e-interview: Ulises Elias, Orion Startups

Ulises 2018 copy

LinkedInUlises Elias

What do you do currently?
I am the head of Orion Startups, a seed fund and accelerator for digital startups in Chihuahua, Mexico that invests in early stage startups in LATAM.

How and when did you get involved with the Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Since I was in the university, I was a Jr. Consultant in a project sponsored by the InterAmerican Development Bank in Chihuahua, I started interacting with local entrepreneurs and economic development projects. Later on I moved to Tijuana invited by the same bank to participate in the implementation of another program for business development. I had the opportunity to help companies connect with the San Diego ecosystem and help create a network of entrepreneurs. During the euphoria of Startup Weekends I helped bring the first event in that city and created a corporate accelerator called MindHub inside the company ArkusNexus, a lead software development company. It always moved me to help entrepreneurs and promote the new agile methodologies for startup creation. After that, I moved to Chihuahua to help the implementation of Orion Startups, a project led by Dr. Antonio Rios and Luis Almanza from Tecnológico de Monterrey.

How would you describe the ecosystem in Mexico?
Very diverse. Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey are the leaders in the creation of startups, followed by medium cities like Chihuahua, Tijuana, Puebla, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosí. But still we are in the process of development. I could not say the ecosystem is ripe yet, but still with a lot of potential. We have a great pool of talented people, every time choosing to start companies instead of choosing finding jobs. That is great. But we have still a lot of work on raising the bar to start real innovation based companies and not only copying models from startups in the US. The Latam market is a great opportunity for Mexican entrepreneurs together with the US market too. In the case of technology developed in the Mexican public research centers, I could say that it is an opportunity area that we have to exploit strongly yet.

What do you expect in the next 12 months?
We’ll see a lot of companies talking about artificial intelligence, blockchain applications and applied biotech, and corporate incorporating the digital transformation technologies. I hope that happens too in the agroindustry sector where we have a great potential and a breach to close. The industrial revolution 4.0 also applies to agroindustry.

What are the main challenges?
First, generate true innovation cases led by entrepreneurs. We usually look for a good team of entrepreneurs, multidisciplinary with the skills to cope with uncertainty and scarcity. We need to encourage those teams to raise the bar on their innovations not only in technology but in business models. I am sure money will follow through once we have that combination.
Next, we need to think in the future of technology and business. Mexico has usually been a follower in the world trends specially when it comes to innovation and market. But the best way to move forward and be at the front is to jump on top of the innovation waves as soon as possible, and that requires to educate entrepreneurs, collaborations, executives, investors and researchers and develop the support programs.

What change or result would bring the greatest benefits for the ecosystem?
We have all heard about the exponential technologies and businesses. Well, that has become a reality nowadays, and we need to encourage entrepreneurs to have an exponential mindset. Only that way they will be able to generate high impact ideas and solutions, hence value propositions that solve the most important problems and needs of the markets.
Another thing is the creation and use of networks. We need to keep connected and collaborate in the creation and development of businesses, and that involves the interaction with established companies (medium and big).

Describe your typical day
Usually while my wife gets my daughter really for school, I help prepare a small breakfast. I enjoy doing this because my day starts creating something. I usually come up with small experiments with food combining ingredients. My wife does not enjoy it very much though, cause sometime meals do not come out the best way.

I get to the office and spend the next 30 minutes reading articles about innovation, technology trends, businesses, investment and so. This moment gives the nutrient to be able to talk to my entrepreneurs about new things and ideas. I do not conceive being able to help entrepreneurs if I do not know about what I am talking about.

What happens next if very diverse depending on the phase of Orion: if we are scouting projects, I coordinate the search for startups together with my team, we interview entrepreneurs and rate them. All this is a process to provide our investment committee with the best startups to invest. If we are during the acceleration program, I touch base with the entrepreneurs, I check their activities and pending tasks. The office is open, so the Orion team usually do not have meetings for operational activities, we solve them on the go. Usually, I try to figure out how to help our startups the best way with connections, knowledge, references, investors, customers, etc.

During the evening, I exercise a bit and get home. The best part of the day is to meet with my family again, play with my daughter and talk to my wife.

Who is your favorite entrepreneur?
Sergio Aguirre is a Mexican entrepreneur that I use a lot as a reference. He is the cofounder of Echopixel, who I saw since he was thriving almost a decade ago. He is an example of persistence, technical and sales skills, and a visionary to foresee a tech trend we was always to catch.

A recent book do you recommend?
What To Do When Machines Do Everything from Malcom Frank, Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring. the books talks about the era we are living and how companies can take advantage of the digitalization of information and automation of processes.

A movie?
Recent movie?: Mary Magdalene.

Smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop?
Smartphone for communication, tablet for reading, laptop for working and desktop is non sense for what I do.

iOS or Android?

Favorite App?
Coursera and Pocket.

Favorite social network?

Ideal vacation?
Beach with my family.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Help 2-3 medium to big companies enter the digital era in collaboration with startups.

One word that describes you?

Previous interview: Ken Toyoda
This entry was posted in Actualidad, e-entrevista, Ecosistema, English, Mexico, Venture capital and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to e-interview: Ulises Elias, Orion Startups

  1. Pingback: e-entrevista: Marcelo Roca, Xcala | Latin American VC

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