroad and the Mexican government. I have two daughters. Sometimes I play the piano. I read a lot of novels lately. I’m having fun.

How and when did you get involved with the Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystem?
I started my career as an entrepreneur. Back in that day we did not call them “startups” so often, they were only “companies”. I co-founded a small media group (3 companies in total) in Mexico in 1998. We had printed magazines (Sputnik, Atomix, Sonika, CineXS and others), digital properties, a custom publishing and content services company, until 2000. We held conversations with AOL Time Warner for a potential acquisition which came down after the dot-com crash. In 2002 I co-founded the Electronic Game Show (EGS) which is still considered one of the most important consumer and trade gaming expos in LATAM. In 2006 I was 29 years old when I got invited to open the LATAM offices of Electronic Arts and I became an employee for the first time. So when I moved to the HQs in 2010, my involvement with the startup ecosystem both in Silicon Valley and in LATAM was almost immediate. I became the first mentor of Mexican VC (which evolved to 500 Startups Mexico) and then got invited to mentor and invest in other accelerators/incubators in Mexico, LATAM and SV. I’m one of those few who started as entrepreneur, then moved to be a corporate employee and now moving more formally into becoming an investor.

How would you describe the ecosystem in Mexico?
I believe Mexico will fulfill that Goldman Sachs prophecy when they created the “MINT” acronym (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) as the “next” kings of the emerging markets. I believe the ecosystem is early and bumpy, but bold, scrappy and very promising. I believe the talent (in both sides, entrepreneurs and investors) is getting better each day. Mexico is hot, and if we do keep things in the right direction, I bet it will keep that temperature for a long time.

What do you expect in the next 12 months?
Less funds at least the way we know them right now. Same amount or even more money flowing but into different alternatives. More individual investors in Mexico in startups and in founders. FinTech saturation. A lot of startups (and investors) moving away from the “Uber of…” approach. More STEM (for real) entrepreneurship mood, that means more science-oriented startups and initiatives. More government activity. Less “networking events” (at least I hope so). Depuration of the spread and pray model in emerging markets (including Latin America). And (here I go) a continuous volatility and maybe a correction in the stock market that will keep scaring many people, but also will attract lot of opportunities for low-price tickets to innovation as well.

What are the main challenges?
I will mention one (obviously there are many) that I consider the biggest one: mindset. In order to fulfill the Goldman Sachs prophecy that I mentioned above, Mexicans at all levels need to change and strengthen their mindset. Mindset for being able to realize we have the talent, the potential and the execution skillset to CREATE innovation, not only to FOLLOW innovation. That we have the opportunity to become a major player for the first time ever in the STEM revolution that will continue to change the world. We need to be bolder and we need to shake away fear, insecurity and laziness. We are the country that works harder since 2011 according to the OECD. The change in mindset will allow us not only to keep that rank but to elevate the rank in the countries that work SMARTER.

What change or result would bring the greatest benefits for the ecosystem?
I will use a metaphor to answer this one. Sometimes the ecosystem feels like a big Country Club. A Country Club where great things are happening but that is also not only expensive but also full of people that doesn’t necessarily care enough to share both knowledge and experience to the fullest. If the formal investment community and the organized entrepreneurship network (and in both organisms, also their peripheral supporting entities like government, agencies, incubators and even covering press) work together, Mexico can become the best ecosystem in the world. That will only be possible if that Country Club opens the door to more people and becomes instead a Community Center.

Describe your typical day
I day/swing trade for fun and learning. I’m proud to report that my account is up close to 50% YTD. So I’m awake by 5am to prepare positions and welcome the market (which opens at 6:30am PST). Then I prepare for work (either I drive a motorcycle or most of the day I take the company shuttle). I read, first news and stuff, then my novels. I’m in my 22nd novel of 2016 and I’m hoping to hit 100 fiction readings before the year ends. If I’m not traveling (I travel almost every other month and lately each month) I will stay at work until 5:30pm or 6pm. Before that I prepare the stock market close review for my trades at 12:30pm PST, I have lunch at Mexican time around 2pm, drink lots of coffee and water during the day, email review, meeting notes review and next actions for the week (sometimes I will have mentoring calls with startups but those are mostly over the weekend or late nights), then I go home and see family. After late dinner, when all is silent again I work a little, I might change those slides for the speaking travel I have in 2 days. Then I play video games. A lot. Right now I’m playing Star Wars Battlefront and Uncharted 4. If I’m not sleepy I will get back to a book and review the next day. I think my days are not very typical because I travel a lot, but what I just described is pretty close to reality when I’m sedentary for 2-3 weeks.

Who is your favorite entrepreneur?
I have many. My mom to start. She is more than 60 years old and she just launched her own venture: the Integra Center of Development, where she leads a group of professionals who offer therapy, group activities, courses, workshops, etc. around Personal Development and Improvement. She has been doing this on her own for almost 20 years. She decided it was a good time to become a formal entrepreneur. Other favorite-but-not-favorite-as-my-mom entrepreneurs: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and with a very emotional mention: Nikola Tesla.

A recent book do you recommend?
Fiction Spanish: La Fiesta del Chivo (Mario Vargas Llosa)
Fiction English: My Sister’s Grave (Robert Dugoni)
Non-fiction: Irrational Exuberance 5th Edition (Robert Schiller)

Smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop?
Today? All of them. It depends on the context .
Tomorrow (very, very soon )? One new: Augmented Reality Interface.

iOS or Android?
Both. Because of my work (games) and because I am also a fan of Google and Apple.

Favorite App?
The most I use? Twitter.
The one I like and serves me more? Slack.
The one that amuses me (now)? Sky Force (game).
The one that makes me earn a few dollars from time to time? E*Trade App.

Favorite social network?

Ideal vacation?
NY with my daughters to see Hamilton on Broadway.  To happen.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?
More traveling because of speaking invitations. My second book published (I’m getting there). More fun and return with my retail trading. More startups and founders identified as potential investments. More formal activity in the VC community (more to come on that soon!). More reading. More learning. More gaming sessions. More piano. More laughs with my daughters and with the people I love. More individual projects. More fulfilling work. More money. More fun overall.

One word that describes you?

Previous interview: Jonathan Lewy
This entry was posted in Actualidad, e-entrevista, Ecosistema, English, Mexico, Startups and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The e-interview: Mario Valle, Electronic Arts

  1. Pingback: The e-interview: Rodrigo Villar, New Ventures | Negocios+tecnología / Business+tech

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