Arizona Technology and Innovation: International Technology Startup Agreement

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The Arizona Technology Council, the Arizona Business Incubation Association and Startup Mexico have signed a cooperation agreement aimed at fostering innovation across the international border. The cooperation will foster cooperation between startups and investors across the border. Steve Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology council and Thomas Rainey, president of the Arizona Business Incubation Association, will tell us more.

CHRISTINA ESTES: In Tonight's edition of Arizona Technology and Innovation we look at new deal between groups in Arizona and Mexico. The Arizona Technology Council and the Arizona Incubation Association and Startup Mexico have signed a cooperation agreement. Here to explain it is Stephen Zylstra president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council and Thomas Rainy president of the Arizona Business and Incubation Association. Stephen I'm going to start with you first, did I say your last name right?

STEVE ZYLSTRA: Pretty close!

CHRISTINA ESTES: Say it right, c'mon.

STEVE ZYLSTRA: Zylstra, it's very close.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Thank you, got Stephen, hey, tell me what the deal is designed to do, and who's involved?

STEVE ZYLSTRA: The Arizona Tech Council and the Arizona Business Incubation Association and Start Up Mexico, the idea is to sort of serve as a soft landing for entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial companies who either want to do collaborative partnerships or trade or identify new markets for their products or technologies. So this is a time where the relationship between Arizona and Mexico keeps improving every day and we're excited to be in the middle of it.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Tom we already have an Arizona Mexico commission, the state recently opened a trade office in Mexico City, so why do we need this deal?

THOMAS RAINY: Well this is really grass roots between entrepreneurs and investors and we're going to be putting deals together between companies that have the potential to go from Mexico, that market, into the United States market using Arizona as a spring board into the market. So it's really different than some of the other initiatives that are being launched at this time.

CHRISTINA ESTES: So the 3 groups that are involved are committing more than just hey I'll call you if I need help and you call me. Can you talk a little bit about some maybe the specifics or give us an example how it might be used.

STEVE ZYLSTRA: Well the idea is for us to introduce real companies and real entrepreneurs to these two markets. We were at start-up Mexico a couple of weeks ago with six mayors from Arizona, got a tour by Marcus Dantus and got to meet some of the entrepreneurs who are starting up there in -- start-up Mexico, and our goal is to connect real entrepreneurs with real investors, with real opportunities across the border. And the 3 organizations are really the entities that are designed to both vet and facilitate these interactions between parties.

CHRISTINA ESTES: What kind of entrepreneurs are we talking about, what kind of businesses?

STEVE ZYLSTRA: They're all technology. A lot of them are in the I.T. space, some in the biospace, but I would say, you know, 99% of them are technology-based companies. High-growth potential companies.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Tom, there is a lot of talk about incubation programs. How would an entrepreneur in Arizona benefit an entrepreneur in Mexico.

THOMAS RAINY: I can give you a real-life example, after coming back from Mexico, we were able to match a company up with a business opportunity that we encountered while down in Mexico. The goal really is real tangible, hands on support to these companies and helping them find business opportunities that will lead to their growth.

CHRISTINA ESTES: There is also a point in sharing we say best practices and that sort of thing. Is there any concern about helping my competition?

THOMAS RAINY: No, that is what the association is all about. There's a national business incubation association that actually has gone international. Here in Arizona, 36 different organizations that are part of the incubation association and the whole goal is to share information and best practices. Extending that to Mexico, our neighbor in Mexico is a logical thing to do.

CHRISTINA ESTES: And Steven, the agreement called for doing start-up competitions. Is that a goal down the road or is that something we'll see happen and what does that look like?

STEVE ZYLSTRA: The Arizona tech council does an event in December called start-up connect. And essentially it includes large corporations, investors, and of course start-ups. It has a pitch competition. We have already started to work on inviting Mexican entrepreneurs that are at start-up Mexico to participate in that event.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Who are they pitching to?

STEVE ZYLSTRA: Potentially investors, angel investors especially, and also large corporations who are looking for strategic technologies to compliment what they do inside the company.

CHRISTINA ESTES: I have a question for both of you. Tom you can start if you would like, what have you been seeing and hearing from your counterparts in Mexico when it comes to working in Arizona and working with Arizonans?

THOMAS RAINY: The fact we had six Arizona mayors with us, was a strong testament of how important that relationship is to us. I think we've gone a long way in rebuilding some of the past relationships, which hasn't always been all that cooperative. The mantra we had on this trip was we are here to build bridges, not walls.

STEVE ZYLSTRA: Yeah, I think the relationship has improved markedly in the last year. You may know that the governor made a very early trip to Mexico, brought a large delegation of business folks with him, and even before that, I was part of a couple of groups that involved a number of legislators who were down there trying to build these bridges. So, 40% of all of our exports go to Mexico. It's our number one trading partner. The Mexican economy is going to continue to grow. It's, I think, 15th largest economy in the world. Some are predicting by 2050, it will be the eighth largest economy in the world. Not unlike China was 20 year ago, the middle class is starting to grow in Mexico.

CHRISTINA ESTES: That is a big selling point for those who don't get the tech industry and wonder why are you reaching out so much and what's the big push?

STEVE ZYLSTRA: Yeah, absolutely. I think there is a lot of opportunity. The start-up Mexico, if it wasn't for the difference in language was just as you would step into a similar kind of incubator, accelerator here, vitality, support infrastructure, focusing on trying to help the entrepreneurs succeed at what they do.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Tom, what are you most excited about?

THOMAS RAINY: What's exciting immediately when I got back to the United States, we were receiving inquiries from start-up Mexico about how we can further develop the relationship. Signing the agreement is the easy part. Now it is roll up the sleeves on both sides and make some things happen.

CHRISTINA ESTES: We will have you come back and give you a list of all of these great companies that started and jobs --

THOMAS RAINY: I would love to.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Tom Rainy, Steve Zylstra, did I say it right?

STEVE ZYLSTRA: You said it right.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Thank you so much. Appreciate you both coming in. Thank you. Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," researchers are sharing what they discovered about Scottsdale's McDowell Sonora preserve and 150 miles of hiking trails and talk about the importance of parents and community involvement in schools. That's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." I'm Christina Estes. Thanks for joining us. Have a great night.

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Steve Zylstra: President and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, Thomas Rainey: President of the Arizona Business Incubation Association

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