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Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig


Hello and welcome to Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig, where I interview entrepreneurs doing startups across borders and the investors who support them, with a focus on companies that have some relationship to Latin America.

May 22, 2018

Marcus Dantus launched his first tech startup in 1993, selling email addresses through a portal that he hosted on the domain Mexico.com. Born in Mexico City, Marcus studied Media Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, but his career quickly switched to technology when a friend introduced him to the Internet. Since then, Marcus never looked back. He founded a telecommunications company, acted as CEO of a medical device business, was on the founding team of Wayra Mexico, and finally developed and launched Startup Mexico, where he acts as CEO.

In this episode, I sat down with Marcus to talk about how he got started in entrepreneurship in Mexico, what it was like to develop a cross-border startup in the early-2000s, how new technologies like blockchain will help LatAm, and what’s next for the Mexican entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Selling email addresses on Mexico.com

Marcus built his first website in 1993. He quickly realized there was a market in registering and selling generic domains in Spanish after a company paid him $20K for the website ‘andale.com.’ He built a “portal of portals” on Mexico.com, which sold email addresses that were linked to personalized domains. After registering and selling 800 domains, Mexico.com received a US$8M investment from Silicon Valley, even before Marcus knew Silicon Valley existed. The dot com bubble burst just three weeks later.

Lessons learned from founding Wayra Mexico

Marcus went on to lead two more companies before ‘retiring’ from entrepreneurship to teach in Mexico. Soon after, he received a call from Telefonica to lead Wayra Mexico, and said yes. Marcus’ experience at Wayra helped him create Startup Mexico. Among these lessons, Marcus cites the mistake of giving startups money right off the bat and trying to accelerate a startup in a bureaucratic environment.

Building the “Disneyland for entrepreneurs” in seven Mexican cities

After leaving Wayra, Marcus set out to transform a warehouse in Mexico City into the “Disneyland for Entrepreneurs,” with backing from the Mexican government. Startup Mexico is an incubator program that provides support, resources, and mentorship for early-stage startups. In many cases, these startups receive little to no investment from the start, though they may eventually receive funding from Startup Mexico’s investment arm, Dux Capital. The program is now available in Mexico City, Merida, León, Querétaro, Nuevo Laredo, Oaxaca, and an office is opening in Guadalajara.

Opportunities in the Mexican startup ecosystem

Marcus is bullish on the Mexican entrepreneurship ecosystem, but Mexico still has a long way to go. He sees a need for a culture change in a country where failure and success are punished equally. However, Marcus is confident that technologies like the blockchain, big data, automation, and the IoT will change Mexico’s future. Dux Capital invests in clean energy, retail, and tech innovation to help bring those disruptive technologies to Mexico.

Marcus was one of the pioneers of the Mexican tech ecosystem and he continues to lead the charge today. To see more of Marcus’ work, check him out on the next episode of Shark Tank Mexico! Listen to the rest of the episode to hear more about Marcus’ journey from Mexico City to Silicon Valley and back, and how he is making a difference in his home country’s tech ecosystem.

Show Notes

[1:17] - Nathan introduces Marcus

[3:03] - Marcus’ entrepreneurial beginnings - buying SpeedyGonzalez.com

[7:20] - How Marcus received a US$8M investment before knowing Silicon Valley existed

[9:09] - After the demise of Mexico.com, Marcus joins the telecomms business

[11:40] - International tech in Mexico in the early 1990s

[14:40] - Founding Wayra Mexico

[16:15] - Switching from the entrepreneur side to the investor side

[18:35] - What did you wish you had known before starting to accelerate startups?

[21:22] - Creating a Disneyland for entrepreneurs in the middle of Mexico City

[25:25] - How to get investment from Dux Capital

[27:20] - Why is clean energy an opportunity for Mexico?

[33:08] - Why blockchain is so important in Latin America?

[36:35] - Will mobile microloans revolutionize Mexico?

[39:49] - What the Mexican ecosystem needs to take off

[43:30] - Latin America needs more success stories

[45:40] - Marcus’ advice for his younger self

[48:51] - The time to become an entrepreneur in Mexico is now